We want March Madness games to come down to the buzzer because of great plays, not because the refs decided to take over. Arkansas’s 77–71 victory over Seton Hall on Friday was a well-played, back-and-forth contest that was close for almost the entire game, but all anyone is going to talk about is the final minute.
With Seton Hall down 72–71 with 18 seconds left, Pirates forward Angel Delgado was trying to wrap up Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford to send him to the line, but Barford had a step on him and Desi Rodriguez ended up pushing Barford to the ground. By the letter of the law, it might have been a flagrant foul, but why would you make that call at that point in the game when there was clearly no intention to harm anyone? The flagrant-1 ruling effectively ended the contest, because Arkansas was able to make both free throws, get the ball back, and then go to the line again, taking the lead from one point to four and making it a two-possession game.
That isn’t the only play that Seton Hall fans are going to be mad at the refs about, as they called Khadeen Carrington for traveling when Arkansas trapped him on a pick-and-roll with 24 seconds left in the game. Once again, it was a perfectly justifiable call, as Carrington did shuffle his feet, but it’s not one that a ref would ever make in the NBA. A guy would have to pick up the ball and jog up the court for NBA refs to call traveling in the final seconds.
There’s going to be a lot for Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and his team to think about over the next six months. Arkansas got the lead with one minute left on yet another Carrington turnover, which they turned into a fast-break layup by Barford the other way. The Pirates also had 21 offensive rebounds on Friday, but they weren’t able to convert enough into second-chance points because they missed a bunch of shots at the rim. As a result, the school is still searching for its first NCAA tournament win in 13 years. In a game this close, there are a hundred different things you can point to that made the difference. It’s just hard to point the finger at yourself when you are at the wrong end of a controversial call at the end.