The Officiating Angle

Will officiating be a factor on Saturday night?

In the small interview for 35 Seconds I was asked about the pendulum swinging the other direction for UNC following four fairly convincing wins leading up to the Final Four.  This is part of what I said:

Certainly they are playing well but my greater concern is the weird game where things that have not been a problem all season suddenly become a problem such as Hansbrough getting three fouls in the first half…

Now I am on record as saying that officiating neither wins or loses games for a team but rather players make or don’t make plays to determine the game.  That being said, I am a tad concerned about the officiating aspect of the national semifinal.  Having watched enough Final Fours over the years and especially all the ones with UNC in them I know it is a different set of games.  It just is and it is hard to articulate in words but Final Four games have a tension and feel to them that is in no way similar to any games before that weekend and rightfully so since it is a four team tournament for all the marbles.  Obviously it also a three games that gets a lot of attention.  Why does this matter?  Because as much as I believe the players are affected by the stage I also think the officials calling the game are as well.

Think back to last season when Georgetown faced Ohio State and the media hype all week was on the notion that we would be watching two true seven footers with legitimate skills facing off on college basketball’s biggest stage.  Since the NBA early defections had routinely been taking the true big men out of the game this was a rare moment to see centers of this size facing off.  So what happened?  The officials basically shutdown any hope of such a matchup in the first half by calling a tight game and saddling both players with two fouls apiece.  So you had players who were accustomed to one manner of officiating all season and even in the tournament finding themselves in a tightly called game.

The problem here is we assume the officials are completely objective and without emotion.  We forget at times they are human beings who are subject to the same anxiety levels the players will have.  In some cases they might be so intent on making sure these very important games are called correctly it leads to an zeal with the whistle that completely changes the game in a way that the players on the court have not seen all year.  Given the fact UNC relies heavily on Tyler Hansbrough I am truly afraid that he is going to get saddled with two fouls early and be forced to sit.  Then again he got two fouls early versus USC in the 2007 Sweet Sixteen and played anyway but whether it is Hansbrough or Marcus Ginyard or Danny Green or even Ty Lawson, I am concerned the officials will get whistle happy and put a key Tar Heel on the bench for a key stretch of the game.

Now the sword cuts both ways on that. If the officials happen to call a tight game it could also land key Kansas players in foul trouble sending Hansbrough and possibly others to the FT line giving the Heels an edge there.  As state above and many times before I still think players makes plays to win games.  However the influence of the officiating makes that prospect more or less difficult depending on the consistency level of the calls.

The good news for UNC is I am firmly convinced this team is the most versatile team at this Final Four when it comes to handling tempo, game situations and yes even a sudden shift in officiating.  Roy was asked in his press conference yesterday if it was possible to build a college basketball team for March in the same way a baseball team is built to win in October.  Roy did not really get into whether your could but in my opinion there are certain teams geared to win in March.  Teams that can play well on both ends of the court, who can adapt to play any style and show tremendous poise regardless of the game situation are squads that are “built for March.”

There is no doubt in my mind UNC is such a team.  The poise and maturity has been on display all season.  UNC has met multiple opponents with different styles and found a way to win.  The Tar Heels have had key players out or hobbled by injury and improvised to avoid defeat.  I can think of no other Tar Heel team I have watched that gives me the impression that even when the game is looking dire, it is truly not over until the fat lady sings.  Being 36-2 means UNC has faced all the variables and dealt with them in victorious fashion in every case but two.  Which is to say, regardless of what happens on Saturday night, my confidence in this team to handle everything from a poor shooting night to bad officiating is extremely high.  They have given me no othe reason to believe otherwise.

22 Responses to The Officiating Angle

  1. […] Heel Fan looks at the importance of officiating on Saturday. I’ll actually blog about Kansas basketball […]

  2. Displaced Heel says:

    Is it just me, but has officiating been off all year? I agree that officiating is generally not the make/break of a game (although I have come off that a bit watching some of the UCLA games this year), but I see that officials are calling traveling in strange places, rarely making good calls under the basket, but finally recognizing a flop is a flop and not a foul. However, it hasn’t been biased (again, see my UCLA comment above). It may look that way because the one official calls the offensive fouls on one team, and after halftime, the same official calls the other team’s offensive fouls, but that is the way the officials are on the court, and not necessarily biased officiating. To my mind, it has been an odd year in the officiating aspect, for sure.

  3. RJ says:

    Don’t mean to get off-topic, but I need some advice from my fellow Tar Heel fans.

    My fiance and I had our first fight about our upcoming wedding. She wants to get married on a Saturday next April. She wants an evening ceremony/reception.

    The only date the hotel (where she wants to have the reception) has in April 2009 is Saturday April 4th. THE NIGHT OF THE NATIONAL SEMI-FINALS! FINAL FOUR NIGHT!

    Even if Carolina isn’t playing, it’s still a big deal for a huge college basketball fan. The next available date is in May, and she doesn’t want to get married in May or March (for whatever reason, I don’t pretend to understand).

    She thinks I’m being an a$$ by refusing to have our reception on this peticular evening. Am I?

  4. Steve the State Fan says:

    Off-topic? I love off-topic, RJ.

    Yes, you are being an a$$. :*) Not really – well, not entirely. The question you will have to ask yourself from time to time for the rest of your married life is, “Do I want to be “right” about this particular issue, or do I want to be married?” Your wedding is something that happens only once (you hope), so it should trump just about everything else. Of course, this scheduling may end up pissing off a lot of people who would be coming to the wedding, so you might want to point that out to your bride-to-be.

    PS My opinion is worth exactly what you are paying for it, so what do I know?

  5. C. Michael says:

    RJ, this is why I am single… you don’t want my advice…

  6. Heels in Vegas says:

    RJ, take it from someone whose wedding was March 28, 1998 ( Utah v. Carolina Final Four) I think you need to give in on this one. Maybe you will get lucky and your wife will let you hide a little 3 inch portable television behind a flower arrangement at the head table like mine did. Know however you will hear about it the rest of your life together, but at least is will be in a kind of fond way.

    Also maybe if your luck is like mine, just being able to not watch it means they will absolutely be there! Take one for the team. 😛

  7. 52BigGameJames says:

    RJ–as I was advised (by a Sage) when similar issues came up, you need to just show up at the appointed time and do as told. ALL little girls grow up with that day in mind as theirs, not to mention the mother-in-law, and numerous female family friends. Just make absolutely sure the one you’re hitching doesn’t have a problem later on when your times with the guys comes due 😉

  8. william says:

    I don’t think Tyler has ever been in foul trouble, nor have many of our guys. I think that is part of being a well-coached team. If Tyler did get two, would Roy sit him like Dean did Jordan I don’t it.

    One of the criticisms of Hansbrough is that he doesn’t block many shots. Now aside from the fact that blocking shots doesn’t seem to be a point of emphasis for Roy Williams, I also think that has to do with the fact that Carolina has to keep him out there on the floor. If you think about big men who get into foul trouble, it is usually the shot blockers like Hibbert, because those calls usually involved body contact as well and are discretionary.

    This is one reason why it doesn’t bother me in the post-season if Tyler doesn’t try to take charges in the first half either.

  9. Johnny says:

    In 1998, my beloved Seattle Supersonics were looking to make another run at the Finals. I gingerly suggested to my bride-to-be that we consider postponing our May wedding, as I would likely get to cover the Sonics with my job and see all of the play-off games.

    The Sonics lost Shawn Kemp and traded for Vin Baker. (Somehow this seemed like a good idea at the time.)

    The Shaq-led Lakers thrashed my Supes in the second round.

    I still walk with a pronounced limp.

    Tivo could save your life.

  10. Tar Heel Fan says:

    You have to follow her lead on this but I do not envy you in the least if it comes April 4th, 2009 and UNC is in the Final Four trying win back-to-back titles in Hansbrough’s senior season.

  11. Johnny says:

    Against Louisville, the Heels had the potential for a disastrous foul situation. Early in the second half the Cards were getting a ton of calls (they were on the verge of the bonus with 10 minutes to go) and if not for some kindly spreading of fouls by the officials the outcome could have been much more in doubt. Ginyard had a couple of fouls that went to Green. Hansbrough had that tomahawk chop on Padgett at the 3-point line that wasn’t called, and Thompson picked up another foul that I thought was going to get pinned on Tyler.

  12. MDtarheelfan says:

    RJ- Take a stand and insist on another date. It will not be only your wedding day but the rest of your life. B-ball will be a backseat to the anniversary every year. However if she is a fan, the final four would make a great anniversary trip. I would change it unless she is as big a fan as you are.

  13. Tar Heel Fan and Alum says:

    My wife and I were married in the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas. I picked it because Michael Jordan had been married there, a fact I did not share with my fiance at the time. In a moment of weakness afterward I shared that info. with her and she has been pissed ever since, never letting me forget that I was thinking about my beloved Heels rather than my beloved bride.My advice is to go ahead and cave on the day. I learned years ago to lose all fights and we have been happily married since then (unless I bring up the Little White Chapel).

  14. I’m lucky; I married a woman who enjoys sports as much as I do. That’s why we pretty much agreed on a June 1st wedding. It doesn’t interfere with football or basketball, and it’s still early enough in the MLB season that it doesn’t really matter as of yet.
    If a June wedding doesn’t work for your bride to be, then I would just suck this one up and deal with it. Like another poster said, you’ll want to bargain for a hand held TV or something so you cna catch the action during the reception.
    Not to ramble, but something like this happened at a wedding I attended in central Nebraska almost ten years ago. One of my good friends got married the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is the Nebraska-Colorado football game. They worked it in where there was a lunch before the ceremony in the hall where the reception was being held and we were able to watch the game on a big screen TV.

  15. Santiago says:


    Third-hand story, so I can’t vouch for it’s truthiness.

    Once upon a time, a big fan of UNC basketball visited Binkley Baptist Church one Sunday. As everyone was filing out of the service he found himself right beside Dean Smith. He introduced himself and told Smith, “I think you’re the greatest basketball coach ever.” Smith replied, “Thank you. I think this is church.”

    It’s a certainty you’ll get married that day (should you schedule it for April 4th); it’s only a possibility that the ‘Heels will be playing that day. I hope I don’t get excommunicated for saying it, but your wedding/marriage should be more important than Carolina basketball.

    Some more unsolicited advice:

    (1) As far as the planning goes, be interested, or fake it. Never tell her that you don’t care about a decision, big or small. She wants you to have an opinion–and she wants it to be the same as hers. If you disagree, pick your battles. This would be one of those times.

    (2) While making the guest list, when in doubt, invite. You’ll be surprised how many people won’t come (even if they rsvp “yes”), and people you snub will probably hold it against you.

    (3) It won’t be the last fight you have…

    Buenos Suerte!

  16. Tar Heel Fan says:

    One issue you are not considering. This is not a one time deal. If you get married anytime during the NCAA Tournament you will inevitably run into conflicts with your anniversary and watching basketball. Just saying…

  17. Santiago says:

    Actually, I had considered it, as had many of the others. I still don’t see it as an issue, so long as they have similar priorities. It is just a game, after all. Conversely, it is just a date on the calendar. There’s nothing that says you can’t bribe your wife in later years (e.g., “Honey, UNC is really good this season and might be in the FF. Let’s wait ’til May to really celebrate our anniversary, and go to “_____” – insert her favorite exotic locale).

    I forgot to tell you the best piece of advice I received before I got married (10 years ago at the end of the month). My dad asked me if I had really made her mad, and if she had done the same to me. If you haven’t done so yet, here’s your chance. 😉

  18. Josh Bowling says:

    Good one Santiago! RJ, you also have to keep in mind (tell your bride-to-be), that many of your family/friends/supporters may be UNC fans as well, and may not like the fact that it’s scheduled that time. While they may come, they may wish they were somewhere else, and may even communicate that to others. I imagine that might would upset your wife. You guys agree on a time that is most engaging, celebratory, and festive for all of you. Everybody will be happy.

  19. Josh Bowling says:

    I think we can adjust to any type of officiating. It only makes it hard if one team is allowed to play defense harder than the other. In the Georgetown game, they blew the whistle frequently in the first half, and then swallowed it in the latter portions of the second half. I think we can deal with a scenario like that this time around. What we don’t want is a Duke situation to where a guard drives in, bumps Hansbrough, wails his arms in the air, and Tyler gets a foul on him, and on the other end, Hansbrough backing his man down and the center (Kahn) gives him a little body and forces a missed shot and no free throw for Tyler. That might be a situation that could hurt us. But we have even seen that some this year (Maryland) and almost won. So let’s take that game into account and I see us victorious.

  20. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    RJ – My wife and I were married in the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas; not exactly the Washington Cathedral but I chose it at the last moment because they advertised that Michael Jordan had been married there. Wisely for a long time I never told my wife about this but then in a moment of weakness did and she’s been pissed ever since; accusing me of picking my beloved Tar Heels over my beloved fiance. Since then I have learned that there are some things (like “Gee honey, I see you’re putting on a few extra pounds”) that are better off unsaid… so my advice is to cave on the wedding date; it’s good practice for the rest of your married life!

  21. Tarheel4real says:

    RJ, my husband did not require that our September evening wedding be on an off-weekend (football) for his beloved SEC alma mater, but was understandably relieved when it was. And that was just a regular season game! It is, after all, just a game and I love him for being willing to marry me whenever I wanted. Your fiancee will be just as appreciative and let you celebrate your anniversary a day early or late or whatever the case may be for the rest of your life should Carolina continue to have FF success. Ironically, my husband, now a devoted Carolina b-ball fan, had to sneak off last weekend to find a TV to see Carolina v. Louisville during the reception of a friend’s wedding he was in. If its not your wedding, it will be someone else’s you’ll have to attend sometime down the road. Hopefully she’s worth it!

  22. Russell says:

    “She thinks I’m being an a$$ by refusing to have our reception on this peticular evening. Am I?”
    That’s not a real question. It is a judgment disguised as a question.
    Look behind the (indulgent) self-judgment to get clarity on the contradiction. All contradictions are internal.

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