Don't blame the officials

March, 21, 2011

Quick hitters on a Monday heading into the Sweet 16:

• We can't have it both ways -- criticizing the officials for not officiating until the final seconds of the Rutgers-St. John's Big East tournament game and then officiating until the final buzzer in other games. I'm not going to shill for the officials, but they got it right in the Pitt-Butler game. Those were fouls at the end of the game by Butler's Shelvin Mack and Pitt's Nasir Robinson. They were incredibly dumb fouls at the worst time, but they were fouls. The officials didn't affect the game. The players did by putting themselves in position to be called for legit fouls.

[+] Enlarge
Cory Joseph
William Purnell/Icon SMICory Joseph tried to call a timeout in the final seconds of Texas' loss to Arizona.

• The five-second count on Texas' Cory Joseph was debatable by a half-second. But the official had the count in his head and was standing right there. It's hard to debate that point. And Texas shouldn't have even put itself in that position to lose to Arizona the way it did.

• Official Doug Shows also was not wrong with the clock in the Washington-North Carolina game, judging the amount of time remaining in the game by the whistle (0.5 seconds) rather than when the ball hit the floor (one-plus seconds). Once again, Washington had no business being in a position to worry about an official. The Huskies missed so many opportunities to either tie or win the game. It wasn't the officials' fault that Justin Holiday tried to pass the ball over John Henson or that Venoy Overton ignored Isaiah Thomas in two of the three final possessions.

• Princeton has received inquiries about whether it would allow coach Sydney Johnson to talk to Bradley and Towson. Huh? Johnson has done a sensational job resurrecting the Tigers program. But Bradley and Towson? Sure, there are connections with Bradley's AD Mike Cross, who was at Princeton, and Johnson has Maryland ties in the Towson area. But leaving his alma mater, Princeton, a place where he has a great emotional investment, for one of these two schools would only be a money grab.

Meanwhile, Princeton has to do more to step up and keep Johnson. These are no longer the days of Pete Carril, when a coach was just happy to be there. It's a competitive marketplace, and even if Georgia Tech or NC State were to call -- which are much more palatable jobs -- the Tigers, led by AD Gary Walters, must make the Princeton job work within the marketplace. There is money within the alumni base who love seeing their school in the NCAA tournament -- go get it. Princeton is an Ivy League power. Harvard has raised the recruiting ante in the Ivy, and now there is going to be serious competition for the top spot and a bid. So the competition to keep coaches has increased. Johnson is a better fit where he is now and will likely see that to be the case, if he hasn't already, unless he gets an offer from an ACC school.

• The Big East has two teams left in the NCAA tournament, but it's not a reflection on the regular season. The Big East deserved every one of the 11 bids. Those are two different arguments. I never believed outside of Pitt that the Big East had a team that could even reach the Final Four. Connecticut still could and, of course, so can Marquette, but the odds are less likely based on the East regional. But crushing the Big East in the NCAAs is a moot argument. The 11 bids were deserved.

• Can you imagine if Kentucky's Terrence Jones had stuck with his first choice and gone to Washington? I thought about that while watching how well the Huskies scored Sunday. That would have been quite a team.

• No one has said much about the job John Calipari did with Kentucky this season. All I know is he has the Wildcats within one game of the Elite Eight again with nearly a new roster. That's quite impressive.

• The noise about the selections last Sunday should have been more directed to the seeding and the bracketing. Texas, even though the Longhorns lost, shouldn't have been a No. 4 and Florida, even though the Gators won, shouldn't have been a No. 2. Why was Richmond a 12-seed after winning the A-10 tournament? Oakland could have been a 12 more than a 13. Butler did play to its 8-seed by losing in the Horizon League. And the bracket in the East was just too strong with Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio State all jammed together. The Sweet 16 bracket now is too imbalanced.

• The NIT better start handing out some free tickets for the semifinals in New York. It might be tough to fill the seats with the College of Charleston playing Wichita State for one berth, Colorado against Kent State for another and the possibility of Washington State as a third. The NIT bracket was lopsided, too, with one quadrant loaded with four teams that could have been in New York (New Mexico, Alabama, Miami and Missouri State).

Darius Morris should be a star next season for Michigan. He has a chance to be a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate along with Purdue's Robbie Hummel, assuming the rest of the underclassmen stars like Jared Sullinger leave.

• Losers from the weekend -- UCLA, Michigan, Washington, Texas -- should feel good about next season. All four of those teams are going to be major factors in their respective conferences next season.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?