Friday, March 07, 2008

Why Is Everyone Acting Surprised That Pac-10 Officials Are Terrible?

In the aftermath of UCLA's 77-67 overtime victory over Stanford to clinch the Pac-10 championship, most of the focus from the game has been on the questionable foul called on Lawrence Hill which gave Darren Collison two free throw attempts to tie the game. While it was probably a foul by the strictest interpretation of the rules (Hill was jumping forward rather than straight up when body contact was made), most sports fans would agree that the contact was incidental to the block and probably shouldn't have been whistled; and UCLA should have just been given the ball out of bounds with 2.5 seconds left and a chance to tie or win. If Stanford fans (or UCLA detractors) want to be upset about that particular foul, that's understandable. But to suggest that the officials somehow "gave" UCLA the victory -as talking heads such as Fran Fraschilla are doing - is both foolish and misinformed. The truth of the matter is that the Pac-10 officials are easily the worst amongst the major conferences and make so many bad calls in each game that it's impossible to single out any one call as being the difference maker. The best fans can hope for is that all of the bad calls will eventually even out in the long run. Perhaps in this case, they did.

For those that only saw the highlights, the reason UCLA was trailing by two points at the end of the game was because of a Lawrence Hill basket after breaking UCLA's full court press. Here's how Stanford's own paper, The Stanford Daily, describes that play:

"With the game tied at 61 and seven seconds left in regulation, Stanford (24-5, 13-4 Pac-10) junior forward Lawrence Hill drove right into the paint and banked in a running right-handed hook off the backboard. He looked to have either travelled or charged, but there was no whistle on the play."

These were but two of many questionable judgments by the refs during the game. Brook Lopez' pivot foot looked like it was on a roller skate all game long, but only a few early travels were called. Kevin Love drew a key phantom foul on Robin Lopez during an out of control spin move. Rebounders for both teams were allowed to go over the back, but aggressively blocking out with the backside was a foul. There really is no rhyme or reason to what a Pac-10 ref will do at any moment.

Also, for those that believe in karma, it should be noted that a little over two weeks ago, Stanford was "given" two go-ahead foul shots near the end of regulation at Arizona when Chase Budinger was whistled for a foul on what looked to be a very clean block on Robin Lopez's shot attempt. Had that call not been made, Arizona would have likely held onto the victory and last night's Stanford-UCLA game wouldn't have been for the Pac-10 title anyway.

Finally on a related note, I have to give Stanford credit for the class they demonstrated both during and after the game. (Honestly, I wish they'd cut it out. It's making it really hard for me to root against them.) Both Lopez twins were seen repeatedly helping opposing players up and making sure they were ok after fouls or loose ball scrambles. Despite the bad calls that went both ways, nobody other than Stanford coach Trent Johnson was very demonstrative in their disagreement (on the last play of regulation, Johnson could be heard echoing the sentiments of Pac-10 fans for years, "Oh my God! Unbelievable!). After the game, Lawrence Hill refused to criticize the officiating ("No, if I fouled him, I fouled him," he said), even while in the opposing locker room, Darren Collison was admitting that it was all ball: "That was a complete block," Collison said. "We were fortunate to get a call on that."

Over the past month, the Pac-10 may have lost their status as the best conference in the country, but nobody is ever going to dare wrest the claim of worst officiating away from them. Such will be the legacy of Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen. Well that, and getting rich while refusing to give football fans a playoff system. Geez, no wonder there's an east coast bias in sports.

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At Fri Mar 07, 11:05:00 AM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article.

Any new song girl pics?

At Fri Mar 07, 12:14:00 PM PST , Blogger Scott said...

Agree completely.

The officiating wasn't as bad as the student section would put it but there was definitely a LOT of inconsistency.

Pac-10 Refs: Consistently inconsistent.

At Fri Mar 07, 04:04:00 PM PST , Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Nice post. I maintain that the game was generally called so loosely that it's inconceivable that anyone would blow the whistle on that play, but you'll certainly get no argument from me about the Pac-10 refs being inconsistent and horrible.

One nit: the Arizona foul wasn't on Budinger; it was on Kirk Walters, who bumped him on the body. That was another weak call, but I think it made more sense in context because the officials called everything in the second half of that game.

At Sat Mar 08, 12:37:00 AM PST , Blogger insomniac said...

Ty- I was sitting 3 rows from the baseline where the Collison play was (which in Pauley means I was still a good 10+ yards from the action) and everyone in my section was absolutely shocked that a foul was called.

As for the Stanford/Arizona game, perhaps I'm blurring two plays into one. ESPN shows that Budinger committed a foul w/ 0:19 on the clock and Walters had a foul w/ 1:45 in the game. The play I'm thinking of was with Lopez getting the ball on the baseline, making his usual pivot to the left and Budinger helping Walters and blocking the Lopez shot, appearing to get all ball-but a whistle being blown for a foul. Either way you're right- the officials totally took over the 2nd half of that game.


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