OMAHA, Neb. –- This column should be about Kansas, about how great the Jayhawks were Saturday night in advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row, keeping the dream alive of winning their first national championship in 20 years.
|This play by Kansas' Brandon Rush, who fouls out, most likely draws a whistle. (AP)|
In fact, the two most over-officiated games were played here in the first and second rounds. USC and Kansas State slogged through a 45-foul disgrace Thursday night in a game the featured at least three future NBA players.
Had there been some bad blood bubbling beneath the surface that we didn't know about but the officials did? No. K-State and USC aren't known as particularly physical teams. Certainly Kansas isn't. But don't tell that to KU's Brandon Rush and UNLV's Joe Darger, both juniors, who both fouled out Saturday for the second time in their careers.
"I think that's the closest game we've had called all year," Darger said. "It was one of those games. Basketball is a contact sport. We like to get out and bang a little bit and play. It wasn't the case tonight."
Anyone else notice how they've taken away our game as we head toward the Sweet 16? Stanford coach Trent Johnson was thrown out of his second round game against Marquette. I'm sorry. Unless a coach is wielding a machete there is no way he should be thrown out of an NCAA Tournament game. This is their livelihood. The zebras are turning March into their stage.
Besides that, there is something more insidious going on in this tournament. Something that smells of an agenda. I’m all for clamping down on physical play but not to the point of making a farce out of the game.
Kansas had a season high for fouls on Saturday. Thursday's USC-Kansas State game was an atrocity at times. Michael Beasley was called for two fouls when he didn't touch the opponent.
It's not just here in Omaha where there was a foul called an average of once every 65 seconds in the six games. More than a third of the 32 first-round games (11 of 32) had a foul-a-minute pace (at least 40 fouls in the game).
With five minutes left in the Kansas-UNLV game, the crew of Leslie Jones, J.D. Collins and Terry Wymer were calling them an average of once every 50 seconds.
There's a website (bbstate.com) that actually rates officials on number of fouls called. Who knows how accurate it is, but I'm just throwing it out there: These three guys were in the top 40 percent of the most whistle happy among 898 officials rated by the site.
If that's picking nits, then you should have seen the games here. Great, skilled athletes were reduced to looking over their shoulders afraid of the next touch foul.
"It was hard, just because of all the fouls and them getting to the free-throw line in the second half," Rush said.