Does It Matter?

Phog.net explains why conference tournaments might be more important to a national title than you might think.

Conference tournaments are underway but what do they mean for the top seeded teams?

It takes a three-game winning streak to hang another banner. It takes a six-game winning streak to win the national title. But it takes just one off day to be knocked out of either.

It's really simple this time of the year, when you don't focus, you go home.

While bubbles are bursting all over the country a ton of team's are playing for their postseason lives. So it's easy to see why Texas Tech, a team blown out by KU earlier in this season with no prayer to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team, had more motivation to advance in the Big 12 Tournament.

Kansas looked like a team with nothing to play for. The Jayhawks appeared lethargic from the opening tip at 1130 am Thursday at the Sprint Center – a virtual home away from home for the Jayhawks. There were inexplicably bad passes, there was a porous defense, and there was just a two-point margin at the half.

The small margin got me thinking the worst. Can a team win a national title and get knocked out of the first game of its conference tournament?

Going back to 2003 every national champion at least made the semi finals of its conference tournament. Syracuse in 2003 and UNC in 2005 and 2009 were the teams to get bounced in the semis and still win it all. Connecticut in 2004 and Florida with their back to back titles each won their conference tournament before claiming it all. Going all the way back through the 90's it has never happened. That's how critical it is to at least win a game in your conference's postseason invitational.

If fans want to try to continue to parallel this KU team with the one that took the title in 2008, it must win the conference tournament and head to the field of 65 riding a wave of momentum. Remember, everyone remembers the classic final against Texas that year but forgets that KU struggled in its first game in 2008 against Nebraska – a team that Bill Self's squad had destroyed during the season. Well, if you're looking for signs this could be the year, the Jayhawks definitely similarly struggled in the quarterfinals against Texas Tech. I guess every cloud has a silver lining.

Does that mean all hope is lost if KU is bounced prematurely in Kansas City? Absolutely not. But if the Jayhawks do win the Big 12 Tournament it shows they are playing good basketball and that they survived their first round of survive-and-advance and without a doubt they would be the number one overall seed. Last year KU was upset by an upstart Baylor team and still made the Sweet Sixteen. A season ago a "sweet" finish wasn't a disappointment – this season anything less then a title will hit hard in Lawrence.

Maybe the stat mentioned earlier in this article about teams at least making the semis of its conference tournament is the reason I keep hearing it would be a good for a team to lose in its conference tourney. Having competed in sports I can't remember anyone discussing how it would be a good thing to lose. Just doesn't work that way. I'd want to be playing well heading into the NCAA, without question that would mean a postseason conference title. Does anyone think it is good for Syracuse to go into March Madness peak time losing its last two? Do coaches really need a loss or a slim margin of victory to give his team a point of emphasis?

Self spoke on Monday and insisted that his team was heading into the postseason on an "uptick" but the Red Raiders would not go away. Despite the 30-2 record, to win it all Self admitted his team likely needs its top two performers to perform. Cole Aldrich got just six shots in this one but scored 12 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. Sherron Collins got in foul trouble, but still has yet to foul out of a game in a KU uniform. Collins scored 19 points on just eight shots and also dished out six assists. KU dynamic duo was the primary reason it kept a stiff arm up and ended up beating the Red Raiders 80-68 to advance to the semi finals.

Kansas fans can now breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that their Jayhawks won't have to overcome history to win another NCAA title. I can guarantee you there will be no discussion in the KU lockerroom about how a loss in the next round or any round would be a good one.

Phog.net Top Stories