Walk, chalk, Jayhawk?
Third-ranked Kansas got the aid of a favorable whistle – or rather a silent whistle – as Svi Mykhailiuk went coast-to-coast to break a tie game at the buzzer when his layup, which came after three steps without a dribble, gave the Jayhawks a 90-88 win over Kansas State on Tuesday night.
Kansas was expected to waltz to a 13th-straight Big 12 title this season, but Mykhailiuk’s footwork in the final seconds was something else entirely. It was an obvious travel as he took three steps to get from outside the 3-point line to into the paint. Three steps, no doubt. Not allowed.
Certainly, missed calls are going to happen throughout a game, and the final seconds aren’t immune from that fact. Officials blow calls at the end of games all the time. Rarely, though, do they miss something as black and white as Mykhailiuk’s walk.
Allowing players to decide the game by allowing an extra degree of physicality is a mostly accepted part of the game, like it or not. Players get away with that all the time at the end of close games. Rarely do they get away with an extra step as egregious as Myykhailiuk’s. There was no judgement call there. There wasn’t really anything to parse, rather than just counting to three. The whistle needs to sound.
That finish draws an even brighter spotlight because for years rival Big 12 programs have grumbled about the Jayhawks getting an overly-friendly whistle at Allen Fieldhouse. Given that Kansas has won 12 Big 12 titles under Self while losing just five conference games there over that span, it’s definitely not surprising to hear those complaints and find people looking for comfort in conspiracy theories.
The reality is Kansas wins a lot at Allen Fieldhouse because Kansas is almost always the best team on the floor and the best team on the floor almost always wins at home, especially when that venue hosts over 16,000 fans and is generally considered one of the most hostile environments in the country. They get calls at home like everybody gets calls at home. If they get a few more than most, I’m more than willing to attribute that to the fact they’re often the faster, more athletic and aggressive team, which lends itself to getting the whistle to bend your way.
But endings like Tuesday’s aren’t going to quiet any complaints for the rest of the league. Gasoline meet fire, really.
What the ending also does is overshadow the fact that Kansas State put together a fantastic effort against Kansas, at least on offense. They shot 50.8 percent from the floor and had five players score in double figures. The 1.22 points per possession they scored were the most surrendered by the Jayhawks since the 2014-15 season, per Brian Goodman of Rush The Court. That’s incredibly encouraging for a K-State team that hasn’t been particularly potent offensively and certainly didn’t have a win on its resume coming into the game that would suggest they could knock off Kansas in Lawrence.
The conversation, though, will be about those final seconds, that extra step and Kansas once again winning at home.