Since it’s relevant to SU’s game Thursday against St. John’s, I feel obligated to talk about the horrendous officiating mistakes that took place Wednesday afternoon in the second round between St. John’s and Rutgers. Yes, it was beyond stupid for Justin Brownlee to carry the ball out of bounds with time left, and even farther beyond stupid for him to chuck it in the air, but the blame here goes squarely on the referees, and not surprisingly, it was Jim Burr right in the middle of it all. He made a b-line for the tunnel as soon as the game ended, but not quick enough to elude ESPN’s camera crew and a flurry of deserved criticism and frustration.
I’m very interested to see if and how this crew is reprimanded. As followers of the game, we’re very familiar with Burr’s misadventures. Even the best referees make mistakes, but Bur’s loss of control could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. If a mistake is obscenely blatant, and takes place on a huge stage like the Big East Tournament, there’s no choice but for the NCAA to address the way it farms out work to game officials. Ideally, the workload of referees, who work on freelance bases, would be reduced to a few games a week. On the flip side, we would see some greener referees brought in who may not be much better, but I don’t see many realistic solutions that would do. So far, the NCAA has acknowledged that a mistake was made, but officiating manager John Adams implied that any action taken wouldn’t affect Burr’s status for the rest of the conference tournament. In my heart, though, I’m just glad that if a watershed moment in the NCAA’s management of referees took place yesterday, it wasn’t at the expense of the Orange.
In any case, St. John’s will be SU’s opponent Thursday afternoon in the Garden, where the Johnnies will hope to avenge a January loss to the Orange. As it did in January, the key for SU on defense will be stopping Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee, who went a combined 9-28 from the floor at MSG against the ‘Cuse. For SU, though, a couple things have changed. Brandon Triche has averaged 14.6 points in his last six games, and Scoop Jardine is averaging 17 points per contest with 21 assists against just six turnovers in his last three. One of the adages of tournament success is for a team to have efficient (if not dynamic) guard play, and we’re starting to see just that from Scoop.
At this point, just about all that’s missing is Kris Joseph realizing the vision that so many fans have of him as a gamebreaking swingman who can score from anywhere. It looked like he had turned a corner in February, only to drop off in the team’s last three games. His descent in scoring production (22 points in his last three contests) leads one to believe that he may be the only ‘Cuse player adversely affected by the scheduling nuance that gave the Orange 12 days in which to play its final three games of the regular season.
While Wednesday afternoon’s officiating mistakes left me grimacing and wanting to throw things, March basketball is March basketball, and we should be in for a great game on Wednesday.