First let me appologize and say thanks to my son Sam. He talked me into going to the game in San Antonio. He had decided to go and encouraged me to consider going with him. I fussed over it for about three days then started checking airline flights and realized there was no way to do it without spending thousands of dollars. He had purchased tickets and was going with or without me. This created in me serious case of FOMO. I am old enough that I might not get another chance to watch us play for another national championship. So I wrangled the air and car and hotel and called Sam to let him know I was in.
I love him even more because he asked me to go with him even though I was once called the worst fan in America by Bobby Knight in a post game interview after we beat Indiana at Crisler many years ago. I harrassed him from the second row behind the Indiana bench for the whole game. Sam knows that I am always cry about the refs. He hates it when I crab about them but he still called me and asked me to go to the games with him anyway. Thanks Sam. I love you very much. I explained to him that I was just spending his inheritance anyway.
Sam was fortunate that we were too far away during the Loyola game to be sure about ref calls. We were in the upper deck. We were seated close to some Michigan fans and enjoyed the struggle and the comeback win over Loyola so I was less crabby than usual. The seats were actually pretty good if you did not care about the officiating and just wanted to watch the game. We celbrated the win over Loyola only briefly as we watched Villanova completely destroy Kansas in a matter of minutes the way we had Texas A and M. The next day, the experts were picking Villanova 80% to beat us. We had a sense of forboding and talked for hours about what strategy might beat what looked like a super team. We found last minute tickets and watched the Spurs beat the Rockets on Easter Sunday. They played great defense and shut down Harden almost completely. This gave me some hope that our D could shut down Brunson and companuy but it was not to be.
Speaking of Brunson, while waiting in line for breakfast on Monday, we spoke with a Michigan grad who was at the game to root for Villanova. When Brunson was in high school in Chicago, Brunson was his sons baby sitter. There he was, a Michigan grad with a Villanova shirt on ready to go to the game with his son. They had come to see Brunson play in the national title game. He had no mixed emotions. He said Brunson was a wonderful young man and I believe him.
We decided to get the best seats we could for the championship game. Ticket prices were falling as Kansas and Loyola fans bailed. We got excellent seats opposite the Michgan bench in the 12th row. This meant that I was crabbing all of the first half of the game game about bad calls and crabbing at the Villanova fan next ot me. I was sure we were getting hosed. My son had to tell me multiple times to chill and leave the Villanova fans alone.
Looking back, things really began to fall apart at the 13 minute mark. It was the downside of a full moon which for me had always been a dicey night when I was on call as a young doctor. We started the game strong defensively and had no fouls over the first 7 minutes. We had hit a couple threes and they had missed some well contested threes. The score is 14 to 8. I am feeling pretty good. Then it starts to happen. Just about every call starts going against us and the refs seem blind to the same fouls when committed by Villanova. I get crabby and Sam has to remind me over and over to chill. By the end of the half, I know we are doomed and I am feeling like the refs have stolen it. Other than DiVincenzo, we have been pretty much shut down but we are in more foul trouble. By the time we are down by double digits going away in the second half, I have stopped crabbing about the calls but those 13 minutes of the first half were haunting me. I decided to wait until I was home and had some time to grieve a bit before I watched a TV replay to see if I was correct that we were getting hosed.
We were. You can use this guide to watch the game again if you can stand it. You will see how one sided the refs were. On the other hand we couldn't hit an open three and that was probably our doom not the refs. So here is the 13 minute sequence of doom. It made me feel better to know that I can still know a hosing when I see one.
12:50- Rahk has just made a three and tries another long one and he gets an elbow in the chest from POY as he finishes. No call. (Robinson was wide open for a pass right at the 3 point line).
12:44- We fail to get back in transition. This leads to a three pointer made on the other end by Donte (You Know Who).
12:26- Rahk drives to the hoop and gets pushed pretty firmly in the back but makes the layup. This is probably an ok no call except..
12:06- …immediately on the other end YKW drives to the hoop is barely pushed by Simpson and we get called. It’s back to back to back identical plays. They get a call we do not.
11:51- Poole get fouled on a layup and makes the foul shot.
11:40- Simmons is leans into the POY as the ball is coming up. POY spins grabs Simmons arm and pulls him over his back. Foul called on Simmons. I suppose this is just a crafty move but the ref who calls it is behind the play and cannot see POY grab Simmons arm. On the subsequent inbounds he gets the ball and jumps sideways into Simmons as he is sliding and giving ground thus making contact and throwing his head back to make it look like it was Simmons initiating the contact. I suppose this was just another crafty move. Announcer says “Kind selling it a little bit but as POY you can do that”.
11:18- They miss a 3 and Poole gets totally head smacked over the back and they get the ball and missed another 3 and Robinson blocks out YKW very nicely but as YKW falls down and Robinsons elbow is at a level the touches his face and Robinson is called for a foul on a good box out. Basically, two over the back calls in a row missed.
10:02- Wagner get a pass near the baseline and is pushed hard with two hands in the back and gets no call. He has to spin back and the ball gets stripped and there is a scramble that could have been a foul on anyone so it is a jump. After the inbounds, Wagner gets an open 3 and air balls it as the clock runs down. My sense of doom begins.
9:45- YKW runs the ball up after the miss. Rhak strips it and the ball hits his chin from the force of the strip and he throws his head back and Rhak gets called. You can see this is not a foul on the slo mo replay but in real time it looks bad. Soon after Brunson carries the ball right in front of the ref and no call.
8:56- Mathews is down to just seconds to shoot and is probably fouled on the shot but close.
8:30- Livers misses an open 3. On the rebound, YKW goes over the back on Teske and POY gets the rebound right under him and throws a full hard deliberate shoulder into Teske as he goes up the floor right in front of the ref. No call.
8:20- Simpson strips the POY which actually helps him as he regains his dribble and drives and shoulders in again on Teske who is helping. Hegets minor contact and then sells the foul. Three of these in 5 minutes. They score off the next inbounds and it is now 21 to 18
7:36- Teske gets a pass from Simpson on the pick and roll. Spellman grabs him and the crowd groans as there is no call. This is at least as much or more contact than POY got on his call against Teske. Spellman then steps into to him twice as he tries to shoot. No call. On the miss, there is a scramble for the rebound and Mathews gets called for a foul. They make both ends of the one. It is now 21 to 20.
6:45 – We defend well again but then miss two open threes in a row with a good offensive rebound in between. We have not scored in about 5 minutes now. We turned it over several times and missed multiple open threes. At this point I know it is going to be a bad night. We have had seven fouls called on us to one on them over these 5 minutes. We have scored 7 points and they have scored 12. We have several players with two fouls. It will change the intensity of the defense we can play. They are in the 1 and 1 with over 7 minutes left and are a great free throw shooting team.
6:05 YKW goes off and we are down by 2.
5:45 Rhak drives and gets our first basket in 5 minutes. He is smacked in the face on the way. No call
Over the rest of the half we continue to miss open threes. They get away with a goal tend when they pin Simpson’s ball after it hit the back board and they get possession and then they hit a three. We have gone another three minutes without scoring at this point and we are down by 9 at the half.
It wonder if the refs were just as bad in the second half but by then I stopped watching the officials and just asssumed that the fix was in. I know that this team deserved better. I am glad I was there with my son who I love. I know that officiating basketball is hard as I have done it. You only know you have done a decent job when no one notices it. Go Blue.