A GRIP ON SPORTS
I've tried. I've really tried. But last night was too tough. An exceptional college basketball game soiled. Read on.
• We picked up the Arizona/Wisconsin game late in the first half as we set down for dinner. Then we raced home to catch the second half. Back and forth the game went. Great play after great play. Defensive stop after defensive stop. Big guys scoring outside, little guys dunking. Overtime. What more could you ask for? Only one thing. That none of the three guys with the whistles decide the outcome. That was too much I guess. Listen, I've tried to tone down my feelings about such things. Even though three of Friday's four games hinged a bit on late calls, I didn't rant. I know it's a tough job. I know the referees do a good job under pressure-filled circumstances. I know all of that. But last night was tough to take. Mainly because the NCAA made such a point this season to emphasis freedom of movement, to clean up the game. Early in the year we were told three things: The new rules on the books were going to allow offensive players to move around easier, the rules were going to be enforced all year and only those officials who enforced them correctly would be working NCAA tournament games. And here we are. The Elite Eight. The No. 1 seeded Arizona Wildcats vs. the No. 2 seeded Wisconsin Badgers. The only 1 vs. 2 matchup in the tournament. And working the game is Tony Greene, the same guy who called a charge against Syracuse in the waning seconds of a regular-season game at Duke, a call that last year might have been correct but under the new rules was obviously wrong. And a call that sent Jim Boeheim into a tizzy. Anyhow, here we are a month later and Clarke is working this key NCAA game. So much for the guys enforcing the new rules getting the plum assignments, right? So it's no surprise the game came down to a block/charge call. And Greene made it. Arizona's Nick Johnson drove as the clock wound down, was bumped hard by Wisconsin's Josh Gasser and used his left arm to ward off the obvious block. A whistle blew as Johnson hit the jumper that would have put Arizona ahead with just four seconds left. As a fan, knowing what the emphasis is this season, the idea the offensive player is allowed to move freely, wouldn't we assume the call was a block on Gasser? Would the continuation be allowed or would Johnson be on the line for two shots? But, remember, assumptions make donkeys of us all. Greene's whistle was for Johnson's left-arm push off, one that would not have been needed if not for Gasser's body contact. Enforce the first foul and the second one would not have occurred. Or the next couple of missed calls, including Aaron Gordon violating by going out of bounds defending the ensuing inbounds pass, the ball being tipped out of bounds, a five-minute video conference with New York, the overturned call and the failed last-second Arizona attempt. The game was great. The ending not so much. And that's sad. The puzzled look on Arizona coach's Sean Miller's face (pictured) after the offensive foul call said it all. There were people all over America with the same expression. And they've had it too often this tournament.
• WSU: It was strange Saturday in Pullman as it pertained to the new basketball coach search. As Jacob Thorpe related in this blog post, Bill Moos tried to convince Leon Rice to change his mind and reconsider the Cougars' offer. But Rice wouldn't. He's staying at Boise State. I wonder if he's been summarily dismissed from the WSU alumni association this morning? ... Jacob also covered the second spring football practice with this blog post and story on the offensive line. Finally, Jacob has this morning's usual post.
• Seahawks: Don't expect DeSean Jackson to end up in Seattle.
• Mariners: Let's get this out of the way. The M's lost their final spring training game – newcomer Chris Young (pictured) pitched well – but finished with a winning record. Just like last season. ... With the 2014 season opening Monday in Anaheim, the M's tidied up the roster by sending three pitchers to the disabled list. How quickly they return may tell the tale of the early season. ... Lloyd McClendon is ready for his first season as the M's manager. He seems really patient right now. Wonder if that will last. ... This just in. Baseball is still really hard to play well.
• Sounders: As stoppage time wound down yesterday, Columbus earned a corner. As everyone was setting up, and the official was talking with a couple of the Sounders players, the Crew kicked the ball in, surprising everyone. And leading to a game-winning goal in Columbus' 2-1 victory. ... It marked the first time in years Seattle lost a match after scoring the first goal. ... The circumstances of the game winner seemed to frustrate Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. ... Brad Evans is still out with the calf injury.
• I hate hang nails. That is all. Have a great Sunday. Until later ...