UNC Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams recently went on record saying he thinks the regular season ACC conference championship is more important than the ensuing conference tournament.
“I think the team that wins it through 16 games, to me, should be rewarded with the title of ACC champions,”
I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve seriously considered the subject. On the surface, it may seem like an easy debate, especially when you see Roy’s take. Under the surface the debate gets a little hairy. What separates college basketball from its football counterparts is its unique postseason. Nothing in sports compares to March Madness, college basketballs tournament captures the attention of even the casual sports fan. Think about it, who doesn’t fill out a bracket?
In college football its all about the regular season. Lose more than one game and you have zero chance at the national title. Instead, your relegated to some “bowl” game that in the end, is meaningless. College basketball fans can have hope that their team can win it all, all season long.
But wait, this is supposed to be a debate about conference champions, not national champions right? Yes and no, I believe they are one of the same. Placing a greater emphasis on the regular season versus the conference tournaments would be taking a page out of college footballs broken system. Tournaments are what make college basketball great, and they play a huge role in keeping faith alive for every team in the nation.
Teams who fail to win their conference in the regular season for the most part have no guarantee of a NCAA Tourney birth. Regardless of who’s the regular season or tournament champion in the ACC, both Duke and Carolina are headed to the big dance. This debate doesn’t have nearly the same affect on elite teams as it does for those on the “bubble”. Many teams in the nation head into their conference tournaments with everything at stake. Win the tourney or your at the mercy of the selection committee and for some it’s win your conference tourney or get ready for the NIT.
So who’s right in this debate? Depends on how you look at it, personally, I believe both sides are right. I’m with Roy on the fact that winning the regular season is harder to accomplish. But I also believe it would be devastating to the sport to diminish the value of winning one’s conference tournament. The best solution in my opinion, award the regular season champion with well the regular season championship, give those teams a trophy, hang a banner. And continue to do the same for the tournament champions, give those teams a different trophy, cut down the nets, hang a banner. Most importantly, conference tournament champions continuing to receive an automatic bid into the big dance. As long as that continues to happen, the great sport of college basketball wins.