Back from vacation, having recovered from my college basketball illness in time to have watch most of the Sweet 16 games down to last night’s final. And the title of the post says it well. Duke and Coach K get too many calls. They just do. Yes, their guys made plays and shots when needed. Yes, they run an offense designed to open driving lanes and draw contact. Yes, they were lucky the Badgers were worn down from the Kentucky game.
However, if you look at last night’s championship, you’ll note a very key point in the game, with Wisconsin playing well and up by about 7-8 at around the 15 minute mark of the second half. Suddenly, the refs find their whistles. The same thing happened against Michigan State and Gonzaga. Four fouls in a row. Every bump is a foul. A Duke player jumps into the defender it’s a foul. Duke charges are instead blocks on the other team, etc. On the other end, Duke hand-checked with abandon and it wasn’t called. Maybe the refs can only take so much of Coach K’s voice and at some point they just capitulate and start making those calls.
No one was more surprised or annoyed than Wisconsin coach, Bo Ryan. As he told reporters after the game, and as he’s said many times, “We just don’t foul.” It’s pretty much true. The Badger haven’t been whistled for many fouls this year or in recent years with Ryan as the coach. It’s how they play and also testament to Bo Ryan’s own sideline presence. So it must have been pretty disheartening to see Duke in the double-bonus with so much time left.
As an Illini fan, I truly didn’t like the thought of Wisconsin winning a title. It just doesn’t seem right. But as a basketball fan I was really pulling for the Badgers down the stretch. A big part of it was the officiating. Too much. And that’s a shame.