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I'll tell you this, they matter a heckuva lot to me. I watch this team play 30 or 31 regular season games every year, and 18 (formerly 16) conference games. I want to win the conference championship far more than I want to win the conference tournament, at least as much as I want to get to the Elite Eight, and about as much as I judge our season based on a Final Four. I know, I know, that's heresy, to say that a Final Four is the same importance as a conference regular season title, and I realize it's not the same as far as applications, money generated for the university, and other measure. I'm just saying that, to me, I'd rather win the conference and lose in the second round (or even the first) than finish fifth in the conference and lose in the Final Four. I'm honestly unsure how I would feel about finishing in the middle of the conference pack and winning the Tournament (I wasn't old enough in 1988 to experience it, but I do remember the last three games of that season). I'd probably consider it a redeemed season, but I couldn't put a KU team that did that on the same level as the 2008 team.
I'm sure I'm in the minority, but winning the conference regular season title is extremely important to me.
The next 10 days will feature some compelling races for conference championships. But does anyone care? The importance of league titles continues to dwindle as March glory trumps regular-season triumphs.
People don't appreciate winning them like they should but I can say for sure that KU fans will be pissed the first time we don't win one. God forbid we go a few years without winning one. People won't handle that well at this point. I think the NCAA thing is oversold as killing the value of conference champs. It plays a role but the conference tourney's are the worst thing for it.
I think the way it ought to work is that the tourney should take the regular season champs. What I really think should happen is that the tourney should have conference champions get a bye to the round of 16. You can then have 32 at large squads (or 64 if you really wanted to expand this mess) play a 2 (or 3) game set one weekend to determine who gets to move onto the round of 16. That would add appropriate value to winning ones conference. The problem is that there are too many conferences for that, though you could just select the 8 best conference champs to get that bye and throw the rest in the at large field.
I agree that Conference champions need to be rewarded somehow but maybe by seeding. Give the season champs an obvious better seed than others. The committee should make a statement that after season Conference Tournaments will not determine any kind of seeding whatsoever. And be 100% committed to doing that. A weekend tournament after KU has played a full conference season of home and away should not alter their seeding AT ALL. I remember when idiots like Greg Swaim would argue that the real conference champion is the tournament champion. I just don't see how that argument has any validity. Conference championships mean something because only one team wins it all every year. If KU isn't that team they still have accomplished something very good.
It is far, far better to make the Final Four than win a conference regular season championship. My preference is to win both the regular season and make a Final Four. But a choice between the two and its a no brainer - Final Four.
Obviously a national championship season like what we did in '88 or UCONN in '11 is better than anything less, even better than UNLV in '91 where their first loss of the season was to Duke in the Final Four.
In 2004 we didn't win the conference but made it to the Elite 8 - and if not for a BS call on KL we would have most likely been in the Final Four. The following two years we win the conference and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I'll take a season like '04 over '05 or '06. But that is just my preference. First round losses pretty much ruin the entire season for me.
Have to admit, I am the exact opposite. Tourney exits are always obnoxious but more because I don't get to watch KU play anymore than anything else. I would not enjoy scuffling to a bunch of 22-25 wins seasons even if I generally get to a few elite 8's or even final fours. Hell, I am of the type that I would not trade 9 conference titles for another national title. I like being consistently good because to me KU basketball is entertainment. I don't get real caught up in measuring contest with UK or Duke or UNC fans. We are good. We are good almost all the time. I enjoy that and would not trade a few down seasons for more tourney success.
I'm interested in that way of thinking...the '05 season wasn't as much fun b/c it was so horrible down the stretch that even as we won the conference, it wasn't much fun. I have nothing but fond memories of the '06 season, even though we lost in the first round, because I remember how incredible it was that we were growing like we did: watching Wright move into the starting lineup, watching Chalmers move on from being a total trainwreck in Maui to being a vital cog in our offense and defense by the middle of confeence, and coming back from getting blown away by Texas in Austin on Saturday night to beating that same Texas team in the conference tournament. I don't let early tournament losses ruin things for me because, well, the tournament is so much about how you match up against the teams you face. The 1988 run was amazing...but I'm not sure it turns out so well if the 3 (Vanderbilt), 2 (Pittsburgh), and 1 (Purdue) seeds (plus Temple by Duke) don't get beaten the round before we would have faced them in the regionals... I just can't let the result of a one-and-done event determine that my 100+ hours invested over the preceding four months was a bad investment.
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