Abominable refereeing can't spoil what will go down as one of the most entertaining national championships in quite some time.
Louisville vs. Michigan had everything.
It had not one, but two cult-heroes, this-is-what-kids-dream-of-in-their-backyard, hey-if-these-guys-can-do-it-so-can-I moments from Spike Albrecht and Luke Hancock, better known as the next All-Star team in NBA Jam.
It had Chane Behanan out McGary-ing Mitch McGary. It had Gorgui Dieng jumpers, beautiful passes and sky hooks.
It had a Tim Hardaway Jr. one-handed, arena-shaking slam.
It had Trey Burke playing like he was the best player in college basketball.
It had two alley-oops involving electric Louisville point guard Peyton Siva—one where he was the alley (and Montrezl Harrell was the "holy-expletive" oop) and one where he was the oop.
It had hot shooting. It had points. It had a fast tempo. It had the inspirational, movie-quality story from Kevin Ware. It had every single ingredient necessary to cook up the college basketball game of your dreams.
Unfortunately, it also had horrendous calls from the so-called best referees in the business.
The play that will stand out in everyone's mind as the coup de grace is Burke's "foul" on Siva late in the second half, which completely reversed the momentum at the time:
But the calls were terrible throughout.
In the first half, Mitch McGary stuck his leg out and clearly did his best Pele impression by booting the ball. No call. There were countless scrums for the ball underneath the hoop where a case could have been made for a travel, jump ball or foul—or all three. No call. Refs swallowed their whistles when they shouldn't have, called it too tight in the wrong situations and had trouble staying consistent throughout the game.
Do you think the referees ruined the game?
Believe me, refereeing isn't easy. I had to cry myself to sleep at night after umpiring intramural softball games in college, and I'm not usually one to criticize the zebras and complain about a game going a certain way because of them.
But during the sport's biggest game, where die-hard fans and casual onlookers who will only watch one game all season are both intently zeroed in, the referees simply have to be better.
It's not good for the state of college hoops to have the referees struggling so much on a national stage.
But while improvement is needed on that front, no one will remember the refereeing in five years. No one will remember Trey Burke's block.
All they will remember is the national championship of a lifetime.