Blue Monday: Calling foul on a miserable NCAA title game


There was but one conclusion to reach after watching Monday’s NCAA title game featuring those rent-a-wreck-refs:

Thank the Lord for spring football. And Mike Trout. And The Masters.

I enacted the 24-hour rule so as to not hastily overreact in assessing North Carolina’s 71-65, title-game win over Gonzaga, yet woke up Wednesday still thinking there was no worse way to end a college basketball season.

It wasn’t just that my pick, Gonzaga, lost in the finals. Or that my favorite player, 7-foot center Przemek Karnowski, couldn’t throw a Polish pea in the Baltic Sea.

Or, that the top two finishers in our TMG Bracket Challenge don’t even follow college basketball, yet kicked the tar heel out of all of us who do follow the sport.

TmgLIZ, our winner, literally picked North Carolina out of the blue. It was also acknowledged that second-place finisher Taylor Obitz, from El Segundo, had not closely watched a college basketball game all season.

Actually, that gave her and Charles Barkley something in common.

What made Monday night’s game the most disappointing title-game I’ve ever seen was the combination of rec-league officiating and poor shooting.

Consider: Joel Berry II, the game’s MVP, didn’t come close to making half his shots.

North Carolina, shot 34.6% from the field, but that was “lights out” compared to Gonzaga’s 33.9%.

The Tar Heels made 15 of 26 free-throw attempts—and still won.

Gonzaga made nine of 44 three-point attempts--and still almost didn't lose.

In this case, the refs are guilty as charged calls. It’s hard to shoot when the officials make you play with your hands tied.

Monday’s game wasn’t the first title game featuring Clank Squads. I was court side 2011, in Houston, for the final between Connecticut and Butler. Those schools COMBINED to shoot 31 of 119 from the field.

It was the first game I remember where, at halftime, helmets were offered on press row.

Yet, I didn't blame the refs that night.

The officials, this time, were responsible for the way Gonzaga and North Carolina played. The stripes called 44 fouls. Forty-Four! That’s 12 more than the 32 called in UConn v. Butler.

“It was an ugly game,” North Carolina Coach Roy Williams confessed of this year’s game. “I don’t think either team ever got in a real good flow.”

It was equally bad for both schools but one wretched call worse for Gonzaga. With 50 seconds left and Carolina up by one, there was a held-ball call under the basket. The Tar Heels retained possession even though Kennedy Meeks’ hand was clearly out of bounds. Why was that important? Instead of Gonzaga getting the ball, down by a point, North Carolina scored and went up by three.

Everyone has bad nights: Unfortunately, the crew of Michael Stephens, Verne Harris and Mike Eades had their worst night when it counted most.

Their only legitimate retort was, "Hey, at least we're not LPGA officials."

I usually tape the NCAA title game and watch it again after a couple days. I immediately deleted this recording, which spared me the final montage: One Shaming Moment.

Good news? Spring football was in the air.

I was never more excited to open my L.A. Times to read about UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen’s recovery from exploratory shoulder surgery. Or, to anticipate what improvements new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, a hire-away from Michigan, will make on the Bruins’ iron-poor offense.

As they say around the card table in the UCLA rec room: Go Fisch!

The precocious Rosen has gone through coordinators like gum drops his first two seasons, so it’s easy to think this is the most important hire he has made since arriving in Westwood.

Monday’s basketball game also chased me straight to the Angels' season-opener loss, assuaged only by a Trout home run, and a family pool for this week's Masters "Tuna-ment."

I've never been more excited for Palm Sunday and page D7 in my Wednesday sports section:

USC Football report: “Makeshift line is making coaches nervous.”

Just the sound of that makes me tingly.

Beat writer Zach Helfand filled me in: “A spate of injuries has sidelined USC’s three returning starters, Nico Falah, Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao…”

I may have come down with a case of spring football fever.

It’s too bad. College basketball made strides this year in becoming more free flowing and viewer friendly.

Then came Monday's monkey wrench. The only thing worse would be if North Carolina caps its victory parade with NCAA probation.

After long baseball seasons the saying goes: "Can't wait until next year."

You know what, college basketball? Take your off-season time.

I can wait.