Over the past few years, I've heard an increasing number of fans voice the opinion that their team's chances of making a deep run in March would be bettered if it lost early in its respective conference tournament. The two main points that these people use to defend their stance are: 1) sometimes a good team needs a loss before the big dance in order to restore focus, 2) playing three (or four) games in as many days will leave the team exhausted and vulnerable in its first round game.
To put it mildly, this is a sentiment I take issue with.
I formed the opinion at a young age that there was no such thing as a good loss, and rolled my eyes every time I heard a coach bust out the cliché from that point forward (and then had to run sprints). I'm also a firm believer in game-to-game momentum, that a winning streak actually inspires a team to play harder rather than go through the motions while thinking about how great it is.
The groups that need more than three days of rest to be 100% for a game and the ones that aren't mature enough to approach each and every contest with the right mindset are probably the ones you want to avoid advancing too far in your office pool. If a team doesn't have the focus to win in early March or the legs to win three games in three days, then it likely doesn't have the focus to win in late March or the legs to win six games in three weeks.
The point I'm trying to make and will now hammer you over the head with is that conference tournament performance matters, even for the teams that are locks to hear their names called on Selection Sunday.
People nowadays are always bringing "facts" into arguments, and since I'm a sucker for fads (anyone wanna compare pogs later?), I'll go ahead and share a few for you all to wrap your heads around (literally).
- Three of the four national semifinalists a year ago were conference tournament champions. UCLA - which lost to California in the Pac-10 quarterfinals - was the lone exception.
- There were 12 conferences that sent multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2007. Of those 12, only three (WAC, A-10, Pac-10) had a team that didn't advance to its conference tournament championship game advance further in the NCAA Tournament than a team that did. Of those three teams, only UCLA won more than one game.
- All six BCS conference tournament champions advanced to the Elite Eight last season. The other two quarterfinalists were Memphis - which won the Conference USA Tournament - and UCLA.
- The combined NCAA Tournament record of the six BCS conference tournament champions in 2007 was 24-5. Of those five losses, only one (Kansas' Elite Eight loss to UCLA) came against a non-fellow BCS conference tournament champion.
- Seven of the last ten national champions have won their conference tournament. North Carolina in '05, Syracuse in '03 and Maryland in '02 are the exceptions.
- Ten of the last 16 Final Four teams have been conference tournament champions, and three of those six teams that didn't win their league title played in the same conference as the fellow semifinalist which did.
Now I'm not saying that you should write this team off if it stumbles on Thursday or Friday, I'm just saying that there should be no small part of your brain quietly wondering if winning this thing is going to have a detrimental affect in the succeeding weeks. Don't give it a second thought; we want to win the Big East Tournament.
Make it happen boys.