Which of Monday's calls was worse?

February 13th, 2008

Alright, the following two days have brought a litany of opinions concerning the end of game calls in the Villanova/Georgetown and Rutgers/Tennessee contests. But is it really cut and dry when it comes to determining which was the worse of the two? I say no, with some of the circumstances surrounding the games (and the plays themselves) needing to be considered before rendering a decisions. Here's my attempt (I assume you've seen the video of both plays, so I won't go into too much detail in describing them).

The foul call itself: Edge Villanova

You can essentially say this about the two plays: one was a foul, the other was questionable at best. To call a touch foul eighty feet away from the basket with :00.1 seconds left is absolutely ridiculous. Watching the play, did Jonathan Wallace really look as if he was getting ready to uncork a desperation heave? Or did it look more likely that he was trying to get the ball away from Villanova's basket, thus getting the game to overtime? I say the latter. To call Corey Stokes for that "foul" was simply amazing, and not in a good way.

As for the foul on Kia Wright: that was indeed a foul. A borderline horsecollar tackle that would make Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams proud is in fact illegal in the game of basketball. But that's not the question in regards to this particular game.

"Other" Issues: Edge Rutgers

Now, I've heard the idea that maybe Villanova should have been afforded one full second, but you can't really fault the officials on the clock in that one. As for the clock stoppage in Knoxville, someone needs to be reprimanded (or even docked pay) for that disgrace. With the clock down to :00.2 seconds and the ball in Nicky Anoskie's hands, the clock stopped for approximately 1.3 seconds (according to ESPN). In this time, Anosike had the ability to go up for a shot. Now, the standard is that you need :00.3 seconds to attempt an actual shot; anything less can only be tipped.

I've heard it all in regards to this one. The immediate offering on Monday night's "SportsCenter" that maybe an inadvertant whistle stopped the clock. OK if so, who restarted it, and why didn't play stop RIGHT THERE once they realized that the clock was stopped? Tennessee stated that the system they use can only be controlled by the game officials, a charge the inventor of the device refutes (see http://www.nj.com/rutgers/ledger/index.ssf?/base/sports-0/1202880997300230.xml&coll=1 for his response).

In fact, the device that Tennessee uses has been upgraded, purchased by many schools including, ironically, Rutgers. Tennessee has yet to make that purchase. Hmmm. And the inventor offers in the aforementioned article that in cases such as the one in Knoxville, officials are instructed to watch the replay with a stopwatch to figure out how much time elapsed during the stoppage. Witnesses say that no such protocol was followed. Had they done this, I would think that Rutgers would have been awarded the win.

So, who stopped the clock? I doubt we'll find out for a long time. Remember the Oklahoma/Oregon football game a couple of years ago when people found out who the man was in the replay booth? Things got so bad for him, with the hate mail and even a few death threats, that he quit his job. Therefore, we won't know who, beyond the three officials, was "responsible" for these...hijinks.

Team Situation (and verdict): Edge Villanova

Let's be honest here: as bad as that loss feels for the Scarlet Knights, they're well on their way (unless a massive collapse occurs) of being either a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their robbery occured in a non-conference game. The Wildcats, on the other hand, are currently in 12th place in the Big East. This is the final year of only twelve teams going to MSG, so they really could have used the overtime. Would they have won? Maybe, maybe not, but they should have at least gotten the chance to find out. This why I say that overall the Villanova call was worse.

Lesson learned by both: the old coaching adage that when on the road you need to be ten points better than your opponent rings true, even in 2008.