1 National Title
Made tournament every year (Average seed: 4.8)
Overall record: 309-109 (73.9 winning percentage)
5 Double-digit loss seasons
5 Conference Titles
Taking out worst season (7th place), finished as low as 6th in conference
5 Players on current NBA rosters
Less time spent as #1 overall ranked team in nation
1 National Title
Made Tournament Every Year (Average Seed: 3.2)
Overall Record of 338-82 (80.5 winning percentage)
2 Double-digit loss seasons
8 Conference Titles
Taking out worst season (5th place), finished as low as 2nd in conference
9 players on current NBA rosters
More time spent as #1 overall ranked team in nation
OK, now what if I told you that Team #1 went to the Final Four 6 times the past 12 years and Team #2 went 3 times? Would that change your opinion? I guess it depends on how much you buy into conventional wisdom.
If it isn't obvious by now, Team #1 is Michigan State and Team #2 is Kansas.
Tom Izzo clearly has a better tournament record in terms of wins and losses than Bill Self/Roy Williams, but his success has produced the same number of titles, though he has a chance this weekend to add another.
Over the course of the next week, you will a constant refrain: 6 Final Fours in 12 years is an astounding feat and Tom Izzo is the greatest coach in the game. Both of which are arguably true but both need to be qualified.
Six Final Fours is an astounding feat considering how hard it is to string together wins in the tournament while avoiding bad games and bad luck. And Tom Izzo is great at winning games...to a point*. The question is what value do Final Fours really have. Fans enjoy the experience, potential recruits will see the game on TV, and the universities get to pat themselves on the back and add another few stitches to the Final Four banner. For some schools like George Mason, it might be the greatest athletic accomplishment that the school ever achieves.
But if you went to a Final Four, did you really win anything? Michigan State has also had to endure four (and a possible 5th) crushing defeat. Yes, they can look back at their seasons and be proud for a season well played, but why couldn't a team that lost in the Elite Eight be as proud--or even more proud--if they had an as good or better regular season? Why is the tournament success the only success that matters these days? Why is a Final Four so much better than an Elite 8 or Sweet 16 but reaching the championship game and losing is rarely regarded as much better than reaching the Final Four?
The tournament is important but it's not the end-all, be-all of a season. If Michigan State loses on Saturday or Monday, I will have no problem saying that their season wasn't any more successful than Kansas's, Kentucky's or Syracuse's. Many will say that Final Fours are great for recruiting. If that's true, then I hope Michigan State will use this second consecutive Final Four and sixth in 12 years to recruit some better players than they have in the past.
And, yes, I'm biased and bitter as hell.
*It's sort of like how you heard all year how Syracuse was SOOOO hard to match up to because of their zone. Yes, the zone is good but if it was such a weapon as the media makes it out to be, they never would have lost a game.