Ever since the open era of the NCAA Tournament began there has been much concern about the necessity of conference tournaments. Much like a football conference championship, the even provides an opportunity for the league’s best teams to lose, exhaust themselves, and risk injury. Rarely do the top 3 or 4 teams in the regular season affect their NCAA Tournament seeding considerably, so the event focuses on bubble teams and their chance to impress the selection committee one last time.
Some argue that the event, therefore, is not good for the league, and carries little weight. The fact is, however, that as expansion rendered leagues unable to set equitable regular season schedules, conference tournaments mean more than they ever have.
Consider this matrix:
This matrix shows the number of times each opponent played the other top 5 teams in the league. As you can see, UNC is the only team in the Top 5 that had to play the other 4 twice. UVA only had to play one team twice, and was able to feast on the Clemsons and Virginia Techs of the world.
So, in a league where days off and tiebreakers are determined by a single game, the lopsided schedule presents an arbitrary value to teams that supersedes the action on the court. We have to have the conference tournament to determine the champion because with an unbalanced schedule, it is the only way to determine a true champion.
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