I want to avoid any confusion at the start of this tome, because, in my blind rage last night, I may have given the impression that I thought the refs were the main reason we lost the game. I don't believe that. We should have won, regardless of how epically craptacular the officiating was. Burke, after a couple of decent games, reverted to his shrinking violet routine. McNeal, somewhat understandably, let the officials get into his head and couldn't recover. We got the typical pitiful production from the piss-ant triumvirate of Acker, Butler, and Cubillan. Dom played like the Dom of early '07, jacking up threes when he had a clear lane to the rim. We shot way too many threes and the defensive rotations on the 1-3-1 zone were awful. So, to be clear, I don't think we lost because of the officiating – at least not primarily. It was a contributing factor, yes. But we should have won anyway.
Anyway, getting to the point of the post:
As I said to everyone I could text message last night (and I apologize for the multiple messages that ended randomly in the middle of a sentence; my phone likes to send text messages before I'm done typing them. If anyone wants to get me an iPhone for Christmas, or to steal Moongoose's and give it to me, you will be dubbed Rubie's Best Friend for the Week), the quality of officiating in college basketball is deplorable. I used the word "crisis" more than once last night, and, while I was being melodramatic, I don't think it's entirely a stretch to say that the officiating is threatening the integrity of the sport.
Hear me out. To be an official, as best I can tell, you should be able to do three things competently:
First, be able to run up and down the floor for two hours without looking like you're completing the last quarter-mile of a marathon.
Second, put yourself in position to be able to actually see the lion's share of the action, and defer to your counterparts when they are in better position to make (or not make) a call.
Third – and this is the most important – BE CONSISTENT. Thus, if you see situation x during the game, and you make call z when confronted with situation x, you better make call z damn near every time situation x happens from there on out.
Last night, the officials – led, unsurprisingly, by the incomparably shitty Tim Higgins – failed miserably on all three counts. I won't spend much time on the first and second points; those are pretty self-explanatory. (Though I will say this: if you're an NCAA higher-up, and you watch Tim Higgins for any appreciable amount of time, and you see him struggling to pull his pants up over his fucking foop every time he waddles down the court … well, at some point, don't you say: "You know, it's entirely possible that this fucker is going to have a heart attack and die right there on the court. Maybe we should get him out of there and avoid the lawsuit"?)
I want to talk about the third point. The reason officials need to be consistent in their calls is because it allows the players to adapt their play to fit the contours of that specific game. Last night, the lack of consistency in the calls was a major contributing factor in three of Marquette's players fouling out, and two others being saddled with four fouls. There is no way for a player to modify his play when the rules of the game are being changed minute by minute, possession by possession. That's why I said it was somewhat understandable that Jerel got taken out of his game last night, and why I don't fault DJ for getting the T. These jackasses get treated with kid gloves despite the fact that most of them perform at so low a level that they would be fired from any other job. But the coaches aren't allowed to say anything about it, the NCAA higher-ups do nothing about it, and for that reason, we are treated to Tim Fucking Higgins and his band of fucktards in a game between two Top 25 teams. Running TIM FUCKING HIGGINS out there to officiate that game was like letting Dr. Jack Shephard's drunk father (Lost reference, Zone D!) perform delicate spinal surgery on the President. If that's the best you can come up with, you're in deep shit.
Back to this problem with consistent calls: the problem is most glaring when the official is called to decide between a charging foul and a blocking foul. To be quite honest, I have no earthly idea what constitutes a charge anymore. Pathetically, it's been reduced to the officiating equivalent of Potter Stewart's oft-repeated line about pornography: "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." And it's ruining the sport. Think about how the game has changed because of these fucking charging calls: nobody tries to block shots anymore – you've got 6'11" guys sliding underneath a 6'1" guy trying to try to draw the charge. "Help defense" now means: "Come from the weak side and try to get your feet set a split second before the guy gets in the lane, and let him barrel into you." Remember how, in fifth grade, coach told you the key to defense was moving your feet? Well, guys are now rewarded for not moving their feet; if you're beat off the dribble, try to get near the guy, attempt to set your feet, and then go flailing away like you just got hit with a sniper's bullet when the contact comes. It's fucking disgusting. This is not good defense. This is not good basketball. But the officials continue to reward it, and, year after year, nobody says anything about the fact that college basketball is turning into European soccer.
I've gone all over the map here, and I'm not sure that I have any bulletproof solutions to fix this. Clearly, the NCAA is in dire need of some new blood in the officiating ranks. And somebody who's actually got some sway has to sit these fucking numbnuts down at some off-season officiating clinic and say: "Stop with the fucking charging calls. At best, it's a no-call, and, at worst, it's a block. Don't reward bad defense." Of course, it's never going to happen, and I'm going to have to write this same post next year and continue shouting myself hoarse.
To sum up, as I said last night: FUCK!