First, I want to say that Kentucky and Wisconsin played a great game and these teams did not lack in effort. These teams demonstrated what good defense is supposed to look like. March Madness is a great time of year for college basketball fans. In fact, for those who love college basketball it is much like The Super Bowl for NFL fans.
While watching the game I realized how large of an impact officiating has on the flow of the game. I am usually someone who complains about referees often, and frankly, I was just angry because things didn’t go well for the team I rooted for. However, my college basketball team is Indiana. Indiana wasn’t invited to the tournament this year. Further, they were not invited to the NIT either, which is another rant for later. Therefore, I really didn’t have a dog in the hunt in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
The problem in this year’s tournament has seemed to me that there has been a few blown calls, or non-calls. I won’t list them here, otherwise it would cause me a great deal of typing to share what was wrong with each call. Click here for one article that addresses this problem. These calls have impacted several games.
In the Kentucky-Wisconsin game, Traevon Jackson was whistled for three blocking fouls. The last call was arguably a decent call. But, the first two calls were ridiculous. Now, the refs made, or did not make, calls that helped Wisconsin too. Yet, I want to put for the idea of how those blocking calls, alone, impacted Wisconsin’s game.
When the referees blow calls on an impact player like Jackson, who was clearly in good defensive position to take those charges, and the Kentucky guards are allowed to drop their shoulders and dribble into the defender, Jackson, the ability to defend the lane is greatly diminished. In fact, the result was Jackson taking an early seat on the bench for the two calls in the first half. Not only did this impact the Wisconsin team, it empowered the Kentucky team to really hit the lane with drives from their guards.
There was a point when the feeling seemed to be that Wisconsin was going to go up 20 on KU, but taking Wisconsin’s good defense away, because of poor calls, kept the game close. In the second half there were a couple of times when Jackson was back in that he backed up on defense to avoid getting his third and fourth fouls and allowed the Kentucky player easy access to the basket for a score. Remember, Kentucky won this game by won. It is easy to see how these silly calls impact the game if you simply take that one basket away because it would have been defended.
Calls were also not being made because often KU players were holding, out in the open, WU players cutting to the basket. Imagine if these calls were made, and WU made their free throws how this changes the outcome. It seems that KU’s guards, although Harrison made a great shot to win the game from way outside, would have rendered ineffective in the game. Or, at least instead of Bo Ryan adjusting his game plan, then it would have been Calipari adjusting his.
At the level of the NCAA Tournament, why is it that poor officiating takes place in such obvious situations? At the high school level, one can see a few bad calls because those officials are working a regular high school game. The Final Four is not a regular game and you expect to have the best of the best. Announcers were seeing those calls and commenting on them much like they were in the rest of the tournament. Is there not an official who can observe all of the officials during the game to hold them accountable?
When kids are giving great effort, especially defensively, it is unacceptable to see officials blow calls. The fact is, it is not one or two bad calls during the game, but it is consistently inconsistent poor calls. Someone should be holding these officials accountable because these are high stakes games. In my mind, the Wisconsin team played near perfect and the game was taken from them by the officials. Kentucky played great, but WU was better. This is just wrong.
This is why most believe that teams like Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky, seem to get extra benefits from the officials. The only way that I can reason out how these bad calls continue to be made is that there are some schools that hold a certain amount of respect from the NCAA and the officials so that they are favored. This unjustly impacts programs that have worked hard to get into those major games. In the world of replay, and everyone watching their TV’s, how is it there is no serious discussion about this problem? Let’s hope, at some point, someone will figure this out.