Let’s be clear — the Gonzaga Bulldogs had plenty of opportunities to beat the North Carolina for the national title, regardless of the officiating.
Przemek Karnowski was held in check by North Carolina, and he struggled badly, shooting only 1-8 from the field. The Zags missed nine free throws. They failed to take advantage of the horrible shooting from the Tar Heels.
But, to put it kindly, the officiating did them no favors. The refs called an exceedingly tight game, putting both teams in deep foul trouble in the second half, changing the entire direction of the game. Zach Collins couldn’t stay on the court, and fouled out with more than five minutes remaining with a state line of only nine points and seven boards. Karnowski was tagged with four fouls. So was Johnathan Williams.
As a team, Gonzaga was hit with 22 team fouls. North Carolina shot 26 free throws.
But hey, UNC had foul trouble, too. Ticky-tack calls are rough, but they’re part of the game.
However, in this late game possession, with 47 seconds left and the game’s outcome very much in doubt, the refs called a jump ball, giving possession to North Carolina.
Only... look where Meeks is.
Ref staring at Kennedy Meeks blatantly out of bounds. Carolina ball. No biggie. pic.twitter.com/TEPmVqvaXX— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) April 4, 2017
It appears clear that Meeks is out of bounds here, which should have given Gonzaga the ball.
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few was nothing if not classy in the wake of the controversial calls (or lack thereof).
“First of all, those were three of the best officials in the entire country: NBA, college, or anything. I thought they did a great job,” Few said. “This is two heavyweight teams going at it inside playing really, really physical basketball. You still have to officiate the game of basketball, and that's what they did.”
“I had no issue whatsoever. I thought they did a fabulous job. You know, and I'm on the losing end. It's just not an easy game to ref. And we're throwing the ball inside, they're throwing the ball inside, our guards go inside, their guards go inside. So you know, I thought they were great,” Few added.
Is this why Gonzaga lost?
No. But the officials clearly missed this major moment in a game where they impacted the game substantially. And that makes this loss sting a little bit more.