Sunday, March 20, 2011

Two points on the exciting Butler/Pittsburgh NCAA playoff game.

In making the following points, I want to acknowledge that I was rooting for Butler.
What an exciting game in the NCAA basketball tournament known as March madness between the big underdog Butler Bulldogs and the #1 seeded Pittsburgh Panthers. The two announcers on TV did a great job of capturing that excitement of this back and forth game.     There are two points that I want to make, one of them totally missed by the sports media.

First: with just a couple of seconds left and no timeouts left for Pittsburgh, Andrew Smith made what seemed to be the winning basket for Butler as it put them ahead by one point.  Then as Gilbert Brown took the inbound pass and dribbled shakily near the left sideline, looking like he wouldn't even get up a hail mary shot at the basket, he was slightly bumped by Shelvin Mack. It was a foul, but surely with a second left in the game and the player 45 feet away from the basket that had no chance of getting off a decent chance, the foul would not be called.  But it was. The two TV announcers  went on about how a foul is a foul, whether in the first few seconds of a game or the last few seconds of a game. It had to be called.  OK.  Well then you had Gilbert Brown of Pittsburgh, making the first free throw to tie the game, but missing the second foul shot. Ah, so it looked like overtime.  But when Matt Howard of Butler secured the rebound, Nasir Robinson was seen over his back with his arm coming around the front trying to get the rebound. There was just a fraction of a second left and in a normal situation the referee would have swallowed his whistle and let the game be decided in overtime. But, after just making the same call with a second left on the Butler player, there is no way the same official could have overlooked this one.  The announcers also not wanting to look like hypocrites didn't criticize the call.  Of course, they also didn't go on and on like they did on the Butler foul, that a foul is a foul, whether in the first or last second of a game.  Matt Howard went on to make the first free throw to win the game for Butler.   A just win, I say!     Now, I have no way of proving this, but I can almost guarantee that if that referee hadn't have just made that questionable call on the Butler player, he surely would have not made that call on the Pittsburgh player.   Also, I'll bet if the announcers were freed from hypcrosy because of that first call, they would have said:  'The referee has to swallow his whistle in a situation like that.  You have to be aware of the situation and know there is no way the Butler player could have even had a prayer of making that full court shot. Let the players decide the game on the court and not the officials'   Don't you think that would have been said!

Second:  I have not heard anyone else in the sports media bring this up [or the TV announcers at the time].  After the Pitt player made the first free throw to tie the game, why didn't the other players leave the free throw lane.  In many college games, and I don't necessarily agree with this, I have seen the coaches in a tie game or with their team ahead late in the game, remove their players from the lane so that their players won't be able to commit a foul in just that situation.  If the Pitt coach had done this, the worst scenario, would have been a tie game and overtime. He couldn't have lost in regulation, and in fact it just may have relaxed Gilbert Brown that he would have made that second free throw.

I felt bad for the young Pittsburgh player, Nasir Robinson, especially hearing him say how he made a stupid foul and cost Pitt the game.    Son, you shouldn't have been put in that situation.  I know this is second guessing, but I blame the coach.

1 comment:

bradley said...

accurate analysis i feel--- i also feel , likewise, in the ut/arizona game, you don't call a 5 second call if it's so close (most experts say it was between 4.7 and 5.1 sec-- don't call it unless it's obvious--- not the sole reason the horns lost, but let's face it, without the call, game likely over and decided by players on court, not ref!