Tuesday, January 09, 2007

UW-Whitewater vs. UW-River Falls (Oh, And My Wisconsin-Ohio State Prediction, Too)

Before I get to that my description of the bizarre end to regulation of the Whitewater-River Falls game from this past weekend, I feel it necessary to give my official prediction for tonight’s epic Wisconsin-Ohio State showdown. As I’ve shown in the past, I’m horrific at game predictions. That’s why I usually stay away from doing them. Some of you may remember two years ago when UW-Milwaukee was playing Illinois in the NCAA tournament and Illinois won by the exact amount (14 pts.) that I said they wouldn’t. Nonetheless, I’m feeling compelled to offer my brief opinions on tonight’s Ohio State-Wisconsin game. While I will be as excited as everyone else out there to watch Wisconsin throw an endless supply of bodies at Greg Oden, guard play is what I’m even more interested in. While I think that sheer depth will carry Wisconsin inside, what I’m worried about is both sheer depth and sheer talent carrying Ohio State outside. So I’ll spend the evening hoping that the fundamentally sound Michael Flowers and the intermittently excellent Kammron Taylor can keep up with Ohio State’s gigantic stable of guards. I’m thinking that experience will carry the day on both parts of the floor, and I’ll say it will be Wisconsin 76, Ohio State 71. (And yes, I’m aware that I just made a game prediction without even referencing Alando Tucker, frontrunner for Big Ten player of the year honors. He’ll have a big game, even if I’m still incapable of figuring out what his position is.). I hate the potential emotional effects of incorrectly predicting a win for my own team, but I just feel good about this one. Whatever happens, I reserve the right to make fun of Greg Oden’s neck beard tomorrow.

On to my day in Whitewater:

As I alluded to yesterday, I found myself in Whitewater on Saturday afternoon taking in the UW-Whitewater vs. UW-River Falls game. It was my first division three game of the year, and I’m happy to say that I got my full $6 worth of excitement. Rather than recap the entire game, I’d like to just describe the surreal moments that took place at the end of regulation. Here’s what I saw:

With the game tied 69-69, and the clock running down to the final seconds, Whitewater had the ball and was working for a final shot. As the were running their final play, River Falls managed a surprising steal, and one of the Falcon players streaked down the floor to lay the ball, leaving .4 seconds on the clock as the ball dropped through the hoop. The River Falls bench went wild, celebrating as if they had won the game (with the exception of one of the smallest guards on the bench, who spent all his energy holding back as many teammates as possible from jumping onto the floor). For all intents and purposes, they had won the game, since it’s nearly impossible to go the length of the floor and get off any reasonable sort of shot in .4 seconds. Nonetheless, Whitewater called timeout to set up a play.

At this point, a lot of things became less clear to me, as I commented to my friend Beau that it looked like we were going to miss out on getting 5 more minutes of basketball free of charge, and we began paying less attention and talking about other things. Eventually, the players all returned to the floor and got set. A ref handed the ball to the inbounder for Whitewater. He looked to find someone down the floor to throw the ball to, but had no immediate luck. Eventually, one of the refs held up his hand and stopped play. I immediately thought that we were about to see the fastest five-second call ever. But no call was made. Instead, the River Falls head coach began loudly noting to the refs "We did not have 6 guys on the floor!" He was forceful in repeatedly telling the refs this, but by no means out of control. The Whitewater coach protested to the refs, and though I could not hear him, it would have to be assumed that he was arguing that River Falls did have 6 players on the floor.

A technical foul was then called on River Falls. To this moment, I can’t tell you why. I’m not sure if River Falls brought 6 players out for the inbounds play, because the number of players on the floor is not something that I typically pay much attention to. After all, there aren’t a lot of teams that are bold enough to try and sneak six out there. Part of me is thinking that the call relates back to when River Falls’ bench exploded onto the floor in the aftermath of the go-ahead layup, but frankly, everything’s fuzzy enough in my head that I’m not 100% positive that players were running onto the floor until after the timeout was called. And even if this was the reason for the call, the refs almost certainly would have caught this issue before the end of the subsequent timeout. Whatever happened, somehow River Falls must have screwed up, and the refs dramatically waited until the last possible moment to call them on it.

After the technical foul was called, Whitewater predictably converted its two free throws, and sent the game to overtime, where the Warhawks made a victory out of what seemed just minutes earlier to be a sure loss. It was undoubtedly the most interesting end to a game that I’ve seen this year, as well as the most frustrating, since I still don’t understand what went on.

Oh, and I should finally point out that my curiosity over what happened led me to the Journal Sentinel’s WIAC roundup the next day, where I read this blurb, which shed almost no light on the subject, and almost seemed to be written by someone at another game. Such is the case, I suppose, when you only have a paragraph in which to describe something so crazy. I guess it does sort of buttress my theory that the technical foul was called as a result of the post go-ahead lay-up celebration. But I come back to my confusion over why the refs wouldn’t have called that violation much, much earlier. I guess this one’s just destined to be a mystery to me.

Here's hoping for a big Badger win tonight. I'll be at my local tavern staking out seats as soon as I can.


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