Meta: Bolivian Zebras

Submitted by ST3 on March 20th, 2017 at 12:44 AM

After watching all of the basketball this weekend, I settled down to catch John Oliver's show before calling it a night. His final segment tonight discussed Bolivian Zebras. I'll embed the clip below. I bring this up because of our community's special relationship with Bolivia and hatred of zebras (the officiating kind, not the actual animal.) With the site redesign due to be deployed any day now, I humbly ask that we incorporate Bolivian Zebras into the new format of the blog.



March 20th, 2017 at 2:00 PM ^

is always predicated on the best officials in every conference being assigned to fill out the three-man crews for every game, with the widest selection available for the 34 games the first two days of the tournament. Typically, a crew for an opening round game will include officials from three different conferences who see different teams playing at varying tempo and with different levels of competiveness during the course of the season.

For opening round games, like Michigan's opener against Oklahoma State, you frequently get a top official from a leading conference and then two officials from other conferences. That was the case on Friday. The lead official for Michigan's matchup with OK State is one of the best in the ACC who regularly works its biggest games, such as the first Duke-Carolina rivalry in late February.  And just as I expected, he had the least number of calls in that game. He called fewer fouls and basically served as oversight supervisor while his partners made the lionshare of foul calls and violations.

The key for any crew is being consistent and calling the same type of contact. That's really hard when you get assigned to work with guys you haven't partnered with before. Everyone has a different view of how a game should be called, how much contact to permit and whether you are more inclined to see advantage-disadvantage in subtle play rather than overt. We saw that play out Sunday, when the lead official, got carried away calling the most subtle contact possible. The lead offiicial Sunday set the tone in a brutal half of officiating, as far as I could see.

But just like any other game for teams and officials, you learn how to officiate a game in the first half, and then let the players decide the game in the second half. Basically that scenario played out the first two days of the tournament.

As you move along in the tournament, only the top officials theoretically get assigned to work the biggest games. I was surprised to see Ted Valentine assigned to an NCAA game this weekend after he was basically absent from the Big Ten Tournament last weekend. I assumed we didn't see him because of a negative evaluation following his work in the Minnesota-Michigan game that was so butchered by the number of fouls called. But you never know how that stuff works out and how guys get evaluated.

But everyone should know that the officials are always scrutinized and evaluated and their performance determines future tournament assignment or not. A number of Big Ten officials worked both first and second round games, and I assume will continue throughj the Final Four.