Bad calls in NCAA finale are no excuse

William Burns

Over the past month, I have been praising the NCAA on how successful this year’s tournament was going to be and, in the end, even in the championship finale, few words can describe the conclusion to the season.

In the first semi-final match, the Louisville Cardinals let their guard down against a dangerously deceiving Wichita State team. The entire game was dictated by the Shockers and Kevin Ware, who suffered a grotesque leg injury, could only watch  in disbelief as his Cardinal teammates fell behind by as much as 12 points.

So how did the No. 1 overall seed fall behind to a No. 9 seed and get dominated nearly the entire game?

It is pretty safe to say that the theme going around the Wichita locker room was the idea of “playing angry” or to put it as head coach Greg Marshall put it: “playing like our hair is on fire.”

What I believe played an even bigger role in Louisville’s early struggle was the fact that Louisville played down to the Shockers. They didn’t seem to think much of their opponent and didn’t take them very seriously, which is slightly disrespectful and incredibly dangerous.

Once Louisville started to see their dream begin to slip, it was as if they had woken up and boy, did they ever come alive. It’s hard to tell a team that hasn’t lost since Saturday, Feb. 9 that they are going to fall one game short of a championship.

Louisville finally got their motivation late and rallied past the Shockers to win 72-68. Louisville was now zeroed in on their goal and were headed to their first championship appearance since 1986.

In the second semi-final game, the Michigan Wolverines ran a train over Syracuse. While you can argue that a score of 61-56 is pretty close to be calling out Syracuse as I just did, however, if you watched the game, you can’t argue the fact that Trey Burke, the Associated Press Player of the Year and winner of the Naismith award for best college basketball player, put the Orange out of their comfort zone the entire game.

The most surprising part of the game, overall, was in the ineffectiveness of Syracuse’s infamous zone defense that became so popular that even the White House made a comment when Josh Earnest, the deputy press secretary, compared the Republican obstructionism to the Orange’s defense.

The Wolverines made a statement by getting past the zone defense, and as a reward, punched their ticket to the final dance.

Then came the night of Monday, April 8. The epic finale to a tournament that will likely be compared to for seasons to come. No David and Goliath matchup this time around.

This was better compared to as when the unstoppable force of the Wolverines offense meets the immovable object that was Louisville’s wear-you-down defense. There was scoring, lots of scoring. There were blown calls, hard fouls and monster dunks. This was a game that was definitely worth staying up late to watch.

Michigan came out of the came out of gates with a hot hand. The maize and blue were hitting deep three-pointers and putting the pressure on the Cards who stayed patient and erased another 12 point deficit and challenged Michigan in a shootout, right down to the final buzzer.

One momentum-shifting point in the game was when Louisville’s Peyton Siva drove in for a layup and was blocked cleanly by Trey Burke.

It was a fantastic defensive stand that may have helped Michigan stop the bleeding and get them the motivation to turn the game back around.

The sound of official’s whistle that followed the play was a dagger stabbed into the heart of Wolverine nation. Burke had been called for the blocking foul, giving the Cardinals two free throws. On a play that could have possibly changed the momentum, resulted in Siva getting two points and the Wolverines never being closer than four points for the rest of the game.

I think it should be pointed out, that I am a strong believer that, with the exception of the NFL’s “Touchception” call, there is no way anyone can single out one call in a game and determine that the single blown call is the only cause for the effect. While I agree there were missed calls in favor of both schools, the call against Burke is not to blame for Wolverines failure to maintain its lead over Louisville.

Michigan got cold in the second half. Louisville was as superior as they have been all season. At the end of the NCAA tournament, the score of 82-76 was all that remained.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino became the first coach to win a national championship for two schools, Kevin Ware’s emotional and nerve shaking injury wasn’t in vain, and the Louisville Cardinals are college basketball’s top team.

The only remaining question to answer is: What am I going to do with my time between now and next season?