Actually, that’s not true. I do care. I care a lot. My question is, should I?
Anyone who has been paying attention to Duke basketball the last 6+ years already knows the theory; Duke players don’t have the legs in March to get deep into the tournament. If that theory is true, then why would Duke want to play three straight games for some pointless ACC Tournament Championship title?
It mattered way back in the day when winning the ACC tournament meant getting into the NCAA tournament (how insane was that? Seriously. You could go undefeated in the regular season, lose in the conference tournament, and not get into the NCAA tournament!). Anyhow, times have changed and winning the regular season title, now that’s something.
Of course tournament seeding can be decided by conference tournament results; go deep in your tournament, get a higher seed in the field of 64. In reality though, how much of a difference are we talking about? If Duke wins this thing (or even just makes it to the ACC championship game), the best they’ll get is a #2 seed. If they lose on Friday, will they really fall below a 3rd seed? There’s no difference.
Also, if history has taught us anything, it’s that winning the ACC tournament title means nothing if winning a championship is what really matters. Sure when Duke won their three titles, they won the ACC tournament in two of them, but they also won the regular season title as well (in fact, they won the regular season title for all three title years). However, three times in the last six years, Duke has won the tournament championship, but not the regular season championship, and in all three cases, Duke was bounced in the Sweet 16. The last time the Blue Devils made it to the Final Four after winning only the tournament championship, it was 1987-88.
The more obvious argument is about confidence. Despite a defeat to UNC this past weekend, this Duke team appears to be a confident bunch since the lineup change. For a team that hasn’t survived the first weekend of the tournament the past two seasons, we can’t under estimate the importance of confidence. However, after a long, tough season, would a loss to (let’s say) Boston College on Friday really be the crushing blow to the team’s psyche? If so, this team is not as mentality as tough as I thought they are.
The key to the tournament is freshness. As the season has come to a close, Coach K has slowly shortened his bench. Players like Henderson, Singler, Scheyer and even Elliot Williams have logged 35+ minutes per game. How fresh are they and what impact would a three-day, three-game tournament have on them? Even worse, Duke’s first game in the ACC tournament is the last game on Friday, 9:30PM. The next game will start less than 16 hours later on Saturday at 3:30. Assuming we win that, the title game is only 19 hours away. Again I ask, how important is this thing? Having an ACC tournament title would be nice, but come on, we want the whole f-ing thing. You want to know how to tear out North Carolina’s heart? Steal their pre-ordained NCAA title from them.
Listen, come Friday I’ll be on my couch. I’ll be rooting, yelling and cursing like every other game. I want wins, baby. However, if Duke somehow falls on Friday or Saturday, I won’t lose too much sleep over it. The real fun starts next Thursday/Friday.