After UNC's 81-67 win over the Duke Blue Devils in the regular season finale, the Tar Heels were awarded in the 2011 regular season crown. So like any good fan, I proudly posted "ACC CHAMPS" to my Facebook page immediately after the final horn.
Of course, not all of my Facebook friends are Carolina fans and that's okay. A select few made sure to let me know that the regular season champ is not technically called the Atlantic Coast Conference Champions...blah blah blah.
So you're telling me that when you show through the entire regular season that you are without a doubt the best team, that shouldn't merit an ACC Champion title?
Now I understand where my friends are coming from. But I believe that thought process is outdated. Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, you HAD to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA's. But nowadays, you are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the tournament if you finish in at least the top four or five of the league. So no, you are not technically assured a spot in the big dance without the tournament champion bid, but we all pretty much know who is going to make it and who is not going to make it.
Now back to my argument for not considering the regular season champion worthy of the title "ACC Champions." We all know that virtually ANYTHING can happen in the conference tournament. We see it all the time. A team that really hasn't been that competitive all year long makes 15 threes and knocks off the number one seed. This can be a great thing, and that's what makes the conference tournament so exciting. But just becuase a no-name school goes on a miracle run, that doesn't guarentee the team is better than the regular season champ.
I know after losing out on the regular season crown, Duke fans have their eyes set on their annual tournament run. BUT, if Duke wins this weekend in Greensboro, does that necessarily mean they are better than UNC? Not exactly.
They obviously split this year and are fairly evenly matched teams. It's hard to say what Duke would have done with freshman sensation Kyrie Irving sidelined, but we'll never know. Irving is not likely to return this year and is more than likely to move on to the NBA as a lottery pick.
The bottom line is, whether you can consider the tournament champion the actual champ, or the regular season champion, you have to admit, surviving the ACC season and coming out on top (although not as impressive as it once was) is still impressive. I'm not saying winning the tournament is not a feat of an accomplishment, but I personally believe the regular season is a better determinant of who is the best. After all, that little get-together is just a cocktail party, right? (See Roy Williams' quotes).