Don't Kill The Mellinger

Five-minute break: On KU’s outlook after the comeback, and the referees

Kansas’ Jamari Traylor let out a roar after slamming home a dunk late in the Jayhawks’ 76-69 overtime win over West Virginia on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas’ Jamari Traylor let out a roar after slamming home a dunk late in the Jayhawks’ 76-69 overtime win over West Virginia on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse. The Kansas City Star

College basketball is about moments, but more than that, it is about moments in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas’ streak of 11 consecutive conference championships is preposterous. No program has a longer streak since UCLA, most of it done with John Wooden.

But by the nature of the streak and the definition of the sport, it is probably under-appreciated — not so much for the difficulty, but the importance.

This is the world Self has chosen.

“We know postseason means more than regular season,” he says.

So completing this impossible comeback will not define this KU season nearly as much as what happens in the NCAA Tournament. And toward that end, I’m not sure beating West Virginia last night changes the look of KU’s season, but perhaps that’s because I’ve been a little higher on this team than what seems like the majority opinion.

They are still a flawed team, with no bankable star, capable of beautiful moments when the wind is right and ugly moments when the wind is against them.

But I do think there could be lasting value, not just in winning the game, but in further establishing what this team has come to think of as its identity: make the big plays, find a way to win, even ugly.

Doesn’t change the bigger picture that this team’s NCAA Tournament success is more dependent on match ups than most, but confidence is such an important thing in college basketball.

After the game, Bob Huggins basically called the referees out, a strong veteran move where he got his point across without saying anything that is likely to draw a fine:

“When you’re standing where I’m standing, sometimes you think things aren’t quite equitable. That’s as nice as I can say it.”

In all sports, I am a hardcore member of “Stop Complaining About The Refs You Wuss.” I always say that whining about officials is the ballad of the loser.

It probably is worth a couple paragraphs here, though. KU was called for 23 fouls last night; West Virginia was called for 31. KU shot 43 free throws; West Virginia shot 28. Consider that KU also shot a much better percentage, and the Jayhawks outscored WVU 34-16 at the free throw line.

That’s a sizable difference, obviously, but it’s also true that West Virginia is one of the fouling-est teams in the country. Only Jackson State puts opponents on the free throw line at a higher rate. This is how West Virginia has chosen to play, it’s part of the strategy, and one benefit is teams like this typically get away with more because referees are hesitant to call everything.

Like any college basketball game, there were missed calls and bad calls. I haven’t seen a replay yet of the last play of regulation to see if that should’ve been a foul, but watching live I thought the biggest mistake from the officials was a no-call on what looked like an obvious push-off by Frank Mason, and then a technical foul on Brandon Watkins for blocking Mason’s shot on the play. The no-call was bad; the technical was weak.

All of that said, it still feels like a cop out to put this on the officials. West Virginia could’ve closed it out on the free throw line and on the floor.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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