No, Auburn did not lose because of the refs

Jackson Stone, Staff Writer

On Saturday, Apr. 6, the Auburn Tigers took on the Virginia Cavaliers in the Final Four with a spot in college basketball’s National Championship on the line. In what was a great game, Virginia appeared to take control late, holding a ten point lead with just five minutes remaining. However, spearheaded by incredible shooting from senior guard Bryce Brown, the Tigers stormed back, going on a 14-0 run to take the a four-point lead late.

That’s where things got controversial. Virginia guard Kyle Guy made a contested corner three with around ten seconds left to keep hope alive for the Cavaliers and cut the lead to one. After Auburn point guard Jared Harper split a pair of free throws, Virginia’s Ty Jerome dribbled the ball off of his foot, picked it back up (which is technically a double dribble violation) and was then fouled. Ultimately, the ball found its way back to Guy in the other corner, who shot a three and was fouled with under a second left, giving him three free throws which he made, winning the game for Virginia.

As you might suspect, Auburn fans were not very enthusiastic about the late game officiating. However, when looking at what actually occurred, the final 20-or-so seconds of officiating really was not as unfair as Tigers fans would have you believe. Yes, Ty Jerome did double dribble, but before he lost control of the ball, Auburn guard Bryce Brown clearly grabbed his jersey without getting called for a foul. Had that foul been called, Virginia still would have been able to find Guy in the corner for the final shot.

While there was not much contact on Guy’s final shot, the rules of basketball state very clearly that a jump-shooter must be given space to land, which Auburn defender Samir Doughty did not provide, stepping under Guy as he rose for the shot and clearly affecting Guy’s landing ability. While it may not have looked like much at first glance, any Auburn fan blaming the outcome on this call is simply delusional.

Let’s also not pretend that Auburn hasn’t gotten away with anything controversial of late. In an SEC Tournament game against Florida, three different Auburn defenders hacked Florida’s Andrew Nembhard as he launched what would have been a game-tying three, with no foul called. The win kept Auburn’s SEC Tournament run alive, a tournament they ultimately won.

Auburn’s head coach, Bruce Pearl, has never coached somewhere that he left without a scandal; he has admitted to illegally recruiting among many other violations numerous times throughout his career. It is a bit ironic that fans of a Pearl team are now suddenly concerned about the rules not being followed. Auburn also had two players suspended for all of last year and part of this year. They were not the innocent, feel-good story that many people would like to believe.

So, did Auburn’s Cinderella run really come to an end due solely to the refs? Popular opinion says yes, but a rational look at what actually happened on the court would suggest otherwise. I’m sure, however, that that won’t stop Tigers fans from making the easy referee excuse.