Photo: Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Column: Officials should be held accountable for ruining championship

Monday night's National Championship Game was set to feature a highly-anticipated end to March Madness with a matchup between a pair of No. 1 seeds, Gonzaga and North Carolina.

That was the plan, anyway.

Sports fans were hoping that this game could live up to the excitement of last year’s classic between Villanova and UNC, and it looked as if it was going to at first. Gonzaga was up 35-32 at the half, and the game had been back and forth the whole time.

Then came the second half. The officials must have gotten together and decided that they wanted more airtime, because they seemingly made as much noise as possible after halftime.

The foul calls came early, fast and unrelenting. Ten minutes into the second half, Gonzaga had eight fouls and UNC had 10. Finding 18 fouls in 10 minutes of basketball is tough to do, especially in a game with two teams that are so well coached.

By the end of the night, there were an astonishing 44 fouls in 40 minutes of basketball. Both teams had at least four players with three or more fouls, several of which were questionable.

Both team’s offenses started to struggle once the calls came in, and the game quickly became hard to watch. The game lost the rhythm and flow of the first half.

Gonzaga’s struggles were a result of both of their big men, Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, being picked on by the officials all night. Karnowski had four fouls, but Collins, a potential first round draft pick, fouled out with five minutes left.

Gonzaga’s offense is very reliant on those two guys, but the refs neutralized them. As a result, Gonzaga started chucking up bad shots in a state of panic and ended up shooting 34 percent from the field.

As for North Carolina, its interior offense was also halted by the officials. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks both had four fouls by the end of the game. This led UNC to also start taking bad shots. They finished shooting 35.6 percent from the field, including a putrid 4-for-27 from beyond the arc. 

This all happened because of the refs. By the end of this game, the officials seemed just as lost as the players. There is a reason for this.

Officials seem to have a strange advantage over everyone else involved in sports. There is a taboo against anyone questioning them. If a coach or player does it, then they are fined. If fans do it, then people tell them to stop complaining.

In situations like this game, where there is such a large consensus that the refs ruined the game, there need to be consequences. The NCAA should be ashamed of the product they put out for consumers on Monday night.

Fans and players alike were robbed by the officials of the ability to enjoy what should have been a great night of college basketball. The taboo against criticizing refs needs to disappear, because it only enables them. It allows them to keep doing their job poorly because there are no consequences. They will never learn until they have to face consequences like anyone else would.



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