Early in Saturdays Kansas-Texas game, Longhorns point guard Myck Kabongo drove, collided with Ben McLemore and went down near the basket. No foul was called.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
This, as much as any moment in Kansas blowout victory, remained with Texas Coach Rick Barnes.
Its a foul, and it puts him on the bench with two fouls, Barnes said. Its a big call.
Or noncall. I was sitting about 30 feet from Barnes and noticed he made certain all three officials got an earful.
Had Texas gotten that whistle, McLemore perhaps would have sat for the rest of the half and maybe the game flows differently. But even if the Jayhawks rotation had been disrupted, the determination would not have been. KU was so dialed-in, it forced shot-clock violations on successive possessions later in the half.
But Barnes wasnt the only person in Allen Fieldhouse steamed by the action.
Sitting in the ESPN analyst chair for this game was Jay Bilas, one of the games most astute observers, and about a half-hour after the broadcast, Bilas was left shaking his head about college hoops direction. The game is sinking into an unwatchable ugliness.
These are hockey games, and were pretending this is basketball, Bilas said. Any referee that disagrees with me, come to my house and well sit and watch the game. And I can show you foul after foul.
Not being called.
Under the basket scrums, body checks and, things that happen to cutters and drivers they would throw flags on in the NFL arent getting called, Bilas said.
The result is largely defensive-oriented games without flow. Saturday, Texas was held to 15 points in the first half, and the Longhorns rallied for that total with four points in the final 44 seconds. Their 21.8 percent field-goal shooting for the game was the worst by a KU opponent since the 1975-76 season.
Kansas knows something about anemic scoring games and halves, tallying 13 points on three field goals in the first half of the loss at TCU two weeks ago. The Jayhawks 73.3-point scoring average is a shade under last year and headed toward the lowest since 1999. And in McLemore, Kansas has one of the nations most gifted shooters.
College basketball scoring is at its lowest point since the pre-shot clock days of the early 1980s, and other factors are involved. The game has been diminished by the one-and-done rule, where the top talent is 18 years old, takes half a season to develop a college-level skill set, then moves on. The offensive-minded big man has been on the decline for years. You simply dont see as many run outs, and the ability to close out a man-advantage break seems to be a lost art.
But will calling more called fouls help the games flow?
Yes, and teams will defend more by letter of the law.
These players arent as bad as theyre made to look, Bilas said. They look inept because theyre getting fouled. And coaches are teaching it because they know referees wont call it.
Its embarrassing, and its hurting the game.
I dont have foul trends for all teams this season, but the three teams tied for the Big 12 lead Kansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State have been whistled for fewer fouls this year than last: about a half-foul per game less for the Jayhawks, almost two for the Cowboys and about 2½ for the Wildcats. The improved Pokes are scoring more than last year, KU and K-State less.
The games low-scoring, physical nature is an unfortunate storyline in an otherwise compelling year with the return to power of Indiana and excellence of the Big Ten, Miamis rise in the ACC, the struggles of powers like Kentucky and North Carolina. The list of teams that can make a Final Four case seems as long as any in recent years.
But watching some of the games can be dreadful. When bad offense and physical play turn basketball into a sloppy slugfest, and 19-point scoring halves become all too common, and drives to the basket wind up in hard contact and no call, the game suffers.