Much has been made of Bob Huggins’ ejection on Saturday evening, as West Virginia blew yet another double-digit lead at Phog Allen Fieldhouse as Kansas picked up a critical, 77-69 win.
The ejection was hilarious, and everything that I want to remember Huggy Bear by: Cussing out all three refs as he earns his second technical and an ejection while needing to hold up his pants with his hands:
Huggs is a national treasure.
The more interesting conversation, however, centered around why Huggins was tossed. Kansas shot 35 free throws on Saturday. West Virginia shot just two, which is an absolutely staggering number.
And I thought this was deserving of further scrutiny.
Let’s start with the obvious: West Virginia fouls a lot, enough that it’s not an exaggeration to say that a foul could probably be called on every possession. Part of the strategy of playing the way that Press Virginia does is that they are betting that officials are not going to call a foul on every possession, because they won’t. West Virginia is also a jump-shooting team this season, as nearly 40 percent of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. Their free throw rate both offensively and defensively is dead last in the Big 12.
Put another way, the Mountaineers are always going to be outshot from the free throw line.
Then you have to combine that with the Kansas stats. The Jayhawks are second in the Big 12 on offensive free throw rate and third in defensive free throw rate. Throw in the home court advantage that comes with playing in the Phog, and the safest bet in the world would have been Kansas outshooting West Virginia from the charity stripe.
It also needs to be noted that the 35-2 advantage was 27-2 before West Virginia started fouling intentionally and before Kansas went to the line for those two late Huggins’ technical fouls.
But that didn’t stop Huggins from going off in the press conference after the game:
“We blew the game last year,” Huggins said. “We should have won the game. We had the game. They did a great job, they made shots, we threw it around, we missed free throws, we did everything humanly possible to lose the game. That was us.”
“I’ve been doing this 40 years. I don’t I’ve ever been in a game where we shot two free throws. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity 35-2. I’ve never been in a game like that.”
But perhaps his most telling line was this, when asked what his message to his team was:
“It wasn’t their fault.”
It’s pretty clear that Huggins believed his team was hosed on the road.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
West Virginia is normally going to shoot fewer free throws than their opponents. Kansas is normally going to shoot more free throws that their opponents. Studies have proven that home environments in college basketball have an impact referee decisions as much as any sport in the world, including English soccer. That’s part of having a home court advantage, and it’s part of the advantage of having a rowdy, raucous and loud crowd. It’s why places like Phog Allen, and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Koch Arena, and the McKale Center, and anywhere else with a big and loud fan base.
But 35-2 is 35-2, and it will take quite a bit of video evidence to proof to me that Kansas did not get a significant benefit from playing in front of their home crowd on Saturday night.
So did the referees cost West Virginia the game?
Debatable. I’d argue that Jevon Carter missing some shots and Daxter Miles’ insistence on passing up open threes to try and pass the ball to players going for a rebound played a pretty big role, as did the fact that Kansas is a really good team that made some big shots down the stretch.
But the whistles played some kind of a role.
Just like they always do in the Phog.
College Basketball AP Poll: Virginia, Michigan State, Villanova top the Top 25
Here’s the funny part to me: This game wasn’t played at Cincinnati. It wasn’t played at Wichita State. It was played at Northern Kentucky, where the Bearcats are playing their home games while they wait for the renovations on their arena to be completed.
Which means that some poor NKU employee that had nothing to do with either of these two programs had to spend the time cleaning up this mess.
CBT Podcast: Monday Overreactions: Villanova-Xavier, the Big 12 is drunk, the best in the Big Ten is … ?
Rob Dauster was joined by Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic on today’s show to overreact to everything that happened this weekend, from Villanova pasting Xavier to the insanity that is the Big 12 to what happened in the Big Ten in the last ten days. We also spend a good 30 minutes talking about bubble teams, tournament resumes and some misconceptions with both. The rundown.
OPEN: Bubble Banter. We talk about weird bubble teams and whether or not we like the new Quadrant system.
36:08: Villanova’s win over Xavier and the Big East title race.
The Cougars have now won five straight games, but it was the two games they won this week that set the tone for what the rest of their season can be.
On Thursday night, Cincinnati came to down and Houston dropped them, 67-62, despite digging a double-digit hole in the first half. They followed that up by going into North Philadelphia and poleaxing Temple. They were up 34-11 midway through the first half. They won by 21 points. It was never a question.
And as a result, Houston’s bid to the NCAA tournament is no longer a question so long as they avoid losing to Memphis, East Carolina and UConn. And if they truly are an NCAA tournament team, they’ll get that done.
But perhaps the best piece of news is that the Cougars did all this while Rob Gray did not play well. He’s one of the best players in that conference, and the fact that they were able to right Devin Davis and Corey Davis to wins in two of their most important and toughest games of the league slate is significant.
What happens when Rob Gray gets right?
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
WICHITA STATE: Not only did Wichita State land a come-from-behind win over Temple on Thursday night, one where they trailed by 14 points at halftime, but they followed that up by going to Cincinnati and knocking off the then-No. 5 Bearcats.
MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans moved into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten due in large part to the fact that they were able to erase a 27-point first half deficit at Northwestern.
BAYLOR: The Bears look like they are now heading for the NCAA tournament after landing wins at Texas and at home over Texas Tech on Saturday. Now that Scott Drew’s team is healthy, they look like they belong in the top 25.
ST. BONAVENTURE: The Bonnies might have solidified their bid for the NCAA tournament. As long as they don’t do anything dumb the rest of the season, beating Rhode Island at home on Friday night should be enough for them to get in.
DUKE: The Blue Devils have now won three straight games after losing Marvin Bagley III to a minor knee sprain, mainly because their defense is now playing at a level that we haven’t seen yet this season. Are the Blue Devils better without Marvin Bagley??? (Hint: No.)