J.P. Giglio at ACC Now notes the officiating in the Duke-FSU game.
Karl Hess, Bernard Clinton and J.D. Collins worked Tuesday's game. Wait, J.D. who? Collins hadn't worked a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium all season until Tuesday and only one Duke game (and one FSU game) before that.
It's March, why are officials unfamiliar with the league — even veteran ones from other leagues, the Big Ten in Collins' case — being used in such a big game?
"We've had Collins," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. "He's one of the better officials in the country."
Collins did work Duke's game at Georgia Tech on Jan. 14 and more recently Florida State's win at Virginia Tech on Feb. 21 but he hasn't been part of the regular rotation of officials the ACC has used.
In theory, it shouldn't matter if an official has worked an ACC game or a Southland Conference game, if he's good, he's good. But in execution, familiarity has its benefits, namely consistency and the management of expectations of both the players and coaches.
Look, I know you can't talk about the refs and Duke without 97 percent of ACC fans going ballistic (search YouTube for "Elliot Williams and travel" or "Jon Scheyer and travel"), but Tuesday wasn't about Coach K "working" anyone. Rather it was about establishing control of the game.
In the first 12 minutes of the game, they called every little ounce of contact. Which is OK (boring but OK) but there was no consistency to the calls. On one end, it was an offensive clear-out, and then on the other end, the officials would turn-around and call the same foul on the same type of contact on the defender.
If you're going to be bad, be consistently bad. Inconsistency leads to "make-up" calls, and there were several by Hess, the senior official, trying to compensate for Collins and Clinton.
By the second half, the game turned into a wrestling match. Instead of every touch foul, the whistles were buried on every drive to the basket, at least until Solomon Alabi's technical with 6:36 left.
Collins, who had tee'd up FSU's bench in the first half, popped off another tech for Alabi after a dunk over Kyle Singler. Without the benefit of replay — but watching in real-time (like the official) — it looked like Alabi followed through on his dunk and came down on Singler.
As one reader put it, Alabi dropped a "double ax handle" on Singler, if you watch the replay. That might be but my problem with the tech is Collins didn't watch the replay either. There was contact, to be sure, but not malicious intentional contact (or taunting) that warranted a technical at that juncture in the game.
Alabi went to the bench with his fourth foul, with FSU up 64-63, and he took FSU's chances of winning with him. An official familiar with the league, like Hess (who was standing on the court, too) or Jamie Luckie or Roger Ayers, likely wouldn't have made the same call as Collins.
It's tough enough to officiate at Duke and divorce yourself from the emotion of the crowd and the specter of Krzyzewski. FSU — and Duke — deserved a referee familiar with that environment. The ACC should have known better.
In terms of the familiarity issue I wonder how this is different than playing in the NCAA Tournament? There will be games in the Big Dance where a team will see a an official they have not seen before, that is part of the deal. I think where Giglio is going here is that at least for conference play it would be nice if you dealt with familiar officials so in that respect the conference games for everyone are being played with generally the same crew. Introducing a new official into the mix had an impact in this case. Both FSU technical fouls came from J.D. Collins. The one on the Solomon Alabi dunk was probably 50-50 but the technical on Leonard Hamilton seemed odd.
Giglio also hits an a very important point and that is consistency. Officials seem to shift the way they call a game from one half to the next. That is how this one was called. As Giglio points out, the first half was a touch foul extravaganza and the 2nd half a "wrestling match." Both teams will have difficulty adjusting their play if they have no clue what the referees will call. I can deal with a flat-out missed call better than I can the officials changing the style of the game midstream.
For all the "point of emphasis" edicts we see handed down from Indianapolis to curtail all the things the NCAA has decided is bad for the game. Some of them are a joke and some of them might have merit. Personally I would love to see one issues that simply says: Be consistent.