This tourney is wide open. No teams look scary.
Just have to win 4 more games.
3/17/2017 – Michigan 92, Oklahoma State 91 – 25-11, NCAA second round
3/19/2017 – Michigan 73, Louisville 69 – 26-11, Sweet 16
Michigan's NCAA tournament weekend was a lot like what I imagine it's like to enter Earth orbit.
You are strapped to a rocket. In the English language, "rocket" is shorthand for "tube that barely contains fuel." When lit, that fuel explodes; the rocket shunts the exploding bits out its rear to create the kind of incredible, bowel-threatening acceleration that allows one to escape the surly bonds of earth.
I'll be damned if there's a better metaphor for playing Jawun Evans and Oklahoma State. To watch this Oklahoma State team is to be continually surprised that Evans does not literally have flames coming out of his ass, propelling him inevitably towards death or glory at the rim.
At first, there was a lot of noise but not much action. This is also in keeping with rockets, which have various moments early in the enterprise when it is unclear whether the thing will go up or tip over, explosively.
After ten minutes when the game threatened to teeter over into a dud, the acceleration took, and did not stop until all observers were weak kneed and gripped with pallor, as if the blood had been forced from their heads.
Rockets do not have men in grimy outfits and train engineer hats frantically heaping fuel into a furnace to keep the thing from sputtering out and allowing gravity to reclaim what is rightfully hers. Our metaphorical rocket does. The men in hats are flinging three pointers, desperately attempting to stay ahead of gravity's brutal math. Evans and company are providing a constant drag of 1.58 points a possession. Walton and Irvin and Robinson must pump at least that much into the ever-hungry, blazing heart of the engine.
Amazingly, they do so. At first it seems easy. Walton drifts to one corner and then the other to work screens and grab passes for wide open looks. Robinson comes off a screen and rises up from a comfortable spot. A couple of transition opportunities find guys open in the corners. Things are going well—very well—but so far you can chalk it up to a bunch of open looks and good fortune against the nation's #133 defense.
Two things happen nearly back-to-back that take it into the realm of the spooky. Zak Irvin comes off a screen, takes a dribble, and fires an objectively bad shot, a heavily contested jack that draws the NO NO NO YES reaction not just from all Michigan fans but also the announcers. Almost immediately after this, Walton passes to Robinson, who's two or three feet from the line and getting more than a token contest. Walton yells at Robinson to shoot. He probably shouldn't shoot. Robinson shoots. It goes down, because of course it does. A bit later, Walton ignores DJ Wilson posting up a 5'11" guy to take this:
This goes down. Because of course it does.
As all this is happening, Evans is taking his rocket ass into the lane to claw two points back, like gravity does. Gravity draws you back at a constant 9.8 m/s^2, and you either beat it or you don't. Michigan beat it, in the way movies portray the first stage of rocket liftoff. There is a tremendous amount of noise. The camera shakes impressively. One of the cast members says "ohhhhhhhhh shiiiiiiiiiiiiit." There is a moment of unbearable tension as the G forces ramp up to the maximum humans can tolerate.
Then everything stops. There's a clunk as the first stage departs. You have won! You are alive. You are very high in the air on a fatal trajectory.
You've dropped your first-stage booster and watched it burn up in the atmosphere. (Underwood's stunning, immediate departure for Illinois will do nicely in our analogy.) Now you are up up up very far and have entered the realm of orbital mechanics. I've read just enough science fiction to not understand orbital mechanics at all.
The gist seems to be that certain things are all but impossible despite seeming easy, while other things are damn near free because of... reasons. The image above is something called the "interplanetary transport network," which allows you to visit any point of interest in the solar system—eventually, very eventually—by hopscotching through Lagrange points where all the competing gravities of the system average out to zero. This is virtually free in terms of energy.
These are tiny pinholes in a vast expanse of quicksand. Reaction mass is limited and space is very big.
Louisville basketball has four centers and plays two of them at a time, and if you want to get a shot up it's time to hunt for Lagrange points.
Mo Wagner changed the way most teams defend Michigan with his white-hot first half against Purdue. After halftime the desperate Boilermakers decided they were going to switch every screen no matter what kind of ludicrous matchups resulted. Michigan was initially confused, and then Wagner was forced to the bench with foul trouble for nine minutes of the second half. By the time he returned there were only a few possessions before Michigan's Lloydball clock-drain offense made the switching moot. Painter's move exited the game more or less untested.
That did not prevent it from quickly being replicated, to middling-at-best effect. The constant switching did dull the effectiveness of Michigan's pick and roll. It dared Michigan to post up, which they simply do not do. It's pretty easy to holler about exploiting a post mismatch when you are a fan looking at a 5'11" guy on DJ Wilson. It's evidently much tougher when you are part of a Beilein basketball organism that forcibly expelled post-ups from its DNA back when it was using flagella to florp around in its Canisius days.
So the switching mostly resulted in a lot of isolation with Walton or whoever against a big. It took Michigan's silky, flowing offense and battered it down to the heroball stuff you see at Kansas or Kentucky, except without the infinite alley oops. Since Walton stepback threes are Very Good Offense, somehow, the switching didn't really slow Michigan down much. All it did was cause me to goggle at Michigan bigs guarded by oompa-loompas and be like all "AARGH THROW IT TO THAT GUY."
There was that particularly brutal possession pictured above on which DJ Wilson was trying to post up a 5'11" dude and Walton decided to jack up a 35-foot three pointer. This went in because of course it did; whether or not Michigan could do anything with this tactic in the event that Walton jacks stopped being Very Good Offense remained an open question. No longer.
In the aftermath of Sunday it is possible to interpret Michigan's somewhat frustrating inability to take advantage of said oompa-loompas as a devastating long con. Louisville entered the game with a plan: no threes. They would switch everything to remove the rotation, because Michigan will get you eventually if you rotate. They would refuse to help in the post, because that results in rotation. They would make Michigan execute a thing they simply do not do. In an advantageous situation, sure. But they wanted to make the fish ride the bicycle.
The fish rode the bicycle.
It popped wheelies.
Louisville's tactic backfired spectacularly in the second half. The tiny windows their giant posts leave drivers became caverns as 6'7" Adel Deng was repeatedly tasked with checking a guy much taller and more skilled than him. The posts stuck to their shooters, and Michigan lived and died by the two for a change.
Pitino did not relent. If he was going to lose this game it was two points at a time. Thus Michigan calmly and gradually reeled Louisville back in after the disastrous last minute of the first half. Screen and screen until you get your matchup, dump it down, score. Repeat. Regular, controlled thrust, easing Michigan through.
"It was some scheme things," Beilein said of his halftime talk, "but it was more: 'Alright, hit singles. Do not come out of here trying to win in the first four minutes. Let's just win the first four minutes. Let's just win the first four minutes. Win it by two points. Win every segment and you'll win the game.'"
Too bad that doesn't fit on a whiteboard.
So here we are. Orbit. It's nice. Very pretty. Can see Phoenix from here. Or Glendale. Whatever. Just two more harrowing white-knuckle terrordomes to go.
The most explosive team in the country is in the rear view. So too is a nation of angry ents. Confidence is through the roof, relative to your average white-knuckle terrordome experience. Let's go.
SAY 'WHAT' AGAIN, uh, SIR (via @the_mikeyb1246)
"Since Maverick" update. Michigan is up to #6 nationally in adjusted efficiency margin:
Amongst teams still in the tournament they're #3 behind Gonzaga and Florida. You'll note they're a nose ahead of Kansas.
First-round victim Oklahoma State shows up at #12. (They have a lot of losses, yes. In this time period they were all against tourney teams: two against Kansas, two against ISU, one to Baylor, one to KSU, one to Michigan. Most of those were 3-5 point games.) When I tweeted this out after the game I meant it:
Michigan just won a Sweet 16 game in the first round.
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) March 17, 2017
That felt like a #2 going up against a #3. This is not a seeding complaint, or at least it's not much of one. Oklahoma State, like Michigan, was a team that got a ton better about halfway through January and was 1) more or less fairly seeded while 2) being a terrible draw for whoever got them. Michigan did, and barely survived despite scorching the nets.
Finally, the road doesn't get any easier in the Sweet 16 as Michigan draws #10 Oregon. That hurdle is significantly lower with Duck post Chris Boucher out for the season. Oregon's given up significantly more than 1 PPP in the three games since Boucher's injury, against offenses ranging from "somewhat worse" to a "a lot worse" than Michigan.
DJ Wilson, sometimes center, is a thing. Wagner finished the Okie State game on the bench just like he finished the B10 championship game, and this was fine because DJ Wilson was functional at center. The opposition didn't have the ability to blow him away with guys who are both very burly and very athletic. Ethan Happ is burly but not that athletic and Wilson's length bothered him. Mitchell Solomon is pretty much the same minus the post-up skills.
Michigan's ability to go small against a light-speed team and then run Wagner and Wilson at the same time against Louisville provided them the flexibility to get past two crazy outlier teams with just one day of prep. That's a major asset.
Expect more of that going forward: Oregon is minus a 6'10" center they played 20 minutes a game and is now a small-ball outfit that runs out one player taller than 6'7" at a time*. Kansas is along the same lines, with wing Josh Jackson playing the 4 for them most of the time. DJ can play center against both, and likely will.
*[To be specific, 6'9" Jordan Bell is their 5 and they'll give 6'11" Kavell Bigby-Williams 10-15 minutes a game spelling him. Dillon Brooks is the only other Oregon player seeing meaningful minutes who's taller than 6'4".]
Donnal survived against Louisville. Credit to the most maligned current Wolverine: Mark Donnal hit a three and blocked a shot in nine minutes, which went a good way towards offsetting the facemashing he's naturally going to receive when he finds himself trying to check UL's infinite conveyor belt of giant dudes.
I wasn't even irritated at Donnal's foul, which was an enthusiastic boxout of lanky 7-footer Anas Mahmoud. He got whistled for a foul that seemed impossible, because I've spent all season watching Michigan bigs take the same contact and get blasted off their spot. Donnal flipped the script and got a foul for his troubles. Better that than weak post D.
Walton didn't score much against Louisville, but... naturally he led the team in rebounds with seven and had six assists to zero turnovers. Also he was instrumental in harassing Quinn Snider into an 0/9 shooting performance. Also:
Michigan committed 10 turnovers, total, in its first 2 NCAA Tournament games.
Derrick Walton Jr has 17 assists & 3 turnovers in 75 minutes.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 20, 2017
Shot parity: close enough! Against UL Michigan lost the offensive rebound battle by six; they won turnovers by five. That'll do when you're the most efficient shooting team around. Against Oklahoma State it was dodgier, with Michigan –10 in OREBs while only ending up +6 in turnovers. Still, if you told me Michigan was going into a game with a top ten OREB offense and came out only –4 in shot margin I'd take that.
There is an alternate universe of Wagner foul bitchin'. One man's comically inept refereeing is another man's comically inept refereeing multiplied by –1, and I have to relate to you, dear reader, that it is the opinion of many Louisville fans that Mo Wagner commits offensive fouls every time he touches the ball.
— Williamncaudill (@wncaudill) March 19, 2017
This is not the most convincing ref incompetence highlight reel I've seen.
I imagine this stems from one of the first times Michigan went after the Deng Adel-Wagner mismatch in the first half. Adel flopped at the same time Wagner appeared to go for the ol' chicken wing on his path to the basket. The refs did not bite on the flop and the wing met air; Wagner went for an easy bucket. After that everything Wagner did seemed to set off cascades of complaints on UL game threads.
Big Ten seeding complaints on point. After the bracket came out there was consternation about the ordering of various Big Ten teams, and it was proven correct. 5 seed Minnesota was a Vegas dog against 12 MTSU and duly lost. Maryland was hammered by 11 seed Xavier. Meanwhile Wisconsin beat Villanova and Michigan beat Louisville to reach the Sweet 16.
The sample sizes are necessarily tiny here, but since there was plenty of evidence before the games were even played they serve to reinforce the fact that the tourney was badly mis-seeded.
Also worth noting that MSU was the only 8-9 not to give its opponent a competitive game. Wisconsin won, Northwestern battled valiantly before losing by 6 thanks in part to that missed goaltend, Arkansas led in the last four minutes. Hell, you can rope in the two seeds here as well: Michigan and South Carolina won while St Mary's and Wichita State battled valiantly to the final whistle. Only Michigan State was blown out, as you would expect them to be.
Wooooof. There was a plague of refereeing blunders this weekend that should but almost certainly won't be the cause for some soul-searching at the NCAA. The most egregious miss—Northwestern's comeback-stalling missed goaltend—saw the NCAA's head of officials show up on one of the studio shows to lamely defend the refs working the game because he, a 70-year-old man watching on TV, didn't catch it. I expect slightly more from a man literally standing under the basket.
Anyway, there were some doozies in Michigan's game, none worse than the two calls late in the first half against Louisville. The first was a phantom call on Walton that turned a turnover into two free throws for UL; the second was the Wagner open-court steal that again turned into two free throws. With Michigan likely to get a fast-break bucket if the second call isn't made that was a six-point swing just after Michigan had finally managed to claw its way back into a tie.
At that moment I could only think of the Trey Burke block and a couple other calls in the title game that prevented that one from truly going down to the wire, as it deserved to, and I resolved to never watch basketball again. I resolve this several times a season, and sometimes multiple times in one game.
And the worst bit about all this. Yahoo has an accurate summation of the worst five calls of the weekend:
Every single one of these made a tight game less tight, and every one of them favored the higher seed. (Seton Hall-Arkansas was an 8-9; the rest were serious upset bits.) A lot of the drama of March Madness was sapped by referee errors.
John Beilein’s defining characteristics (at least publicly) are being incredibly nice/genuine and being a bit, how do you say, hokey. In 2013, he celebrated going to the Sweet 16 with crazy subs, and this year has taken to ambushing players with water guns after big wins. It’s notable when he freaks out on the sidelines about the officiating because (a) it almost always means he’s getting a technical, and (b) he’s almost always right, and has held his tongue for untold transgressions up to that point. Maverick Morgan called Michigan “white collar” this year as a pejorative about their toughness, and more than a few fans felt the Wolverines reflected Beilein’s temperament. Both Louisville and Okie St. outrebounded Michigan this weekend, and a common refrain was that the team didn’t play tough enough on the glass.
But behind that gentile veneer is the heart of a killer. Okay, maybe not “killer”, but as Ace noted, quite evil. He knows what his offense can do to other teams. Matt Painter was exasperated trying to explain the difficulties defending Michigan, the harsh realization that your center has to defend a guy who shoots over 40% from three and can also shake-and-bake you behind his back on the way to the hoop. That even when the outside shot isn’t falling, Beilein will tax your team the entire time they are in the half-court offense, probing for breakdowns. And when they are firing from outside at a good clip, ooohhh. Oklahoma State scored 91 points and didn’t hold a lead after the 10-minute mark of the second half because Michigan shot 11-15 from 3 in the second half, a performance so scarring that OSU’s head coachg Brad Underwood left the Cowboys…for Illinois. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Matt Norlander on the narrative. John Beilein on ESPN:
D.J. Wilson, another of the day's stars, sank four free throws in the final 17 seconds.
That pragmatism? It was on full display. Wilson, a sophomore, made each free throw like he was in the driveway. Asked about the pressure of the moment later, Wilson sat stone-faced and said: "I don't feel any really."
Five key plays from Oklahoma State.
Etc. Rodger Sherman on Wagner. Pat Forde thinks Beilein is famously serious. Must not know about subs. Michigan is a one point favorite over Oregon. Hang on to your butts. Hoo boy does the Underwood departure suck for Okie State. Illinois fans are happy, as they should be. Oklahoma State fans shouldn't be.
This tourney is wide open. No teams look scary.
Just have to win 4 more games.
UCLA terrifies me. Both from our game against them earlier in the year and the way they just torched a good Cincinnati defense in the second half last night.
Carolina too, but that might be because I somehow skipped out on the parts of the game where Arkansas was making their runs.
UCLA won that game entirely in the second half, since we were tied at halftime. This team seems to have a lot more second half poise than it did earlier in the season. That, coupled with the improvements on defense, the emergence of Wagner, and Walton playing the best basketball of his life right now, makes me like our chances against UCLA a lot more now than back in December. But you're right; UCLA will always be a daunting opponent no matter what.
defensive games of the year. Not just because UCLA scored a lot and made us look bad, but because we made a lot of opponent-agnostic mistakes we aren't making now. And it was at Pauley. Just look at some of our home/away differences to know how important that is. They aren't good at defense. It would be a shootout. We'd certainly be underdogs but we'd get a TON of open three's and Wagner would be able to work the paint. We'd have a decent shot (as we will against anyone left).
I'm a little more scared of Kansas and UNC because I think they're just as talented and better coached/play better defense. Luckily, we'd only have to face one of UNC/UCLA (and Kentucky for that matter).
It's all good teams from here on out though. So just win the games.
UCLA scares me because they're precisely us, but with McDonald All-Americans falling out of their butt. Worse game coach though.
and other than Lonzo Ball, their talent is not better than ours. Plus, with our experience and our seniors playing on another level, they don't terrify me.
I've watched some of their Pac12 tourney games and their first round game. They didn't look like the same team that beat us in December. I couldn't figure out why until I watched the UCLA-Cincy game. Ike Anigbogu was a big part of that December game. Even though he only scored 6 points, he had 4 rebounds and 4 blocks and played 25 minutes. That's his season high in minutes.
Their defense is really bad. At least Ike gives them another inside presence. Alford gets attacked on the regular. He's like their Donnal on defense (a flashing sign saying 'attack me,') only he plays major minutes. Welsh and Leaf are like Wagner and Wilson on defense. They don't have the physical presence you need. Ball is incredible on offense, but he seems to play D like he's waiting to get back on offense.
I did pick UCLA to win it all because of that whole, "guards win in March" line of thinking and UCLA has four guards that score 12-16 ppg. The tournament could be Ball's coming out party to the rest of the nation (the folks that don't pay attention to college hoops except during March Madness.) His court vision is incredible, and the way he just nonchalantly jacks 25 foot threes is something to see.
Kansas looks scary. They've got to be the favorite to win the whole thing right now. MSU hung with them because MSU has that golden horseshoe up their ass, but unless Swanigan goes apeshit I can't see them having any trouble with Purdue.
They're a disorganized mess in the half court. Don't let them run and they're entirely beatable. They're also really thin in the front court, which is not ideal against Purdue.
I just read this interesting, relative brief column on why UM (of all the lower seeds) has the best chance of winning in the Sweet Xixteen. Has some nice advanced stats without getting too geeky or going on too long.
A lot of it is about how good UM's defense has been (e.g., contesting jump shots; turnover ratio), which is a development that still shocks me, considering where we were about 2 months ago.
When Brian uses the orbit metaphor in March, you know it's going to be a very positive post.
Low Earth Orbit: Michigan 79, Florida 59 (March 2013).
Too bad that doesn't fit on a whiteboard.
I was all loaded up with that same image and comment and you, sir, destroyed my plans. Enjoy your upvotes.
Sorry. I upvoted you for your trouble.
It has 7 upvotes, so I recommend that 6 more people do the same.
i'm sure everyone noticed that our band was holding up a whiteboard with the same thing?
Just makes me smile. Go Blue.
I'd like to see one example where an offensive foul was actually called on a drive similar to the "left hand clearout" clip in the video. What a joke.
As far as I can tell - any rules regarding the use of the off arm seem to have completely disappeared.
Players for both teams REGULARLY were hooking with the off arm and regularly clearing space with the off arm, and i don't think I saw it called a single time.
Apparently there is no longer a rule against carrying either - because every dribbler on both teams did about 90% of the times they dribbled the ball.
#1 basketball pet peeve is when ballcarriers (which is what they become) drive to the rim with the ball carried like a football. It's never called but it's easy to spot the instant you see it. James Naismith wrote the single most basic of basketball rules specifically to prevent people from doing that.
If I were king of basketball, I'd make it a point of emphasis to instantly call traveling when the ball is tucked away like that.
unless you take more than the number of steps allowed on a layup (two upon completion of a dribble). But that has nothing to do with how or where the ball is being held. You can hold it however you want.
"Carrying" is called when the ball "comes to rest" or is suspended in one or both hands and then is dribbled again.
What I'm talking about is the "dicontinued dribble" version of carrying.
quite a bit. Much more difficult call to make because there is a fine line at which the dribble is "discontinued." Whether a guy takes too many steps is more definitive, although certainly not always called correctly.
Watching live, it did seem like Wagner got away with a couple of push-offs. Whereas in the first half, I thought the refs were biased, in the second half, I revised that to mere incompetence. I'm of the opinion that the bad calls essentially evened out.
At halftime, I said that Michigan would win if the second half was officiated fairly. My logic was wrong -- I expected more 3s to start falling, since it felt like Michigan had held tough despite having an off half -- but the prognostication was gloriously correct nonetheless. :-)
That was an atrocious call. The guy threw it off the back of Irvin's leg as he was defending a cutter with his back to the ball. We had the steal and a fast break there but they called it a kicked ball? Kicked balls have to be intentional. No way he kicked that intentionally.
Was I crazy to be upset about that one?
Those examples did it for me. The hook looks bad, but that happens constantly down low. The "charge" example was the best; that has never been called in the history of basketball aside from Duke games (on Duke's opponent, of course).
Even better because the "charge" happened the Louisville player was whistled for sticking his arm out to prevent Wagner from getting to the baseline.
Hook mightve gotten called if the louisville player didn't flop like he was shot out of a cannon
I've been complaining about people not being called for that hook for YEARS but got over it because refs havent called that offensive foul for over 20 years, its never called.
I went to some Louisville blogs/message boards for schaudenfreude and any time someone brought up the trey block 95% of them actually defended the call. Just, wow.
I do think both Kansas and Oregon are good matchups in terms of size differential. Kansas obviously having a #1 overall pick on it's roster and a PG who is a faster version of ours who is playing even more dominant. But it's not peak North Carolina or something out there.
I like the rocket analogy.
As to Louisville, I think their defensive strategy was sound and one I'd repeat if I was facing UM now. They took our best weapon away - as great defensive teams do in football. Our hottest player had a major off night as he was harassed off the line and missed some shots he has been making. You'd think the night UM exits the tournament is the night Walton can't carry them offensively - so that was the chance there. Lville made us rely on something we didn't do almost all year.
Problem was Louisville's offense just settled for something they were not great at for the last 10-15 minutes - 3 pointers. They went 25% and jacked up 20. 3 more than UM managed. That's not their system but they seemed to panic once they went into deficit. For all the heroics of Wagner if Lville made 2 more 3 pointers (i.e. something marginally over 30% for the game) OR ran their normal offense in the last 10 minutes trying to get more 2s, rather than PANIC MODE, it's a potential loss. So I agree with their strategy and it was executing very well in the first half, went off the rails late. How many teams can execute that who are left in the tournament is an interesting look.
I think you dismissed how often we did pick and roll with Burke and McGary - that was not as long ago as the Canisius days.
Last, can we get some MAAR love around here. He has been lost in the theatrics of the 2 big men and Walton and Irvin revival. Had a great game Friday and put in 37 minutes Sunday. For a complete afterthought in his class he has really been a revelation relative to expectation.
+1 for the MAAR shout-out. He has played splendidly under the radar.
And also for the Donnal contribution. The big fella may not have have developed into the next McGarry or Morgan, but on Sunday I noticed a foul, a three, a block, and a rebound (which are always in short supply). Plus he gave Moe a breather and a chance not to add to his foul collection.
Well done, young man.
There is no good way to defend our offense. With five shooters on the floor you can't help anything because you'll give up a wide open catch and shoot three. If you don't switch everything you have a good shot of giving up a wide open pick and op three or a pick and roll layup. If you do switch everything eventually you have a center on Walton and a guard on Mo/DJ. This lets Walton take a wide open three or fly by his man to the lane depending on what the center wants to give up, or even better a dump down to Mo/DJ who should be able to score a layup on that guard almost every time. Really the only thing I can see working is playing 5 6'6 athletic dudes who can all guard 1-4 (our 5s are really 4s), switch everything, and help nothing. That kinda sounds like SMU though and we beat them by 20. *shrug*
death by thousand paper cuts or a knockout punch. Either aren't good for defense. South Carolina is the only team that truly made Michigan offense look ordinary.
we shot like 8% from three in that game and they werent any worse looks than what we got vs OkSU, statistical outliers happen once in a blue moon.
Not totally sure what BARTHAG is, but it sounds interesting.
(Is this a SKINNERHAG?)
Should get more love.
Should get more love.
Great column, Brian, except that the first asterisk...
That felt like a #2 going up against a #3*.
...is not accompanied by a footnote! (Unless it was the same footnote about Oregon's size, which I assume is not the case.)
I long to know what was going to be contained in that never-typed footnote.
That was a stray asterisk after I decided to de-footnote the footnote.
Excellent write-up, as usual. It's crazy to think that a month and a half ago, this team showed zero heart and effort in a home loss to an Ohio State team that didn't even make the NIT. My biggest Beilein complaint during that stretch wasn't the coaching, it was the motivation. They looked disinterested in the proceedings. That, ahem, isn't the case anymore.
The refs seemed to have been particular bad on the first weekend outside of even the most egregious calls. Lower-seeded teams especially always got the short end of the stick. On the 7 calls you mentioned:
This I can't really fault them for because you're always told to swipe up at the ball rather than slap down because it's a split second call and most refs will call a foul in that situation.
I don't know how you miss that. I could see it clearly from my television. He reached across his body, but there was no contact at all between him and Adel.
I definitely didn't catch it at home, but if you're standing right under the basket, I can't imagine it wasn't obvious. Especially since Chris Collins saw it and went rightfully ballistic.
North Carolina's travel/charge/travel/charge:
This was weird because I would've accepted a charge or a blocking foul (since the Arkansas player was moving), but I'm not sure how you just go, "Uh, play on" with such a weird play.
Arizona's Lauri Markannen blasting a St Mary's player out of bounds, for which the St Mary's player got call:
This was amazing because watching it live, I said out loud, that's on Markannen and then was confused when they called it on St. Mary's. Shades of Joe Bolden getting tossed for targeting after being thrown to the ground.
The Plessy v Ferguson flagrant in Seton Hall vs Arkansas:
This was ridiculous. Flagrant implies intent. If you want to follow the letter of the law, then EVERY foul at the end of the game should be a flagrant. It wasn't overly aggressive. On first glance, maybe, because the guy fell. But to go to a review and then still call it a flagrant is idiotic. The end of Baylor-USC had a similar situation and the refs DIDN'T call it a flagrant.
A horrendous charge call EC Mathews picked up in Oregon-Rhode Island:
I hate charging in general. The charge call was designed to prevent bigger players from running over people to get to the basket. On Bronson Koenig's 4th foul, Koenig jumps and Jenkins slides underneath him and gets the call. That's ridiculous. To draw a charge, you should have to be stationary before the offensive player jumps and essentially take a knee or shoulder to the middle part of your body.
No, flagrant does not imply intent. That was specifically why they changed the name to "Flagrant 1" vs. "Intentional" -- because they did not want the referees to have to judge intent. Here is the text:
(Section 15, Article 2)
c. Flagrant 1 personal foul. A flagrant 1 personal foul is a personal foul that is deemed excessive in nature and/or unnecessary, but is not based solely on the severity of the act. Examples include, but are not limited to:
1. Causing excessive contact with an opponent;
2. Contact that is not a legitimate attempt to play the ball or player, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting;
3. Pushing or holding a player from behind to prevent a score;
4. Fouling a player clearly away from the ball who is not directly involved with the play, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting; and
5. Contact with a player making a throw-in.
6. Illegal contact caused by swinging of an elbow that is deemed excessive or unnecessary but does not rise to the level of a flagrant 2 personal foul (see Rule 4-18.7)
That seemed like a violation of #2. It probably wasn't #3 -- I don't think the player was trying to score -- but he pretty clearly didn't play the ball.
Yeah, but the point remains. The whole world knows that end-of-game fouls are obviously intended to stop the clock and many times players are just flat-out grabbed with no attempt at the ball. By the letter of the rule, those should all be flagrants under #2. It's just that the refs operate under a sort of unwritten covenant that says, hey, at least make half of a half-assed effort to look like you're going for the ball and we won't call a flagrant on you even though we should.
If I were to guess, the flagrant was called because the kid was tripped and fell down. The push on the back was stanard end of game ticky tack, but it was the unintentional trip and fall that caused the flagrant. Also, I am of firm belief that refs mentally note when they fuck up a call and then do more than just a quick make-up call. I think at half time they were made aware of just how egregious that phantom call on Wagner's steal was, so in the second half they let the kid play and presto 26 points. That buffoon who posted the "Wagner should've fouled out by now" vid should've added the phantom foul to his false argument.
I'm sure I've told this story before, but it supports your argument so perfectly I had to bring it up again. Several years ago now, UVA was playing UNC and the Heels were flopping all over the place in the first half. They called a foul on UVA's Mike Scott when his elbow got a little up in the air, and UNC's John Henson (I think) flung his head back to make a Dookie proud. That was Scott's fourth and they'd already called a bunch of ticky-tack and phantom shit on UVA already so the crowd was going ballistic. They went to the monitor to see if it was a flagrant elbow, and discovered that the crowd had seen what the zebras missed: no contact whatsoever and an Oscar-worthy flop. That was with 15 minutes to go in the game, and they never called another foul on UVA until stop-the-clock time.
So yup - I'm convinced that there are definitely times where the refs not only do a make-up call, but have a really bad mistake in the back of their heads the rest of the game and let stuff slide that they wouldn't have before they screwed up.
I actually didn't think the Arizona call was bad. Trier was in place to get the rebound and the st Mary's player ran into him before getting run over by markannen
I was nauseated by the officiating at the end of the Duke - S Carolina game. The referees seemed to be doing everything in their power to get Duke back in the game (all for naught). It was disgusting, in my opinion.
Brian, you are good at what you do and I am very appreciative of your writing talent. I very much look forward to these game columns on Mondays...best part of the day.
The matchup against Oregon is definitely winnable, and then it's either Kansas or Purdue, which looks winnable too. As my boy Mitch McGary likes to write, "WIN THE GAME."
I have no idea what constitutes a foul anymore. It's all just whim of the referree.
Great job, Brian.
One of your best write-ups ever.
But they wanted to make the fish ride the bicycle.
The fish rode the bicycle.
It popped wheelies.
... and I think this is the next great T-shirt design: a #13 fish on a bicycle.
It could be packaged with a companion book:: Ein Fish, Drei Fish, Rot Fish, Blau Fish.