However, it was such a big story, that I wanted to expand on my thoughts a little bit, and walk through why I feel what I feel. First off, in case you somehow missed it, here is the video:
This the angle I been waiting for. 😂😂😂 smh. pic.twitter.com/GwT5509BUS
— Neal Nieves (@NealNieves) March 14, 2015
According to what I have heard, the official explanation given to NAU is that no technical foul was called because there was no interference on the play.
It is my opinion, which has been strengthened after talking to Big Sky coaches, and hearing from all types of people associated with college basketball (there was widespread commentary even from national media after the game), that a technical foul not only should have been called, but needed to be called in that situation.
1) If NAU had thrown the ball in immediately after the basket, especially toward that direction of the court, then presumably that would have necessitated that there was proper interference for a technical foul to be called. Because they didn't, the refs claim there was no interference. But what if NAU didn't throw the ball in precisely BECAUSE there was a guy in street clothes on the court with time on the clock? If you saw that, would you throw the ball in, or would you wait for things to clear? To claim there is no interference appears to be awfully arbitrary.
2) After the Gregory basket, the refs stopped the game (no timeout was called according to the play by play), presumably both to check the clock, and check the replay of the guy running onto the court. If they stopped the game even in part to look at that, that's interference right there.
3) It appears that Edmonds was noted by NAU players, and could have added to some confusion from that side, which would constitute interference. If you watch the video, it appears the player in bounding the ball looked that direction first... Did he turn away because a guy in street clothes is on the court?
4) As noted in the comments here, it is also a major player safety issue. I don't think Edmonds scoped the scene out before rushing and diving back to the bench. If a player was in the way, that's a serious knee injury waiting to happen. Not calling a technical is one heck of a precedent to set.
5) Let's take it out of context... let's say there's an NCAA Tournament game, and the ball is on one side of the court. Let's then say that on the opposite bench, someone saunters halfway on the court and does something on the opposite end of the court (it could be anything: dance, bounce a ball, try to rile up the crowd), but he gets back to the bench before the game changes ends. In theory, he has not interfered with the play, but do you think that's going to stop the refs from giving him a technical foul?
An absurd example, maybe, but under the explanation given, how do you call something like that a technical but say this isn't a technical foul?
Now, it is important to note that the non-call did not necessarily win or lose the game. Even if a technical foul is called, Montana is still likely going to win. NAU would have sent Kris Yanku to the line, an 80% FT shooter. That would make it a 65% chance he makes both free throws, which would have sent the game to OT. Let's say NAU had a 35% chance of winning the OT, being on the road - that means that if a technical foul was called, there's still only a 22% chance to win. In most scenarios, Montana still advances. But the fact that we didn't get to find out what would have happened is, frankly, embarrassing.
I understand that nobody wants to see something like that happen - a game shouldn't be decided in part because a player on the bench had an emotional reaction to a great play. Everyone hates when that helps decide games. But you can't just choose when to selectively enforce the rules.
In the days that followed, the Big Sky has issued announcements to say they were looking into the postgame scuffle (which, curiously, referred to the Montana head coach as "Travis" and NAU coach Jack Murphy as "the head coach at Northern Arizona," but that's another issue for another time), a statement to say they suspended Coach Murphy for one game, and a statement to acknowledge a clock error in the Women's Tournament, but nothing on this incident as far as I can tell. (EDIT: According to this article from the Arizona Daily Sun, the Big Sky affirmed the call as being correct. Consider me unconvinced that there was no interference, as per the rest of my article).
Having written about the league for four years, I can tell you that perception among fans exists that schools like Montana and Weber State get the most favorable calls in the league, to the point that it's not uncommon to hear suggestions that the league is rooting for and doing what they can to give Montana a better chance to win. Let me be clear, I personally do not believe that is the case. But things like this certainly won't help to change that perception.
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