Fans love to blame officials for losses, and the NCAA Tournament is no exception. In fact, the need to scapegoat is probably more intense during March Madness than in any other month.
But that doesn’t mean that blame is warranted.
“I’m always a big advocate of refs,” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Wally Szczerbiak told Jody McDonald, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Having played in college and then in the NBA, I thought NBA refs were the best officials in the world, and I think these college officials are very good. They’re human, so they’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to get 93 percent of the calls right, and they’re going to get seven percent of the calls wrong – and it’s tough. I’ve tried to ref my kids’ practices, and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. I payed the game for my whole life. It’s not an easy job, so you’re going to make some mistakes.
“So overall, I give refs the benefit of the doubt,” Szczerbiak continued. “I feel like one or two calls doesn’t determine the outcome of a game because there are so many other calls that are made correctly throughout the course of the game. But there have been some calls in unfortunate situations that have been magnified because of how big they were at the time they were made. The Northwestern call, obviously, and the Seton Hall flagrant foul call.”
Seton Hall lost to No. 8 Arkansas, 77-71, in opening-round action, this after junior forward Desi Rodriguez fouled Jaylen Barford with 18.3 seconds left and the Pirates trailing by a point. Officials felt the foul was too physical and gave Rodriguez a flagrant.
“I think that rule has to be re-written,” Szczerbiak said. “Down the stretch of games, guys just want to put the guy on the free-throw line. They’re not trying to hurt him. They’re just trying to commit a foul so the ref blows the whistle so they can get the ball back and have a chance to tie the game when they’re down one. That’s all the intention was of that Seton Hall player. There are a few tweaks that need to continue to be made, but I just think the referees do a great job, they’re very diligent, and they’re heading in the right direction.”
Szczerbiak also weighed in on John Thompson III, who was fired as Georgetown’s head basketball coach Thursday. Thompson went 278-151 in 13 seasons with the Hoyas but went 14-18 this past season, including 5-13 in Big East play.
“It’s a tough business,” Szczerbiak said. “It’s a cutthroat business. Athletic directors and schools and alumni are looking for serious action and for stuff to happen. They’re not content with mediocrity at all, and John Thomson III really hasn’t had that Georgetown program where it’s needed to be. (Getting) seven teams (from) the Big East (into the tournament) and Georgetown not being one, that was a real eye-opening statistic and issue. There’s some great coaches out there. John Thompson III, obviously a great name and great history, but what he’s done on the court as a coach, I see the move being very warranted. So we’ll see what direction Georgetown goes. That programs has great resources, great history and I think can be in a better place in a few years.”