Don’t Blame the Refs For Calling Fouls

Monday was the culmination of the Final Four. We've been spoiled lately, particularly last year, with great championship games, but this one was kind of a clunker. Both teams shot under 37%, and both teams shot under 70% from the foul line. This was crucial, since both teams went to the line a lot — 26 times apiece, emblematic of the 22 fouls each team committed.

That's 44 fouls total, or more than one every minute.

A lot of people noticed that, particularly on social media. LeBron James was among them, who tweeted, "Man I can't watch this anymore man! I would like to see the kids decide who wins the game! I mean Bruh!! Smh" and then "I take that back I will watch the rest cause i won't cheat the kids but this is crazy!"

If there were 44 fouls called in the game, that means, if you ask the twittertariat, not that the players were fouling too much, but the refs were calling too many fouls.

But people are being too hard on the refs. If the coaches and fans don't want the refs deciding the game, they should teach the kids how not to foul. It's probably inevitable, a part of human nature, for the refs to swallow the whistle sometimes while not other times. LebBon knows that. But to ask them to swallow the whistle by definition is asking them at other times not to. Do we really want to go down that road? If so, then rewrite the rulebook to say that reaching in (or whatever) is only a foul in the first 35 minutes of the game. Until you're willing to codify when refs should and should not swallow the whistle, then it is never wrong to call a legitimate foul.

The fact of the matter is, this was a crappy game. Even Roy Williams said that neither team played well. A game where both teams play poorly is likely to feature a lot of fouls. So this one did. The only part that makes me say "well done!" is the UNC only turned the ball over 4 times.

And did we have any reason to expect a great game? Maybe not. Our title game this year featured two teams that lost to schools that fell outside the NIT top eight. En route the championship game, Gonzaga played four games in the tourney decided by 8 points or less and UNC, your champion, played five. That's right; every game UNC played in this tournament could've gone the other way except their first round game against mighty Texas Southern.

Basketball wasn't played at a high level this year, and there were no elite teams. That's fine with me. More than fine, actually — dynasties are boring except for fans of the dynasts, and if you want to see near-mistake-free basketball, you need elite teams that kill everyone. That's less interesting to me than the parity we have now. Things are more interesting when mistakes are possible.

So this was on the players, playing mistake-heavy basketball, not on the refs for calling it like they see it. Be grateful for that.

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