Friday, March 30, 2012

Hot Topics: Is Some NCAA Tournament Success Better Than Regular Season Success?

Each week, our writers break down a "Hot Topic" among the Michigan fans and allow them to express their opinions. Topics cover everything from rivalry games to team and fan apparel. Writers have their own opinion and readers are welcome to comment or contact them via Twitter with their thoughts.

Kyle Curtiss - Representing Those That Believe Some NCAA Tournament Success Is Better Than Regular Season Success

1)  Ah, March Madness. Euphoric and destructive at the same time. Second in popularity to the Super Bowl.  Bracketology. Sum it all up and March is one crazy month. Not as many fan watches the dredges of non-conference play in December, when the NFL is winding down their regular season. Not many tune in to the beginning of conference play, for that's when NFL playoffs are going on. So when, in truth do people really start paying attention to college basketball? That's right! In February! When conference races get tighter, bracketologists such as Lunardi talk on TV every day, and you wonder where in the Big Dance you'll be seeded.

2)  One word: Cinderella. The nation becomes captivated every year by Cinderella teams every year, whether it's Butler, VCU, Norfolk State, George Mason...I could go on and on babeee! (channeling my inner Vitale there). This season, Michigan was a 4 seed. They lost to Ohio (aka Cinderella team) and not only did they lose, but they were pummeled. The score was closer than it really was. Next season what are fans going to remember the most? Ohio advancing to play North Carolina and taking them to overtime or Michigan losing in the first round? Exactly..it's that important to win!

3)  As a continuation of my second point, Michigan played badly in the Big Ten tournament as well as the Big Dance. We won part of the "regular season title" but did nothing after that. A 3-way tie to crown the Big Ten regular season champ? Don't get me wrong, I am proud of that. Yet, just as I make fun of Sparty or Ohio being part of a 3-way tie on the football side of things a couple seasons ago, how can I feel proud of this? We didn't win it outright, and we showed we're the weaker of the 3 teams. State has their up and down regular seasons, but Izzo always has them ready in March. Isn't that part of the formula that we want?

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Thomas Beindit - Representing Those That Believe Regular Season Success Is Better Than Some NCAA Tournament Success

1)  The first thing I'd like to do is specify my stance on this issue.  When I'm talking about NCAA Tournament success, I'm not referring to national championships, national championship games, and Final Four appearances.  I'm speaking primarily about teams that make it to the Round of 32 and the Sweet Sixteen.  Winning tournament games is respectable and a great accomplishment, but I can't justify winning 1-2 games over something like a conference championship.  Yes, it's nice to be involved in March Madness for a long period of time, but isn't the NCAA Tourney just that?  Madness?  Sure, the best teams tend to win, but that's it, they just tend to win.  Winning 1-2 games doesn't prove that you're a great team, it just proves that you got two decent match-ups and were hot enough to win those 1-2 games.  Winning a conference championship requires playing good basketball for months, not just two nights.  Plus, if you win the championship you are going to have to play good teams numerous times and aren't really going to benefit much from Selection Sunday and getting a great match-up.

2) Another thing to consider is the fact that the Round of 32 and even the Sweet Sixteen are filled with teams that ultimately come away with nothing.  In fact, as far as I know, Michigan doesn't hang banners for anything in the NCAA Tournament except Final Four appearances and national championships.  This basically means that besides some cool stats, the team is going to ultimately come away with nothing if they win 1-3 games.  Now, I think the Elite Eight is pretty meaningful so I won't go quite that far, but the point is still there.  Most of the teams in the Round of 32 and Sweet 16 end up accomplishing little to nothing in the tournament.  In fact, 28 of the 32 teams that win a game in the NCAA Tournament don't even make the Final Four.  Look at Indiana for a second.  They had a relatively good regular season, but failed to win the Big Ten.  However, they did win two games in the tournament.  The thing to note from the case of Indiana is that they came away with the same thing Michigan did, absolutely nothing from the NCAA Tournament.  To me, this is crucial to understand because unless you make a deep run, you're going to come away with almost nothing.

3) The final thing I think fans should consider is the accomplishment of winning a conference championship.  Yes, the NCAA Tournament removes some of the importance of the regular season and conference championships, but it is still a remarkable accomplishment.  Look at Michigan.  Although they didn't have a ton of success in March, they did win the Big Ten.  This means that over 18 games they were the best of the 12 teams (or at least tied).  Along with this, Michigan will be awarded with a championship banner in Crisler and received championship rings.  Does a team that make the Round of 32 or Sweet Sixteen get those types of rewards?  I don't think so.  I will fully admit that a Final Four or national championship game appearance should be more valuable than a conference championship, but making those is a lot more significant than making something like the Round of 32 or Sweet Sixteen.  Here's a fun challenge.  Try to name the teams that made the Round of 32 or Sweet Sixteen that didn't make it further.  Then try to name the teams that won the Big Ten Championship.  Yes, there are fewer teams, but winning a championship is just more long-lasting than winning 1-2 NCAA Tournament games.

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Final Points

Kyle - Bottom line, it may be somewhat true that in the first round (or second as it's now referred to) the games don't matter as much because no one remembers them well. You can't expect the teams to get an award for making the tournament, that's reserved for later down the line. Imagine two years from now: Burke, Hardaway, McGary, and Robinson are all gone from the team. Michigan is in the cellar with Penn St and Minnesota. We will look to the regular season championship banner with hope, there's no doubt about that. But as fans we want that seed to the Big Dance. We need that seed! We are Michigan!

Thomas - I completely agree that the NCAA Tournament is great and is the best time of the year for college basketball.  However, I don't believe it's the only time of the year that matters.  Fans certainly remember the "Cinderella" teams and the heart-breaking loss to Ohio in the first round, but I think the pride in winning a conference championship will last much longer than these memories.  I mean, compare Michigan's 2011 NCAA Tournament success to its 2012 success.  If you had to select one of these seasons, I guarantee that 99% of people are going to select this season.  Yes, Michigan did much better in the NCAA Tournament last year (won their first round game in record-breaking fashion and lost a close game to #1 seed Duke), but it still ended the same way this season did, an early exit from the tourney.  Is winning that one or maybe even that second game better than a regular season full of success and a conference championship?  I just really don't believe that's true.

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All writers are entitled to their own opinion and those may or may not represent the held beliefs of Hoke's Mad Magicians as an entity.  Readers are welcome to comment below or contact the writers via Twitter with their thoughts


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