By David Wilson
When I was a cub reporter for a group of newspapers in Northern Virginia I was the beat reporter for the George Mason University men’s basketball team. One night they were playing James Madison University at home and the game was horrid. It had no rhythm. It had no flow, no continuity.
Just before the start of the second half a reporter next to me asked for my thoughts on the game and I said, “It’s choppy. They’re (nod toward the referee standing directly in front of me) killing the game.” Knowing that I also wrote a column once a week for the newspapers the reporter asked if I was going to mention that in my column. I told him I was.
At that point the referee parked in front of me turned and said, “Who’s making the game choppy and killing it.”
Slightly incredulous that the ref could hear me, but unafraid I replied, “You guys.”
The referee glared at me and said, “If I so much as hear you speak I’m going to make sure you’re gone. You won’t see the rest of the game to be able to write about how bad we were.”
He continued with the glare for a few seconds, baiting me. I glared back, but said nothing. The following morning I wrote my column and mentioned not only the manner in which the game was refereed, but the exchange I had with the ref.
His name was Teddy Valentine.
Last night when I realized one of the refs for the Ohio State-Georgetown game was Teddy Valentine, I knew any opportunity to watch a real college basketball game was out of the question. In one of the worst refereed games I have ever witnessed the Buckeyes defeated the Hoyas, 67-60.
Before I go further, I want to admit up front that I am an unabashed Georgetown fan; I have my reasons. Despite my liking a certain team or player, I can put that aside when reporting a game or detailing the actions or transgressions of an athlete – think Adam “Pacman” Jones. However, this game was statistically anomalous. It was cheapened and rendered meaningless – a near impossibility for a Final Four game – by the referee crew of chief Valentine, Dick Cartmell, and Mike Kitts. And it was Valentine who was the ringleader.
Valentine put him and his crew in the perfect position to be discussed as much as the game itself. Let me explain why.
Read these statistics and tell me who won the game: “Team A” connected on 25 of its 51 shots, 49% from the field, including a horrific 1-10 performance by one of its best three-point shooters. “Team B” made 43.9% of its field goal attempts; 25-57. Team A had 17 assists on those 25 made field goals compared with only 13 for Team B. Team A shot 7-21 from three-point range, while Team B shot 4-14 from behind the arc.
Who won the game, Team A or Team B? Well, by those statistics, Team A wins 57-54. Oh, I forgot, Team A attempted only eight free throws, making three, while Teams B attempted 18 free throws, connecting on 13.
Uh-oh, Team B now wins 67-60.
Eight free throws? Eight? Really, eight?! Ohio State committed 10 fouls the entire game – T-E-N! If you told me that a college basketball team committed 10 fouls in a game, I’d tell you you’re a liar. But the Buckeyes did – five fouls per half. Four of those 10 fouls belonged to center Greg Oden. Because of phantom calls on Oden (and boy did Valentine and crew blow four actual fouls by Oden, not to mention a bunny-hop before a reverse layin at a key moment in the second half), OSU was forced to use four guards on the floor for 30 minutes of the game. So, I’m supposed to believe that a four-guards on the floor team only commits a total of six fouls the entire game against a big, athletic opponent.
If you believe that’s the truth, I have some excellent waterfront “lowland property” for ya in Florida – real cheap!
To help put this anomaly into perspective, let’s look at the UCLA-Florida game. The smallish Bruins attempted only 13 free throws, while the taller, athletic Gators attempted 31 FTs. Even with only 13 FT attempts, Florida still committed 17 fouls; UCLA committed 26. The 43 total fouls are also representative of a cleanly-played college game.
Yet in the case of Georgetown-OSU, the opposite was true and the smallish Buckeye got away with – repeated assaults, mini-muggings. Back cut? Not when your opponent has a fistful of your jersey. slide through the zone to establish high post position? Not when your opponent makes you run through a gauntlet of forearms and hip-checks. Why use your quickness to out-rebound your taller, stronger opponent 36-29, 19-to-nine offensive boards when a well-placed nudge in the back will do? And 25 total fouls? That is an unheard of statistic.
I don’t want to hear about Thad Motta’ genius in alternating between zone and man-to-man defenses. Georgetown faced that throughout Big East conference play and through the NCAA tournament. I don’t want to hear how the Buckeyes were comfortable playing without Oden because they had to play the first seven games of the season without him. OSU sure faced some gut-check situations playing against the likes of Youngstown State, Kent State, and Eastern Kentucky. The seventh and final game without Oden was against North Carolina and OSU predictably lost that game, 98-89; that’s with shooting a ridiculously hot 13-26 from three-point range.
So, yeah I’ll repeat, I’m a Georgetown fan. So, you can call it sour grapes if you want. I call the Georgetown-Ohio State Final Four game a belated Valentine’s Day special.
For more of David’s writing make sure you check out his blog Sports On My Mind.