We were robbed.
A 35-32 lead by the Gonzaga Bulldogs over the North Carolina Tar Heels was shaping up to be a classic NCAA Championship. Two heavyweights, two #1 seeds battling it out on the hardwood, exchanging baskets and stellar defensive play.
Fans and media alike buckled themselves in for what should have been a tremendously well-played second half.
On one side was Gonzaga. The no-longer-Cinderella behemoth out of the West Coast Conference. A program that has earned its way to the top through hard work, dedication and smart recruiting.
On the other side was North Carolina. A legendary program lead by a legendary coach in a legendary conference. A program that has won multiple championships with top flight recruits, hard work and dedication.
Cinderella no more, having long ago shed that label, Gonzaga showed no signs of intimidation. There were no deer-in-the-headlight looks on players faces. They played like they belonged.
Redemption was on the minds of the Tar Heels. Having lost in heartbreaking fashion in 2016 to Villanova, they fed off of that all season long to get this chance tonight. They played like they belonged.
Two teams going to toe-to-toe, in great rhythms offensively and defensively. Why wouldn’t we get a great second half?
Collins’ 4th foul — clearing space in the post — happens on every play, all game long, on both ends. But technically? Yeah. It’s a foul.
— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) April 4, 2017
Instead of 9 Final Four officials, NCAA should select three best from Saturday's games. No sense of rhythm tonight.
— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) April 4, 2017
Gonzaga crowd chanting "Take his whistle" at the refs. Clearly, they're watching the same game I am
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) April 4, 2017
I’m not one to blame officials for the outcome of a game – just don’t ask me about the Tuck Rule. Opportunities are presented throughout a game or match for a team/player to make plays to help their team win.
Never fails to amaze me how people blame the refs for calling so many fouls. Maybe the players should stop fouling?
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) April 4, 2017
if the demand is that players should stop fouling – like that’s real simple to do – then the equal demand is that officials should be consistent.
Fouls that should have been called on both teams in the first half weren’t. Referees let them play leading to an expectation that they would continue to do so in the second half. Players get that mindset and expect to continue in the same rhythm as before, only to find that the referees have suddenly tightened the reins of the game.
There's nothing worst than working your butt off all year to get to the championship game & have whistle happy officials! Let them play!!!
— Tracy Murray (@RealTracyMurray) April 4, 2017
Yes, it’s easy to blame officials in sports. They are an easy target, an easy scapegoat. Gonzaga fans aren’t happy about what transpired tonight.
Basketball fans aren’t happy either, though. We wanted a great game and we had it for a half. What could have been, though,
Whistle, whistle, whistle.
I’ll repeat: Fouls that should have been called on both teams in the first half weren’t. They were called in the second half and whatever hope fans had for a classic flew out the window. As ESPN’s Myron Medcalf put it:
This officiating crew robbed two of the most talented frontcourts in America of the rugged scrap we’d anticipated.
It’s not a job for the meek. It’s not a job that is easy, by any means. Fans who (inexplicably) find their identity through their teams, react in terrible ways toward officials when a call or game goes against “their” team. But, I believe they get it right more often than not – Tuck Rule, not withstanding.
As a college basketball fan, I wanted this game to be settled by two teams on the court. The referees didn’t settle it, but man, it sure feels like we missed out on something special.
Congratulations on another championship, Tar Heels. Congratulations, Bulldogs.
I hope you meet again on the hardwood someday soon. The circumstances might be different, but I hope you are able to just play.
Zach Collins: I fouled too much, I'm sad I couldn't be out there to help my team pic.twitter.com/4OfbrEvUq0
— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) April 4, 2017
Side note: Proud of the state where I grew up. Well done, Arizona.
One Shining Phoenix.
Thank you PHX! pic.twitter.com/f56naXvLtZ
— NCAA Final Four (@FinalFour) April 4, 2017