Regular Season or Tournament?

On the surface this seems like a fairly simple question:  Which is better, regular season conference title or tournament conference title? 

That depends on perspective, of course.  For a member of the America East conference, winning the regular season crown means little, considering the tournament winner goes to the NCAA Tournament - THE goal for small college kids.  But, alas, for those of us who have the fortune (and misfortune) of rooting for higher-stakes conferences, the answer is not that simple.  Considering that the winner of the Big 12 regular season title doesn't  need to worry about getting an NCAA bid, which one is more important?

{promoted to the Front Page for Asian Kid}

The Big 12 Men's Basketball Record Book does, briefly, mention who the regular season champions have been (one small section where they list all-time Big 12 Conference W-L records).  While I have a problem with the idea that any one title is "harder" to win than any other, it is more likely that the tournament champion would not be the best team than it is that the regular season champion would be.  The regular season championship requires that you win on the road, against every team (close enough).  You must battle and be the best - or at least hope for a beneficial upset or two along the way.

When the tournament rolls around, you just need to have a hot hand.  Certainly not easy to win (considering there have only been 4 teams who have won - OU, OSU, ISU, ku), but much more likely that the 4th or 5th best team in the conference could win the title.

Given this, it would be easy to say that, in a major conference, the Regular Season title is more prestigious.  That is certainly my initial reaction.  However, the NCAA has done everything they can to ensure that the regular season means as little as possible.  The drama and unpredictability (and, therefore, popularity) of sudden-death playoffs makes finding the truly best team secondary to putting a good product on television.  With as many as 6-8 teams from the power conferences getting in the field, winning the regular season title really doesn't get you much other than bragging rights and a tee-shirt.  No, the important games are played in March.

It's not just the NCAA that is doing this, it's not just for advertising dollars.  The media wants it, the FANS want it.  One need only look at the BCS to find out how happy the viewing public would be if the post-season had a diminished role in picking the champion.  There are a few voices in the wilderness who point out the beauty of a regular season upset knocking the #1 off their perch in mid-November (imagine the drama in a UCONN - Pitt game in early March if the winner of that game went to the tournament... loser goes to the NIT) because in football, the regular season IS what matters.

I'm certainly not calling for getting rid of post-season tournaments.  I'm just making an argument that the tournament champion has been given more credibility BECAUSE of the importance of the post-season.  All-in-all, I'd rather have my team win the regular-season conference crown, even if it doesn't get the notice outside of the conference that the tourney champ gets.  That being said... the most important is the one YOUR team has a chance to win.


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