Brad Stevens beat Tom Izzo in the Final Four last season. And in doing so, he apparently stole Izzo’s tournament powers.
After sneaking by Old Dominion on a last second layup from Matt Howard when a loose ball found its way into his hands, No.8-seed Butler knocked off Southeast top seed Pitt 71-70 thanks to an ill-advised foul by Pitt’s Nasir Robinson.
But it wasn’t that cut and dry.
After an incredibly entertaining, back-and-forth game for the first 39 minutes and 52.9 seconds, Shawn Vanzant found Andrew Smith for what appeared to be a game-winning layup with 2.2 seconds left on the clock. Down 69-68, Pitt didn’t have a timeout left. On the ensuing inbounds, Ashton Gibbs tried to lead Gilbert Brown up the sideline.
But Shelvin Mack, trying to steal the pass, ran into Brown and was (rightfully) called for a foul, putting Brown on the line for two free throws with 1.4 seconds left. Brown hit the first and missed the second and it looked like we were headed for overtime.
But Nasir Robinson, in an effort to get the offensive rebound, was (again, rightfully) called for a foul against Matt Howard. Howard went to the line with 0.8 seconds left, hit the first and missed the second, and the Bulldogs won 71-70. If the end of the game wasn’t crazy enough, Brad Wanamaker’s 3/4 prayer (which was late) hit the back of the rim.
Obviously, the question coming out of this game will be whether or not those were fouls.
Well, yes. They should have.
Shelvin Mack cut off Brown and bumped him when Brown still had a chance to get off a game winning shot. It was a foul, and it was a foul that, had it not been called, would have cost Brown a decent look at a game winning shot. The whistle had to be blown.
The foul called on Nasir Robinson is a bit more questionable. Yes, he fouled Howard. That much is not debatable. But Howard wasn’t going anywhere. He was 90 feet from the basket. There was 1.6 seconds left. He was not making a shot to win. I’m not going to rip an official for calling a foul when there is a foul, but I will say that I would have loved to see an overtime.
The blame has to fall on Robinson’s shoulders. Not the ref’s.
“I’ve been playing basketball my whole life and I know I shouldn’t have done that. It was a stupid play,” Robinson said. “It wasn’t the ref’s fault. It was my fault.”
“I take the blame, man. I take the blame for the loss.”This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Arguing about whether a call should have been made or not is pointless.
And the team that everyone wrote off at least twice this season, the team that is coming off of a trip to the national title game, is headed to the Sweet 16.