In one of my favorite movies, Wedding Crashers, Vince Vaughn tells Owen Wilson "I don't want to get into what happened last night, because it's only going to make me mad." That's where I am right now, and I don't see it getting a lot better after that catastrophe. I'm not going to get into the specifics of what happened, because it was as utterly infuriating of a game as I've ever seen. Xavier blew a 15 point second half lead, went 18-28 from the line, and had two players foul out of the game.
That leads me to what I am here to discuss: college basketball's new rule enforcement. Rumor has it that the idea is to open up the game and let the offense have some advantage. Gone are the armbar, the hip check, and a lot of the other tools in the defensive specialists' backpack. If the idea was to make the game more watchable though, it was a miserable failure tonight. The officiating crew of Rick Randle, Tony Green, and Jamie Luckie took every opportunity to enforce the rules as poorly as humanly possible.
I've said before that I hate to blame the refs for the outcome of games, and I don't really want to do that here. Xavier was 6-24 from deep, ignored Matt Stainbrook for long stretches, and gave up 20 offensive rebounds. Still, officiating played a large part in this game. The refs called touch fouls on the perimeter and ignored Myles Davis getting run over late in the game on an inbound. Some attempts to block shots were met with whistling so insistent you'd think a crime had been committed. Other times Dee Davis ended up with a Hawkeye literally laying on his back and a conference of the weakest minds in basketball was unable to see a foul. This reffing crew was a complete abomination, and they deserve any reasonable verbal vitriol that was hurled their way. The second worst thing officials can be is inconsistent, the worst thing is inconsistent and whatever those goofballs tonight were. [ed. note: We don't swear in articles, but rest assured I really want to.]
Still, Xavier had chances to salt the game away and simply couldn't. Defensive rebounding was lax thanks to inexplicable calls that kept Farr, Philmore, and Reynolds anchored to the bench for most of the second half. It also didn't help Dee Davis was asked to do more than he should ever be asked to do. Dee is a fine rotation player, but his 1-5 from the field and five turnovers tonight speak to what happen when he is asked to do more than that.
[Second ed. note: Brad abandoned this article in progress to spend most of the night and now the morning throwing up violently. This is now Joel picking up the reins and trying to bring it home.]
The officiating, as Brad noted above, really let Xavier down at a couple of key junctures in the game. Without Semaj Christon on the floor, the Muskies looked lost in the halfcourt on offense, and that was ultimately their downfall. With Christon, it can occasionally look like Xavier's offensive plan is to have four guys stand around and watch Semaj dribble. Without him, it look a whole lot like five guys standing around not having a clue how to make inroads on the UT zone.
It just struck me that Brad didn't touch on Semaj's absence before succumbing to food poisoning. With 12 minutes left in the game, Xavier looked to be in control, leading 55-42 and succeeding in breaking any of Iowa's attempts to create turnovers in the backcourt. X called a timeout after a Myles Davis hit a three, and Semaj retreated to the end of the bench witgh cramping. That was his last involvement in the game, as he spent the remainder of the contest undergoing treatment for what seemed to be the same cramping troubles that plagued him last year.
The final nail in the Xavier coffin was Matt Stainbrook's fifth foul with 4:06 left in OT. I can't say enough good things about Stainbrook's performance last night, regardless of the sterling analysis of one Twitter fan:
@mstainbrook40 you are one of the worst basketball players I have ever seen.
— jonL (@thejonlutz) November 29, 2013
Anyway, Stainbrook was not even one of the worst basketball players on the court at any given time during the game. He went for 11/6/3 on 5-8/0-0/1-1 shooting and picked up 2 blocks and only one turnover. More than that, though, he was Xavier's only hope of cracking Iowa's 2-3, as he had the basketball acumen to run to the high post, keep the ball in a strong, high grasp, and distribute. Without him, the quality of Xavier's shots took a turn for the worse, and they shot 0-7 from the floor from there on out.
Despite all this, Xavier has suffered more of a missed opportunity to add a big win than any sort of meaningful setback. A W over Iowa on a neutral court would have looked nice come March, but the Muskies couldn't quite get it done. Instead, it will be a quick turnaround for Xavier as they play again today at 1PM against Tennessee. Our preview will be up here at ten, and we'll have a game thread and be live on Twitter this time around. Enjoy your Black Friday, and stay safe.