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Referees Will Play a Huge Role As Rutgers Basketball Returns to Big Ten Play

Bad calls, foul discrepancies, and refs influenced by a home crowd are all parts of college basketball. Rutgers will see some of what Seton Hall and St. John’s dealt with last night, but hopefully it can pay off for them this season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs Xavier Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers has seen its share of referee errors.

As a rebuilding team trying to dig their way out of the cellar, the Scarlet Knights have often been on the losing end of a major foul discrepancy. Referees like to favor the home team, and as much as they try to be unbiased, they often favor a team that has been historically good. Much like an umpire will give Aaron Judge the benefit of a ball call on the border of the plate, referees in basketball tend to see better players as ones who will get the calls.

That often leads to a big differences in who earns more fouls and sometimes it can also lead to favorable calls when they shouldn’t be there. Favorable calls have often led to some crazy endings—at the RAC or throughout college hoops.

Whether it was a no call on a charge and a ticky-tack call during a storybook ending at the RAC.

Or the most egregious mistake in college basketball history*:

*Just go with me okay?

There are always going to be situations where the officials help a team out and situations where they burn you.

Now, here’s the tricky part. You’re going to have to hear me out.

It’s part of what makes the game great.

The reason I’m bringing this up right now is because of last night’s St. John’s vs. Seton Hall match-up in the Big East. It was a game where, quite frankly, the Red Storm looked as if they were going to run away with it for most of the battle. The Johnnies were active on defense and making the Pirates extremely uncomfortable. Threes were falling and the Hall spent most of the game down double digits. However, in the last five or six minutes of the game, Seton Hall mounted a furious comeback—at one point even taking the lead. And with 3.9 seconds left, Seton Hall was down one and had a chance to inbound the ball.

Here’s where the referee error comes in to play. On the first inbound attempt, St. John’s active hands got in the way and tipped the ball. As it flew up in the air, the refs assumed it was going out of the bounds and blew the whistle, stopping play.

But here’s the rub, the ball never went out of bounds. St. John’s should have grabbed it and either run out the clock or gotten fouled. But play had stopped. The refs went to the monitor and decided that time had come off the clock, but the ball had gone out of bounds—I think that was the explanation: The refs were kind of hazy on it, like a 3rd grader explaining that no, he didn’t do anything wrong and shouldn’t be in trouble. Seton Hall got the ball back with 3.1 seconds left.

And Shavar Reynolds, Jr., a former walk-on hit a crazy buzzer beating three with a hand in his face. Seton Hall wins.

Now, think about it. We still talk about those two Rutgers games. One in celebration and one in anger. They are legendary. Seton Hall once won a game because the refs didn’t notice a sixth man playing during the game. It came up a lot on social media last night.

There are a ton of other great games at the RAC—a double OT win against Florida is one that springs to mind—where the game is played without interference and it’s a tense win, but they aren’t revered in lore. But the ones where there’s a bit of controversy? We talk about those forever.

That’s the key. Seton Hall fans and St. John’s fans will talk about this forever. Seton Hall fans will revere Reynolds and the Johnnies will hate the refs. The next match-up in the coming weeks will have a ton of hype to it.

Just like Rutgers rematch with St. John’s the following year.

Competition is competition, but sports is also storytelling. Do we want it to be called fairly? Yes, of course. But we also want tension and drama. And a referee messing up in a way that leads to a remarkable ending? That adds to the drama and tension.

On a night where two college football playoff games were played and went exactly as expected with two blowouts, college basketball snuck in an all time game. It had everything—even a controversial call.

That only adds to the sport. Unpredictability makes everything better. Had St. John’s won that game last night, it would have never been talked about again.

Now, like a lot of other games, it goes down into the annals of sports history.

Thank God for a little drama, and a little mess up.

We Rutgers fans know about how that feels all too well. And sometimes it hurts.

So, as Big Ten play is about to begin, strap in Rutgers fans. We all know there will be mix-ups and bad calls. Stuff that makes us fans tear our hair out or give a sly smile when it goes our way. As a rebuilding team, it rarely goes our way—and when it does, allow yourself that small grin.

Yeah, we want to see games decided fairly and by the players on the court. But referees are part of the game. They can’t just put the whistles away and not make calls. They can’t just irresponsibly call a game either. But they make mistakes. You don’t want it to happen every game, but sometimes it helps, sometimes it hurts. But it helps create memories. The human factor can turn a good game into a classic game. Rutgers may see some of that as Big Ten play returns in 2019.

Hopefully, it actually pays off for them this season.