If you follow college basketball at all (and if you are here, you do) you know that the first weekend of he NCAA tournament has already caused its share of controversy. First, UNC-Asheville came within a lane violation and an obvious missed call of playing Syracuse into overtime, after that, an Alabama player was hammered while attempting a potential game winning three pointer, finally, Xavier got the benefit of another lane violation and then an intentional foul call in icing the game last night.
All this has, of course, brought out the pundits. Charles Barkley raged after the Xavier game, Twitter exploded in favor of UNC-A, and screenshots were passed around of the Alabama finish. The debate between letting them play and enforcing the rules without prejudice has never been greater. It has also never been more absurd.
Referees are there to enforce rules. Players are there to play the game within those rules. Yes, things get let go, but no official is perfect. The blame for things like jersey tugs and lane violations lands squarely at the feet of those players who fail to prepare. Before each season, officials visit teams and inform them of rule changes, coaches review rules (yes, even lane violations) and copies of the laws of the game are made available to all the players. The players have every possible chance to learn how the game is to be played.
Into this situation come announcers and fans. Not all fans know the rules, so most rely on announcers to help them determine what has just happened. Unfortunately, the vast majority of announcers don't know the rules either. This leads to situations like Thursday, when Reggie Miller ripped officials for the lane violation call on UNC-A. What Miller didn't know was that Rule Nine 1.2G was enforced perfectly by the crew at the game. Miller's response led to a lot of unnecessary vitriol filling the virtual. Announcers also routinely botch over and back (both feet and the ball must be in the front court), block/charge (feet don't have to be planted) and a host of other things. A simple failure to know the basic rules then compounds the problems on the court as announcers and fans add their uninformed opinions to the frenzy.
An inability to know simple rules, like it is always a flagrant foul to impede progress by pulling an opponent's jersey, has now cost several teams a chance at advancing in the tournament. But, the next time you feel the outrage building and the desire to verbally eviscerate an official coming on, grab a rulebook instead. Being more informed than the announcers and the fans around is never a bad thing. One can only hope that the players on whatever team you support do the same. If they don't, losses in March are solely on them.