The Monday following opening weekend is always a very productive mental day. The way the tournament is scheduled, there is a lot of time to reflect on the nearly 96 straight hours of basketball. My first thought of reflection is that this year’s tournament has sucked so far. There have not been many big upsets or fantastic finishes. Numerous teams that had the wins in their grasps realized with about five minutes left that they didn’t want to win (see: USC, Nova, URI, Wichita State). The basketball gods just didn’t give us any justice whatsoever. The only redeeming quality of the tournament so far is Duke lost. Michigan is a really fun team, too. But, compared to all the bad things, two good things isn’t really that satisfying.
Still, above all the other issues has been the officiating. I am not talking about the average calls throughout the game. This isn’t an article just bitching and moaning because college refs don’t let kids rebound or play effective perimeter defense. I am talking about two types of calls. The first is a call that is just so egregiously stupid that it makes your brain hurt. The other is a call in the last minute of a game that does a lot to decide the outcome. Unfortunately, there have been multiple examples of this throughout the opening weekend. Here are the three that have stood out to me the most.
This one fell into the “really fucking stupid” category. After being close for most of the game, Kansas appeared to be pulling away. The run was capped with a Lagerald Vick slam off the alley-oop from Devonte Graham to put the Jayhawks up ten. On the way down from the rim, Vick talked his shit. He talked his shit because he is a twenty-year-old playing on the biggest stage in amateur sports and he just had a sick dunk. You can read his lips in the video, but he might have said three words in passing to the Michigan State player. The ref T’d him up without even really thinking about it. I have a few problems with this. First, there needs to be something said for severity. He barely did anything and got no leeway. Luckily this did not decide the outcome of the game, but at the time it seemed like it could have. My main qualm is that you need to let the kids talk their shit. This is a game that has evolved through the years mostly on a basis of shit talk, and now it is so frowned upon that you can’t say three words after a run-capping slam? No. I refuse to accept that. Let the kids talk their shit.
This is probably the most egregious no call I have ever seen in my life, and it somehow was still not the worst officiating moment of the tournament thus far. Only up one with under a minute, Joel Berry drove into the lane to extend the lead for the Tar Heels. Instead, he hit a defender and committed a charging foul. Oh you think that’s a flop? Fine, I can totally accept that. But, following the probable charge, Joel Berry shuffled his feet like an old person with a walker. So that’s two different things that happened that should have given Arkansas the ball down one with a chance at a two for one. Instead, they were down three due to an offensive board and a putback. Sure they still could have found a way to win, but the refs made it a hell of a lot harder on them.
The Seton Hall vs Arkansas game in the round of 64 was a fantastic example of great post-play basketball. Angel Delgado and Moses Kingsley really went at it down low and were complimented well by their guards. The whole game looked like one that would go down to the final shot. Seton Hall was down one with under twenty seconds left, so they fouled. Desi Rodriguez fouled how you are taught to do at the end of the game. He did not make a play on the ball. Also, no player fouling to extend the game really ever goes for the ball. That’s not how kids are taught and it’s not how the game is played. Instead, the job is to get the ref’s attention and show them “look! I’m doing what I’m supposed to!” Due to an inadvertent trip bodies went flying, and after looking at the monitor, the refs deemed it a flagrant 1. This is probably my biggest problem with the play. They did not initially have it as a flagrant. Arkansas missed the first free throw after the flagrant, which would have been the front end of a one and one. Therefore, the Pirates would have had the ball down one with a chance to win the game with the final shot. Instead, the refs went out of their way to get the call wrong and decided they did not want the Pirates to win the game. Arkansas did not win this game. Seton Hall did not lose this game. The refs simply ended it.