He’s a kid whose entire legacy is built on the fact that he’s a “winner” that played like garbage down the stretch — two turnovers, 2-5 free throws including two missed front-ends — only to redeem himself by hitting a game-winning three with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. And after hitting the three, he doesn’t run around screaming like a maniac. He holds his pose until the shot goes down, and then he tries to get his team prepared to play defense until a timeout is called.
Even if you hate Aaron Craft — and there are plenty of people that do — you have to, at the very least, respect what he did on Sunday afternoon.
But here’s the thing: it never should have gotten to that point.
Because the winner got a call that winners get.
With 1:15 left on the clock and iowa State up 75-74, Craft slid over on defense and drew a charge on Will Clyburn. It will look like a great play in the scorebook, but it wasn’t. Craft was late and slid under Clyburn while he was in the air. It should have been a block and an and-1. Clyburn should have had a chance to put the Cyclones up 78-74, in a great position to close out a game in which they used a thrilling, 13-0 run in a 2:11 span late in the second half to tie the game at 69.
Instead, arguably the most entertaining team in the tournament is heading home with a 78-75 loss to the Buckeyes.
This may be the most notable blown charge call in this year’s tournament, but it certainly isn’t the first. It’s an epidemic, really. Referees, who are now forced to focus on when a defender has their feet and whether or not they are outside the charge circle, are missing more and more calls under the basket. The Flagrant 1 elbow rule needs to be the first thing addressed by the rules committee this offseason, as that’s easily the worst rule in college basketball. But the referees need to get together and figure out how to start calling charges and blocks correctly.
Because it just cost Iowa State a berth in the Sweet 16.
Now, here’s the interesting question for the Cyclones: how long does Fred Hoiberg hang around?
He’s an Ames native and an Iowa State graduate. His nickname is ‘The Mayor’, and that refers to his time in the city he’s currently coaching in. But he’s losing five seniors and arguably his four best players this offseason. How set is he on remaining the Cyclone head coach?
Because I can think of a couple Pac-12 schools that would be interested in a guy that turned Iowa State into a relevant program this quickly. Hoiberg’s no a west coast guy, but he is a good talent evaluator and there are recruiters on his staff with west coast ties.
Just another name to toss into the rumor mill.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.