Does playing too many games in a conference tournament hurt a team's NCAA Tournament chances? Some numbers
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – John Calipari and Bob Knight might not agree on many topics, but there is at least one concept where they check the same box: Conference tournaments.
They check the NO NO NO box.
They don't like them.
Knight always snarled at the idea when he was coaching. Calipari thinks it's a bit silly to ask a team to play three games in three days. He doesn't seem to be budging from that concept even though his Kentucky team would benefit greatly from winning a game or two in the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville this weekend.
Rick Pitino has never approached it that way. He has always been eager for conference tournament competition, even if his teams haven't always won, especially in the early days of the Big East.
Follow-up questions: Do conference tournaments hurt teams' chances of making NCAA tournament runs? Can a team actually benefit from stumbling early in their league tournaments before heading to the main event next week?
I looked at some numbers from the last decade – and I don't think you can make that argument.
Consider this: Precisely half of the 40 teams to make the NCAA Final Four since 2003 won their league tournaments. Five others made it to the conference tournament title game. That's 62.5 percent of the Final Four teams playing as many conference tournament games as possible for them.
Six of the last 10 national champions won their conference tournaments – UConn (which needed five Big East games) in 2011 and 2004; Duke, 2010; Kansas, 2008; Florida 2007 and 2006.
So the number is also five of the last seven NCAA champions.
Each of the last 10 national champions has won at least one conference tournament game.
Only six of 40 teams (15 percent) made the Final Four after getting beat in the first game of the league tournament – Michigan State, 2010 and 2005; UConn, 2009; UCLA, 2007; Marquette, 2003; and Texas, 2003. Tom Izzo knows how to recover from a first-round disaster, but it's a mystery to most mortals.
Conclusion: It is OK to dislike conference tournaments. I understand the reasons. I remember what happened to Kenyon Martin and Cincinnati. And Kendall Marshall at North Carolina.
A regular-season title is a more valuable trophy. Conference tournaments are here to generate revenue. The injury risk is real.
But it's a stretch to say they diminish a team's chances of making or winning the NCAA Tournament.