ATB: Illini Fall At Purdue, Officiating Dominates Big East Clash and Creighton Survives Big Road Test…Posted by Chris Johnson on January 3rd, 2013
*Editor’s Note: This version of the ATB covers games played Tuesday and Wednesday night.
Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Tonight’s Lede. New Year Means New Opportunity.The first day of every new year is dominated by upper-tier college football bowl games. It is a timeless tradition that leaves little room for meaningful basketball. A few games tipped off in the January 1 twilight, and one was about as controversial as they come, but it wasn’t until Wednesday night that a full slate cropped up to lead us out of the Holidays with a hearty portion of hoops consumption. With the calendar flipped, there’s vast opportunity for teams to set new upward or downward trends. Some will wilt under the pressure of conference play. Others will amp up their efforts and springboard into prominent national standing. Nonconference play was just the beginning. Here’s where the Darwinian forces of college basketball weed out the weak links and where the strongest, fittest, most-balanced outfits emerge for the long haul. The NCAA Tournament remains a distant endpoint, but from here on out, the opportunities for improvement grow leaner as the calendar nears March. In the new year, margin for error is minimal. That’s what makes conference play so critical.
Your Watercooler Moment. Officiating Blunder Mars Big East Thriller.
The complex sequence of events that denied UConn a basket at the beginning of overtime in the Huskies’ 82-76 loss at Marquette is complex and long-winded. I’m still trying to figure out exactly where the officials went wrong. From what I can glean, it boils down to this: UConn was robbed two points for the referees’ failure to reorient each team to the proper scoring goal following erroneous tipoff positioning; players lined up facing the wrong direction at the tip, and officials botched a potential goaltending call, in which UConn should have been awarded two-points. The Huskies had plenty of opportunity to make up for whatever the officials may or may not have unfairly revoked, but when you lose a valuable possession at the beginning of overtime, it’s a devastating blow not only for momentum purposes. It effectively negates one of a finite number of possessions in a crucial timeframe where every trip down the floor can swing the final outcome. The game was not lost because officials have some unspoken personal vendetta with UConn’s basketball program, or because it fell victim to the Golden Eagles’ home court influence. Referees make mistakes. This one happened so late in the game, and in such mystifying fashion, that it inevitably draws the brunt of the blame for UConn’s defeat. I’m not minimizing the effect of the referees’ blunder – to reiterate: mistakes hurt, especially in overtime. I’m merely emphasizing the downside of a third-party blip looming over what was a truly entertaining Big East battle between two solid teams.
Your Quick Hits…
- Another Boeheim Milestone. Historical benchmarks have defined Syracuse’s season as much as anything else, and Jim Boeheim made another step in the all-time wins pantheon Wednesday night by securing his 903rd W to pass Bob Knight and move into 2nd place behind Mike Krzyzewski. Buckets of praise, and an almost near-equal amount of pushback, erupted following Boeheim’s passing into the vaunted 900 realm a few weeks back, so it’s best we not revisit the coach’s career achievements. Boeheim’s career is a curious test case on the valuation of wins vs. postseason accomplishment. Perseverance and longevity in the coaching profession is Boeheim’s defining trait – 903 wins, no matter the rate of accumulation, requires an eternity of year-long dedication and grinding commitment. The controversy stems from Boeheim’s thin postseason credentials relative to career length. With just one national championship and three Final Fours to his name over 37 years of sideline time, where does Boeheim rank in the pecking order of coaching legends? I don’t know, and neither do you – not until he finally decides to call it quits.