NCAA Tournament: Shaky Television Coverage, Officiating Cloud First Weekend

Ian ZymarakisSenior Analyst IMarch 22, 2008

First things first. Before I get to the referee situation, I want to talk about how CBS schedules these games.

Does anybody really want to watch Kansas vs. Portland St?

Especially when Kansas is up by 20, 10 minutes into the game?

I know I don’t.

Yet CBS makes us sit there watching the little ticker at the top left of games that are much closer as we wait anxiously for when it releases us from a brutal game to a game that is extremely close and exciting.

Sure, they have March Madness on Demand online and if you have digital cable, you get all the extra CBS stations to see the different games.

But what happens for those of us who didn't signup for the VIP pass for MMOD, or for those of us who just have basic cable?

We are just left sitting there, waiting anxiously for when they cut us loose from a blowout and send us happily to a close game.

I hope CBS can figure out a better situation for this problem when it happens next year, because it will, and I don't want to be stuck there watching a No. 1 seed vs. No. 16 for the entire game.

Now onto the zebras.

While I have enjoyed March Madness thus far and my bracket is not in shambles and the games have been more exciting than in recent years, I can't help but realize how almost all the refs involved in every game seem to take control of the game as if they are trying to win.

An example is the first round game between USC and Kansas State. What was supposed to be a battle between two of the nations top freshmen going at it turned into which star could stay away from the bench because of foul trouble.

It wasn't long until Michael Beasley picked up his second foul less then 10 minutes into the game and was forced to the bench.

Now, a foul is a foul, but the fouls the refs have been calling have been ticky-tack hand checks that never get called during the regular season.

What good does it do for a nation that is interested in seeing two players (Mayo and Beasley) that might not be on ESPN consistently all year to call fouls on them or any of the other star freshmen on both of those teams?

After that foul-fest of a game ended, I thought I would be able to enjoy the next few games of great basketball on Friday.

Boy was I wrong.

One of the early games on Thursday between Kentucky and Marquette saw 46 combined free throws, and that was only the beginning.

Now that may not be high to some, but when we are watching these games because of how fast-paced they are compared to the NBA, fans, do not want to hear the whistle blow 50-plus times a game for various fouls that really aren't fouls at all.

Some notable combined free throw totals for some of the games from the first round of the tournament alone include: 52 in the Nova-Clemson game, 57 in the Western Kentucky-Drake game, including 38 attempts alone for Drake.

I know that game went to OT, but 57 free throws? Let them play already.

Arkansas shot 33 free throws alone in its game against Indiana.

In the game that saw Memphis blowout UT Arlington, 56 combined free throws were taken.

The referees have a tough job, but they only make it tougher when they are always blowing the whistle and stopping the game.

It's bad enough to have a stoppage in play because of commercial breaks and what-not, but please zebras, I beg of you, let us watch fast-paced, non-stopped basketball without having to hear you blow your whistles because some defender placed three fingers on a guy instead of the allowed two.

I hope the NCAA will somehow be able to keep the zebras in their cages without having them break out in the later rounds.

Do the right thing refs: Stop the free throw madness. For all of our sakes.