Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet 16 Match-ups Part Two: The Refs Hold the Key

Another match-up that could be entertaining to watch will be the Villanova Wildcats taking on the Duke Blue Devils. In the second round, Villanova came out and destroyed UCLA by roughly 20 points, while Duke barely survived Texas. The key to Duke's survival was the officiating by the referees of that game.

With all due respect to Coach K, for what he has done over the course of his Hall-of-Fame career, the true reason that his team beat Texas was because of his constant complaining to the officials. I realize that, as a coach, you want your players to be protected. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is point where constantly harassing the officials just takes it too far. Personally, I believe that Duke players are given a good amount of calls because they are Duke players, Coach K is their coach, they have to be good and they have to be right. I have seen moments where officials have made horrible traveling calls in favor of Duke, then on the next trip down the floor I see Kyle Singler pick up his dribble, and it looks like he will play some DDR before then taking a shot. (This is not meant as a knock on Singler, he is one of the two kids on Duke's current roster that I respect). But, had the Texas game been called fairly, I do not believe that Texas big man Dexter Pittman would have picked up some of those cheap fouls, and instead of riding the bench and seeing his Longhorns lose by five, Pittman would have been in the game and led his team to a victory.

Now, entering the Villanova game, I am positive that Coach K will have Villanova's tough play in mind, as he will probably begin harassing the officials before tip-off about calling any form of contact between his players and 'Nova players as a foul. Whether the refs actually listen to Coach K or not will have the greatest influence on the outcome of this basketball game. If Villanova is allowed to play the style of tough, aggressive, Big East basketball that they played against UCLA, then they should have a 10+ point victory. If Coach K gets his way again, and by doing so any 'Nova player diving for a steal is called for a foul, then Duke will win.

You can look at their tempos, their styles of play, their offenses, it all does not matter if the officials call the game Duke's way. Personally, I believe Duke is vastly, and I mean VASTLY overrated this year, and that Villanova is actually the much better team. Duke has a lot of players who can hit an open jumper (Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer for starters), but no real big man. Singler is a small forward who Coach K has playing power forward. Gerald Henderson is an athletic freak, there is no way around that, but I do not believe that he is the superstar that Dick Vitale makes him out to be. As much as I would like to make a prediction for this game, I truly cannot until about five minutes in, when I will have a chance to see how the game is being called.

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