The 2014 NCAA Tournament proves to be the most exciting and unpredictable sporting event year after year, but this go-round has been different. Exciting? A little. Unpredictable? Sort of. But what has stood out more than the overall outcome of each game is what this once beautiful and pure tournament has been reduced to – three whistle happy zebras.
It is not that the officials are necessarily making the wrong calls or blowing games, but rather ruining the flow of them. Let these kids play. Let the excitement play itself out. It’s what the people want to see. It is why the NCAA Tournament is popular throughout the country after relatively no one pays attention to the regular season.
In this day of technology, the average person has a short attention span. People enjoy do-or-die, everything on the line games. This is why the NFL is so popular. Every game counts. The average dumbed down person wants to see immediate results. Nobody wants to take the time to put in real hard work first, just as no one wants to watch 162 baseball games. It is just the way it is, and it’s a shame, but it’s the way things are now.
This is exactly why you have thousands of tournament brackets across the country full of people who all of a sudden “care” about college basketball. It’s exciting, it’s quick and you literally have to know nothing about the game and could still have a successful bracket. It’s the perfect American pastime.
But what the officials are doing to the sport is taking away all of that fun. There is no offensive flow. Perimeter hand checks are going uncalled, but there are whistles for offensive fouls every single time a defender is even relatively in position. This leaves teams with no choice but to cast up three pointers, off-balance mid range jumpers or force their way to the basket and hope that the call goes their way. The choppy officiating is causing teams to shoot below 40 percent and make the majority of these games unwatchable until the final minutes.
But then the 2:00 minute replay reviews kick in.
Deadspin recently posted a chart showing how long the final minute of the first 52 games lasted in actual time. Their study stated that, “60 seconds of the 52 games combined have taken five hours, 44 minutes, and 51 seconds to complete.” What a complete joke. “5:44:51 is 605 percent longer than realtime; the average final minute took 5:57 to finish, with a median of 5:29.” And this, above the other 38 minutes of each contest, is ruining what was once the greatest tournament in sports.
Take Saturday night for example. The Arizona Wildcats trailed the Wisconsin Badgers by one point in overtime with just seconds left on the clock. Pac-12 player of the year Nick Johnson had a chance to give his team the lead, the perfect storyline. Instead, he gets called for a ticky-tack offensive foul with only 3.2 seconds remaining. All of this lead to a botched inbound play that ended in a what seemed like day long replay review and the most anti-climactic one point overtime NCAA Tournament Elite Eight finish that you could possibly ask for.
When asked about the call after the game, Arizona coach Sean Miller stated, “I thought it was a really, really tough call. I’m going to stop there. I’ve already been fined.” It was a tough call to say the least.
Is that really how the NCAA wants their tournament’s number one seed to lose? Is that really how they want any team to lose? The saddest part is that the fix isn’t even as apparent as one might think considering the circumstances. The only thing apparent is that the NCAA Tournament, like every other sport, is slowly but surely being ruined by three little men with three little whistles.
Opinion by Rich Peters