March 12, 2009
Everybody loves the NCAA tournament. Have you met a person that doesn't love the NCAA tournament? Anyone? Thought so. To a lesser degree, the conference tournaments are the same way. Most everyone likes them, because they're basketball, and they're fun, even if they don't matter as much as they used to. Tournament basketball is tournament basketball, and the play-in possibilities always keep the uncertain just around the corner.
Rick Majerus does not agree. Rick Majerus hates the conference tournaments. And Rick Majerus is making a lot of sense:
"I tell you what would be a real shame," Majerus said, "if we were to beat Xavier, and for Xavier not to go to the tournament. They're probably going anyway. They should go anyway. . . . I really believe that the regular season is everything. We could win this, put on a hat and shirt - we aren't going to win this - and say, 'Oh, we're the champs.' What a phony thing that would be. We were the champs of that four-game tournament."
There are plenty of things to love about that quote, not least of which is Majerus' insistence that his Billikens aren't going to beat Xavier at Noon EST today. But beyond the inherent comical silliness of Rick Majerus, he has a point. It isn't, in a strict sense, fair. Xavier proved they were the better team during the regular season, which is a much bigger, far less fluke-prone, sample size. It makes sense.
But as Jason Cohen at CSTB points out, you could say that about any tournament. I think Pittsburgh proved they're the best team in the country over the course of the season. They might not win the NCAA tourney. Is that unfair? Maybe. But that slight lack of fairness is the sacrifice we make for an entire month of incredibly entertaining, sudden-death, one-and-done basketball. If some really good teams occasionally suffer an unlikely loss, that's a price I'm more than willing to pay.