Refereeing is part science, part art, and always very precise. Often, one athlete’s mass is another’s load. Hacking one team is a “light contact” for the other.
The hope is always that the referees don’t take center stage in the championship game. But in Sunday’s NCAA Women’s Final, the sirens blared nonstop and both Iowa and Louisiana had players in nasty trouble throughout the game, which the Tigers won. Iowa star Kaitlin Clark’s fourth foul came on a technical foul for throwing the ball away, which seemed highly questionable for such a big moment, despite the umpire’s explanation after the game that the Iowa bench had been warned beforehand to delay the game not quickly. Return the ball to the officials.
As Connecticut and San Diego State University made their final adjustments before the men’s tournament Monday night, part of each team’s final poll report will cover, at least for a few minutes, the referees’ inclinations.
Many coaches said during the previous rounds of this tournament, that this is routine for teams. Both UConn and SDSU are two physically strong teams.
“Management is really good at this level,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said before his team stunned top-ranked Alabama. “Only the best players are called games. But with that being said, you have to adjust to the power. We’ll see how it’s called and make any other necessary adjustments.”
UConn head coach Dan Hurley has a checkered history with umpires. He was Publicly scolded by the Big East Conference In February 2022, for his comments following Xavier’s loss. This year, he used profanity while calling referee Jeffrey Anderson a “clown” — and then Anderson appeared as part of the crew that officiated Yukon’s semifinal win over Miami on Saturday.
A week ago, during UConn’s blowout over Gonzaga that sent the Huskies to the Final Four, there was a funny moment in Hurley’s CBS sideline interview after an in-game discussion with referee Keith Kimble. A few minutes later, Hurley said during the interview, “He’s there listening so I can’t say much at the moment. He had a great game.”
Normally, schools don’t learn who is refereeing until game day, which is the case for the Monday Night Championship. The NCAA draws from a group that worked in the semifinals on Saturday and announces the judges an hour before the tip.
Hurley said in Las Vegas last weekend that he’d rather not know who were in charge until game time. He said he allows assistant coaches to handle pre-game mile conversations with players.
“Obviously, you have to adapt how you call the match,” Hurley said.
The last time San Diego State met UConn in the tournament was in 2011 in the Round of 16. Star Kemba Walker scored 36 points in a 74-67 Huskies victory that still left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Kawhi Leonard-led Aztecs. a team.
“I remember Kawhi Leonard getting the only technical foul of his career. It wasn’t fun,” said Dutcher, senior assistant coach Steve Fisher that night, Sunday in Houston. “I remember Jamal Franklin bumping into Kimba as he was walking off the floor and he fell. Kimba is on the floor and Jamal Franklin is fouled.
“Hopefully, we don’t have any technical fouls tomorrow. I’d like to keep our guys on the ground and not give them anything for free.”
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