Saturday, April 4, 2009

Quick Thought on Final Four

{Afterword: Well, MSU found a way. I still think my criticisms of the Huskies hold up.}

As I write this, Michigan State is beating UConn by 2 point at the end of the first half. And I'm saying right now that if the officiating continues to favor Connecticut to the degree that I've seen so far, there is no way the Spartans can win this game. None. They can keep it close, but eventually being called for twice as many fouls (12 to 6) and shooting about a third of the free throws (5 to 13) is going to do them in.

The Huskies have driven me batshit all year with the one-sided officiating. When the officials call a game fairly evenly (as with the March 7 loss to Pitt, where the Huskies shot ten more free throws but the total fouls were 14 UConn, 16 Pitt, or in the February 16 loss to Pitt, where the Panthers actually took three more foul shots than the Huskies and the total fouls were 18 Pitt, 19 UConn), the Huskies are vulnerable and tend to lose, as this particular collection of players has done the past few years. Note that their charming coach, Jim Calhoun, complained after both those losses that the officiating was terrible and one-sided. By which he meant that UConn was unable to amass its usual collection of free passes. When the officials are in the tank for UConn, as they have been most of the time this season, the Huskies are essentially unbeatable.

This was the entire, barely commented upon story of their defeat of the Missouri Tigers. UConn got called for 13 fouls, Missouri for 24, and they shot 20 more freethrows. In a game they won by seven points.

And it's not like they're a finesse team on offense or defense. I watched them commit plenty of fouls in the first half of this game on the interior and lots of handchecking on the perimeter. Multiple times Huskies got faked off their feet, landed on the offensive player with a lot of contact, and there was no whistle. Adrien in particular commits a shitload of fouls on the interior, offensive and defensive, that don't get called. Also, A.J. Price's go-to perimeter move is a push off with his left forearm.

If the officials just swallowed their whistles, as they seemed to do with a lot of UCLA games the past few years where everybody is allowed to pound on everyone, then it wouldn't bother me so much. Instead, the officials call fouls on one end of the court that are somehow not fouls when UConn commits them at the other end of the court.

Contrast this with Michigan State. Against Louisville, MSU got whistled for 22 fouls to 14 for Louisville, and shot 11 freethrows to 18 for the Cardinals. Against Kansas, 16 fouls for MSU to 17 for Kansas, 17 FTs to 13. Against USC, 18 fouls against MSU to 21 against USC, 31 FTs for MSU to 26 for USC. All very close except the Louisville game, where MSU overcame a deficit.

The preferential officiating on behalf of Connecticut embarrassing to watch for anybody who isn't a UConn fanatic, and it, along with the general jackassery and posing of players like Adrien and Thabeet, taints every victory this team amasses as it strolls toward the title game enjoying red carpet treatment.
And if they manage to lose this game, which I would find remarkable, they will have lost it in spite of enjoying an unfair advantage.

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