PDA

View Full Version : Conference Tournaments Hurting NCAA Performance



Devil07
03-11-2008, 03:25 PM
In light of Roy's comments about the importance of the ACC tournament I was curious as to whether or not he had a point. Namely, how do the teams which win their respective conference tournaments fare in the NCAA Tournament? Does success in the conference lead to success in the NCAA's? And in particular, for teams who have no real incentive to win the tournament (ie they've already locked up a high seed) does winning the tournament actually hurt them? Below is what my quick research showed. Please pardon the length of this post.

First I looked at the last 5 Final Fours to see which participants had won their respective conference tournaments.
2007: Florida, Ohio St., UCLA, Georgetown
2006: Florida, UCLA, LSU, George Mason
2005: UNC, Illinois, Michigan St., Louisville
2004: UConn, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma St., Duke
2003: Syracuse, Kansas, Marquette, Texas

The teams which won their tournaments are in bold. Other than 2003, each year, at least 2 of the Final Four participants won their conference, with 3 of the 4 eventual national champions among them. However, there's only so much that can show, so I also decided to see what happened to the winners of the 6 major conference tournaments each year in the NCAA's. I included the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big East, Big 12, and Pac 10 only. Next to each team in parentheses is their seed.

ACC
2007: UNC (1) - Elite 8
2006: Duke (1) - Sweet 16
2005: Duke (1) - Sweet 16
2004: Maryland (4) - Round of 32
2003: Duke (3) - Sweet 26

SEC
2007: Florida (1) - National Champs
2006: Florida (3) - National Champs
2005: Florida (4) - Round of 32
2004: Kentucky (1) - Round of 32
2003: Kentucky (1) - Elite 8

Big 10
2007: Ohio St. (1) - National Runner-Up
2006: Iowa (3) - Round of 64
2005: Illinois (1) - National Runner-Up
2004: Wisconsin (6) - Round of 32
2003: Illinois (4) - Round of 32

Big East
2007: Georgetown (2) - Final Four
2006: Syracuse (5) - Round of 64
2005: Syracuse (4) - Round of 64
2004: UConn (2) - National Champs
2003: Pitt (2) - Sweet 16

Big 12
2007: Kansas (1) - Elite 8
2006: Kansas (4) - Round of 64
2005: Oklahoma St. (2) - Sweet 16
2004: Oklahoma St. (2) - Final Four
2003: Oklahoma (1) - Elite 8

Pac 10
2007: Oregon (3) - Elite 8
2006: UCLA (2) - Final Four
2005: Washington (1) - Sweet 16
2004: Stanford (1) - Round of 32
2003: Oregon (8) - Round of 32

Although conference tournaments obviously affect seedings, I am going to assume for simplicity that teams which received either a 1 or 2 seed most likely would have gotten that regardless of whether or not they won their conference. I also assume that for a 1 or 2 seed "success" is defined as making it to the Elite 8 or beyond. I believe that once a team has made it that far, the competition is usually so tough and such a crap shoot that an Elite 8 appearance is a fair measure of tournament success. And I'm frankly not good enough at math to weigh performances, so winning it all and just making it to the Elite 8 count equally here. So for those top teams, was playing the extra games a hindrance?

A quick look shows that 17 of the conference winners received 1 or 2 seeds. 11 of those made it to the Elite 8 or beyond, or roughly 65%. From just briefly looking at the last 5 years, only 24 teams seeded 1st or 2nd made it to the Elite 8 (60%). So in other words, the percentage of success for teams which had "nothing to play for" in their conference tournament is actually higher than the general average.

So what this would lead me to believe is that no, winning your conference tournament and playing the extra games does not in fact hurt highly ranked teams. I don't think there's enough to suggest that it helps, but it certainly does not seem to be a deterrent for NCAA success. Long story short, I'd hold off before I start arguing that playing in the conference tournaments will only hurt a top team...

zingit
03-11-2008, 07:28 PM
Interesting. Thanks for taking the time to research that! I imagine you would need more data and more advanced statistics (e.g. weighting what round of the tourney they made it to, like you suggested) to really draw a conclusion, though. It's possible that some of those teams that only made it to the Elite 8 could have gone further if they had been able to skip their conference tournaments.

BlueBlood112883
03-11-2008, 07:31 PM
I don't think its either or. I think it's just about the matchups, and what is happening between the lines. Not about who went to the Conference Title game, or who flamed out early enough and made them "freshier." Once the NCAA Tournament starts everybody gets a little bit tighter since its "win or go home" for 6 straight games. Plus you got to factor in a bad shooting night. Everybody has at least one, and the team that overcomes that, foul trouble, injury, etc...... is going to be the one cutting down the nets. The NCAA's is Russian Roulette and the best team doesn't always win. It's the hottest one.

Saratoga2
03-13-2008, 11:23 AM
I don't think its either or. I think it's just about the matchups, and what is happening between the lines. Not about who went to the Conference Title game, or who flamed out early enough and made them "freshier." Once the NCAA Tournament starts everybody gets a little bit tighter since its "win or go home" for 6 straight games. Plus you got to factor in a bad shooting night. Everybody has at least one, and the team that overcomes that, foul trouble, injury, etc...... is going to be the one cutting down the nets. The NCAA's is Russian Roulette and the best team doesn't always win. It's the hottest one.

There is a long history on the board of people who claim that teams wear down if their top players put in too many minutes. Other people don't agree and say these young kids bounce back quicky after playing and are not impacted greatly by a lot of playing time (barring injuries).

Interestingly, John Scheyer recently has indicated that he was worn out both physically and mentally last year at the end of the season. He went on to say that others on the team also were in that situation. Taken in the light of his comments, it would seem playing in a three day tournament and then going back into play in a few days is a pretty tiring experience. The teams that do well and stick around until the finals play the most and are probably the best teams, but also put on a lot of wear and tear.

Based on Scheyer's input it would seem the conferences that don't have elimination tournaments would be the freshest and teams that play one game only will also be fresher going into the big dance.

Last year we certainly looked like a tired team at the end.

Duvall
03-13-2008, 11:27 AM
There is a long history on the board of people who claim that teams wear down if their top players put in too many minutes. Other people don't agree and say these young kids bounce back quicky after playing and are not impacted greatly by a lot of playing time (barring injuries).

Interestingly, John Scheyer recently has indicated that he was worn out both physically and mentally last year at the end of the season. He went on to say that others on the team also were in that situation. Taken in the light of his comments, it would seem playing in a three day tournament and then going back into play in a few days is a pretty tiring experience. The teams that do well and stick around until the finals play the most and are probably the best teams, but also put on a lot of wear and tear.

Based on Scheyer's input it would seem the conferences that don't have elimination tournaments would be the freshest and teams that play one game only will also be fresher going into the big dance.

Last year we certainly looked like a tired team at the end.

That doesn't follow at all - Duke lost in the first round of last year's ACC tournament and played only one game in the eleven games between the end of the regular season and the NCAA tournament. If the players were tired, it was because so many of our players were underclassmen unused to the demands of a complete college basketball season. They would have been tired even without any conference tournament at all.

pfrduke
03-13-2008, 01:35 PM
Based on Scheyer's input it would seem the conferences that don't have elimination tournaments would be the freshest and teams that play one game only will also be fresher going into the big dance.

I will give you this - the Ivy league entrant looks fresh every year in losing its first round game. Not sure whether you're aware of this or not, but every other conference has a year-end elimination tournament to decide the conference champion.

jimsumner
03-13-2008, 01:58 PM
Let's take a look at Duke, shall we?

Mike Krzyzewski has coached ten Final Four teams. Eight of them played in the ACC Tournament title game. Two--1990 and 1994, lost in the semifinals. All three NCAA title teams played three ACCT games.

Now let's look at it from the other end.

In the last 20 years, Duke has lost its first ACC Tournament game four times, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 2007. How did Duke use that extra rest? First-round losses in 1996 and 2007, second-round losses in 1993 and 1997. Not much of a bump.

I'm not denying that fatigue is a variable. But with the exception of Maryland in 2002, every NCAA champion from the ACC and most of the Final Four teams played in the ACCT title game. I'd rather go into the NCAAs with some momentum than an extra days rest and take my chances from there.

Devil07
03-13-2008, 04:14 PM
Interestingly, John Scheyer recently has indicated that he was worn out both physically and mentally last year at the end of the season. He went on to say that others on the team also were in that situation. Taken in the light of his comments, it would seem playing in a three day tournament and then going back into play in a few days is a pretty tiring experience. The teams that do well and stick around until the finals play the most and are probably the best teams, but also put on a lot of wear and tear.


I think its safe to say that every team is going to be physically tired at this point in the year. I feel like the bigger issue is mental fatigue which Scheyer alluded to. I don't think you can really say for certain what kind of impact the 3 games have in that regard. In fact I think you could argue that winning the tournament could actually invigorate a team mentally by giving them a confidence boost. It just depends on the team.

Playing the 3 straight games might be a burden for certain teams, but on the whole I just don't buy the argument that playing in the full conference tournament will wear a team out. I think the extra momentum and confidence which can be gained outweighs the risks of having to take on the physical exhaustion of an extra game or two.