But Ryan’s frustration fits in with a bubbling sense among those in college basketball that officiating in the NCAA tournament has been less-than-perfect this season. It came up in Boston on Thursday night and it came up in Phoenix, where the three officials working the Michigan State-Louisville game sent Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng to the free throw line for a one-and-one when Chane Behanan had been fouled. After Dieng missed the first free throw, stand-by official Chris Rastatter got the attention of his partners and pointed out the mistake. Because it was a correctable error, Dieng’s miss was wiped out and Behanan went to the line and made both shots.
All of that came a week after Ed Corbett, one of the game’s most respected officials, missed a critical out-of-bounds call in the final minute of Syracuse’s NCAA tournament opener against UNC Asheville, denying the Bulldogs the ball trailing by three.
Has the officiating gotten worse, or has the scrutiny received by officials ratcheted up?
“I think there’s a lot more scrutiny,” former Maryland Coach Gary Williams said in a telephone interview. “But I also think you have a right to expect guys to be at their best during the NCAA tournament. You want the players rested and ready to play, you should expect the same from the officials.”
Which raises a critical point that has been an ongoing issue for years: Are top officials working too much?
Yes, according to John Adams, the NCAA’s supervisor of officials.
“In an ideal world I’d like to see the top guys work no more than 72 games in the regular season,” Adams said Friday. “That would be four games a week for 18 weeks. The problem is the top guys are working between 90 and 100 games a year right now. If you take, say, 20 games away from them when they’re making about $2,000 a game after expenses, that’s about $40,000. Most guys aren’t going to give up $40,000 in income for the chance to work no more than four games, and in most cases less than that, in the NCAA tournament.”
Which might explain why someone like David Hall was working his fifth game in nine days — and his 95th game of the season — on Thursday night. Prior to officiating the Syracuse-Wisconsin game, Hall had gone from Dayton (for the Vermont-Lamar play-in game) to Greensboro (for two early-round NCAA tournament games) to Seattle (for an NIT game Tuesday night) to Boston.