I follow a few college and professional sports. I like St. Louis Cardinals baseball and University of Illinois basketball. I read a few message boards and blogs about sports, but I’m not a walking sports statistics computer. I’m just a fan.
So, I kinda figured something out in the last couple of years. The only thing that matters is getting into the playoffs, BCS bowl game or NCAA Tournament. Basically, the regular season doesn’t matter or perhaps more accurately, the regular season matters only in that if you have to play well enough to get into the playoffs, bowl game or NCAA tournament.
If you are a major league baseball team, nobody cares if you won the most game or even if you won your division. It is meaningless. The only measure that matters is “did your team make the playoffs.” The Cardinals might end up having a terrible regular season record, but if they make the playoffs anything can happen and the best team during the regular season doesn’t always advance. The Cubs could crush their division rivals from May to September, but it doesn’t really matter if they can’t do anything in October.
Nobody cares if you win your conference title. Conference titles are meaningless. NCAA titles are all that matters. How many Final Fours or Sweet Sixteens have you been to is what people care about and remember.
The goal of every Division 1 NCAA Basketball program has to be to make the NCAA Tournament. Sure, you have to play well enough to earn a bid, which translates into playing well in the regular season, but you don’t have to be number one in the standings at the end of the season. Play-in tournaments are important, but only so much that you play well in them and don’t get beat by a lower seed. The bottom line goal is simple – get a bid to the Dance.
As a side note, if you are a team that regularly makes the NCAA tournament then what matters is making Sweet 16/Elite 8/Final Four/National Championship. Everything else is a waste of energy. You may dominate your conference, win a ton of games, make the NCAA tournament, but if you lose in the first round you are considered a joke. Ask Bill Self about that.
So, I don’t really care about Big Ten titles or National League Division Titles. I don’t really care all that much about AP rankings. The goal always has to be: make the playoffs.
From there anything can happen.