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The Big 12 Tournament: The Value for Kansas

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A win over K-State sends Kansas to the semi-finals of the Big 12 Tournament for the seventh straight year. Just three days from Selection Sunday, for the Jayhawks, is there value, outside of bragging rights, in wrapping up a Big 12 Tournament Title in Kansas City this weekend?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from collecting another piece of hardware for the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, or another banner to hang in the Fieldhouse, it would appear that Kansas stands to gain little else from winning the Big 12 Tournament.

This is fine with some 'Hawk fans who contend losing in the tournament actually helps Kansas. There are others, though, who think heading into the NCAA Tournament with momentum is key.

In his 12 previous seasons at Kansas, Bill Self has won the Big 12 Tournament Title six times. In those six conference tourney championship squads, 'Hawk fans have seen an NCAA National Championship (2008), a Round of 64 crusher (2006) and every round of the NCAA tournament in between.

During that same span, after losing in the Big 12 Tournament, Self's teams have played for a National Title (2012), lost in the Round of 64 (2005), and every NCAA Tournament round in between.

It's impossible to glean anything substantial from the above information other than the fact the NCAA Tournament is a crap shoot no matter what your conference tournament success.

There's an old adage in sports that says that it's hard to beat a team three times in one season. In the Big 12, with its true round-robin regular season schedule, it demands that each of its teams try.

Outside of Kansas having lost to Kansas State on Thursday, which they didn't, there wasn't much chance Kansas wouldn't be set up to grab the number one overall seed in next week's NCAA Tournament before the Big 12 Tourney began, and probably still are. Yet, even if the 'Hawks go down in one of their next two games, and the Selection Committee no longer feels compelled to grant them the number one, number one, it still won't knock Kansas from their secure spot as the 1-seed in the Midwest Bracket.

Perhaps the team with most to gain from winning in Kansas City this weekend are Lon Kruger's Oklahoma Sooners. Up until the exposure of their flaws in February, the Sooners looked like a lock for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. A strong Big 12 Tournament title win may push them back up to the one line. A quarterfinal loss to Iowa State may just drop them to a 3-seed.

Speaking of Iowa State, the Cyclones are still the two time defending champs of the Big 12 Tournament. They'd love to put a bright cap on a so far disappointing season by winning a third straight conference tournament.

Tubby Smith's Texas Tech squad probably played themselves out of the NCAA Tournament by losing Wednesday night to 12-win TCU. As of this writing, Joe Lunardi still has them as a 9-seed in today's Bracketology, even with the loss. With so many strong mid major teams waiting to get in though, the Raiders losing to the Frogs Wednesday night underscored their mediocrity at the worst possible time.

The fact that 12-20 TCU came into Thursday with a chance to make the dance while Texas Tech looks to sweat out Selection Sunday is what makes many gripe about the existence of conference tournaments in the first place. What was the point of the regular season if a terrible team can make a four game run in the end to make the postseason?

That's one way of looking at it. Another way though, is to see that in having the conference tournaments, college basketball has actually made the regular season games matter all the more. If a team hasn't done enough to secure a solid tournament invite, then the conference tournaments give them one last audition in front of the Selection Committee. If a team, like TCU, had a terrible season, then one good weekend of play can extend their season. The system makes it so that every game, right down to the very last, matters for every single school. In that regard, NCAA basketball is the only sport where this is the case.

Whatever your feelings on conference tournaments, just enjoy the ride, with all its buzzer beaters, upsets and high drama. It's the appetizer for the best four week run of championship ball of any American sports.

As competitive as Coach Self is, if there is a game to be played he wants to win. Don't expect his 'Hawks to mail it in Friday.

For Jayhawk fans though, win or lose in Kansas City this weekend they should feel confident in the fact that Self's Jayhawks have the look, and more importantly the health, of a team capable of making a deep NCAA Tournament run. Self's teams haven't had both at NCAA Tournament time since March of 2013. In 2014 Joel Embiid's back injury killed that year's team. In 2015 Perry Ellis' knee and Brannen Greene's hip had both players pushing through the pain at 60%. Consequently, 2013 was also the last time Kansas won the Big 12 Tournament.

One last thing - rooted in complete random territory - like the World Cup and the Olympics, Self's Jayhawks, since 2008, have been on a four year cycle of Final Four runs. Guess what, it's been four years since Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor led the Jayhawks to the National Title game.

Whether in the conference tournament or the NCAAs, winning in March is good for the confidence of both the team and its fans.

Rock Chalk Postseason Hawk!