The Zebras Robbed Syracuse

Excuse me for a moment while I go off on the disaster that was the Syracuse Orange-Michigan Wolverines Final Four matchup last night from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta last night.

Factors that played into the Wolverines five-point victory included Syracuse’s paltry 3-14 shooting from beyond the 3-point line, the seven-point combined “effort” by James Southerland (5) and Michael Carter-Williams (2), and poor defensive play in the first half. Somehow, though, the Orange were able to hang around thanks to their ability to shut down Associated Press player of the year Trey Burke (held to 7 points on 1-of-8 shooting), and get Michigan’s Canadian oaf, Mitch McGary, in foul trouble early in the second half–why they didn’t try to drive at him when he came back in with three fouls is beyond me and a topic for an entirely separate blog post.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough to overcome the absolutely pathetic officiating performance that was on display the entire night.

Now, now. Before you attempt to jump through your computer screen and grab this Orange fan by his collar for going to the oft-used excuse by an upset fan looking at the game through biased eyes, keep reading.

Both crews that worked the games on Saturday had a difficult time staying away from controversy when it came to crunch time, starting with the extremely fast whistle for a jump ball in the Wichita St.-Louisville game. You be the judge:

Were Luke Hancock’s hands on the ball? Yeah, sure. But the whistle came extremely fast and made for an anticlimactic ending to what was an exceptionally entertaining national semifinal game.

The poor officiating carried right over to the night’s second game. Typically over the course of a game the calls balance out, but in this Cuse-Michigan game, they all seemed to go against the team in Orange. While Rakeem Christmas, C.J. Fair, Baye Keita, and James Southerland were whistled each time they went up to challenge a shot (I’ll give the ref’s Fair’s rake-to-the-face), the Wolverines got away with murder on the other end of the floor.

It was almost criminal. But the under-the-bucket no-calls weren’t nearly as bad as what transpired in the final two minutes of the game.

In less than a minute the Orange lost their entire front court on three absolutely awful calls, starting with a blocking foul that was called on Carter-Williams. Watching the replay, it’s blatantly obvious that Tim Hardaway Jr. throws his elbow into MCW’s chest and pushes off, but somehow gets the call. During the broadcast, after seeing the replay for himself, Clark Kellogg–who was up Michigan’s ass the entire night, by the way–even admitted that the Wolverines were lucky to still have the ball.

Then there’s the charging call MCW got at the other end of the floor after passing the ball off to Southerland in the corner. Hardaway, again, embellishes an insignificant bump and draws a whistle. It didn’t matter that Carter-Williams was spinning to get out of the way. It didn’t matter that Hardaway was already on his way to the floor due to him tripping over his own two feet. These refs were out to keep the title game from being an all Big East matchup, and they saw everything they needed.

The most criminal of them all, though, had to be the charge call on Brandon Triche with under 30 seconds left and the Cuse down just two. Triche, who drove the lane to get an easy layup and a possible and-one situation–which would have brought the Orange even or given them a late lead–was assessed one of the worst charging calls I’ve ever seen and his fifth foul. Jordan Morgan was seconds late to the spot, and was still sliding while Triche was in the air, but he (or someone associated with the Michigan program) apparently shoved enough money into these refs’ pockets to get the call.

Talk about a shitty way to end one’s career on the college hardwood for Triche. Instead of going to the line and possibly sending the game to OT, he was sent to the bench and had to watch Trevor Cooney break from the designed play, put up a horrendous shot, and hand Michigan the W and a spot in Monday’s national title game.

Again, I’m not one to typically go off on refs like this after a tough loss, but any fan of college basketball watching these games yesterday (except those from Michigan and Louisville) had to feel the same way.

After letting teams play the entire season, Syracuse was stymied by the tight officiating while Michigan was allowed to run the floor. The zebras robbed us, and there was nothing we could do to overcome that.

(ht SBNation/Sports Grid, and Yardbarker)

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