Feb 25, 2013; Ames IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Melvin Ejim-Jr (3) drives against Kansas Jayhawks center Jeremiah Kreisberg-JR (50) in the second half at Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State beat Kansas 83-64. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Worst Kept Secret: Kansas Gets Favorable Calls


Monday night’s Kansas-Iowa State game has brought about quite a bit of emotion from college basketball fans and college analysts. Even Stewart Scott gave his two cents during the intro to the KU-ISU highlight package on SportsCenter right after the game. “You’ve gotta call something,” Scott said.

“What you arrogant and ignorant beaker fans don’t ever want to admit to, is that you get the calls when [it] matters. The refs make a bunch of BS calls to even out the fouls, but they GIVE KU ALL the important calls.” – “Think_humanely” comment on Blair Kerkhoff’s “Referees’ calls impacted KU’s victory and Big 12 race

If Ken Pomeroy researched late game fouls and found teams like Kansas received favorable calls late in games nobody – with the noted exception of a certain segment of diehard Kansas fans – would be surprised. This research would be as surprising as finding out Oklahoma and Texas receive preferential treatment from officials in football. This isn’t a Kansas basketball thing or a Big 12 thing but something that crosses all sports at all levels. Cliff Lee gets more calls on the corners than Luke Hochevar. Tom Brady gets more roughing the passer calls than Matt Cassel. LeBron James isn’t allowed to be called for traveling unless he is crab dribbling.

Kansas gets the benefit of the doubt on calls late in games. This is a fact. Or at least as much of a fact as something can be without Nate Silver’s blessing.

But here’s the thing about that fact as it relates to last night: Everyone knows Kansas gets calls. At least everyone should know it, anyway. When Korie Lucious made a three and ISU then followed it up with a defensive stop to give Iowa State the ball and a seven point lead with 4:43 left in the game, two things had to be going through the Cyclones mind at the time: “Holy crap we’re hitting a ton of threes” and “we can’t let this game get close again.” Kansas is a top 10 team that is going to get the benefit of the doubt from officials no matter if they are at home or on the road. Opponents cannot give Kansas a chance to take advantage of their Kansas-ness.

Feb 25, 2013; Ames IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones player Georges Niang (31) “takes a charge” against Kansas Jayhawks guard Elijah Johnson (15) in the second half at Hilton Coliseum. Kansas beat Iowa State 108-96. Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

So what did Iowa State do from the 4:43 point on? ISU went two-for-eight from the field (six three point attempts), were out-rebounded seven-to-two, allowed three offensive rebounds (all by KU guards), and watched KU go five-for-nine from the field and six-of-seven from the line. In short, Iowa State was outscored 18-11 from the 4:43 mark on. The Cyclones let Kansas back into the game by taking quick threes, not rebounding, and playing poor defense.

Iowa State put themselves into a position where an official’s call mattered, and it should never have gotten to that point. Everyone in that building should have known Kansas was going to get a call or two once Jeff Withey inexplicably was not given a fifth foul.

Officiating in college basketball needs to get better, no question, but teams cannot put themselves in a position where the game can be decided by an official. Especially when the opponent is Kansas.

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Tags: Kansas Jayhawks

  • Joe Ross

    The egregious mistake this “article” makes is that it completely ignores the fact that ISU got calls. What about phantom calls on Jeff Withey and Kevin Young. Neither of those guys should have been seated on the pines as early as they were. But the officiating gave them calls. Kansas also suffered bad calls in another close (overtime game)–about ten of them–against Oklahoma State. So please spare me this crap about Kansas getting calls. If you watched all the Kansas games you would know that refs call a lot against Kansas simply because the games are blowouts. The “author” of this crap would have you believing that Kansas has won so many consecutive championships on the backs of referees and not by their own sweat. Dont you believe it. Kansas is better because of better players and better coaching, and occasionally a bad call goes our way. Often it doesn’t, too.

    • http://puckettspond.com/ Wally Fish

      I think you miss the point of the article – read the last paragraph. Ben is in no way saying what you suggest he’s saying.

      KU does get a bounce in foul calls – this is a statistical fact and the guys on 810whb did a study that the Jayhawks actually get more love from the officials on the road than they do at home. I have watched every KU game (live or on DVR) and aside from the latest OSU game – during which I think the refs jobbed the Jayhawks repeatedly – they gotten their share of love.

      The point is that to beat a team like Kansas that has the players, the coach, and yes the credibility that leads to the benefit of the doubt from officials at times you better not let them hang around or be in a game where a single call (questionable or otherwise) can determine whether you win or lose.

      That’s my take anyway.

    • Ben Nielsen

      So your argument is because Jeff Withey and Kevin Young had bad calls against them, it was okay for officials to to assign a foul to the wrong person and to not call a clear charge on the last play of regulation. Got it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/khieber Kimberly Poffinbarger

        No, his point was that all calls, bad or good, made at any point in time during the game, have ramifications. If the aforementioned calls had been made differently, or not made, against Withey/Young earlier in the game, the score/situation may have been different at the point that the blatant, costly no-call was committed at the end, thus possibly ruling this entire uproar pointless.

        • Ben Nielsen

          I agree that all fouls/no-calls have ramifications. But not all good/bad/non-calls are equal.

          According to KenPom, when Withey was charged with his third foul (the phantom charge) KU’s chance of winning decreased from 60 to 50%. When Johnson got away with the charge and then made the free throws after the foul on the rebound ISU’s winning percentage dropped from around 75% (it may have been higher but I’m taking the conservative number) to 40%. The idea that the value of both fouls are equal is not true.

          • jayhwk01

            What does KenPom stats say about ISU shooting 3′s with 25 seconds left on the clock with a 7 pt lead and missing them? ISU’s strategy or lack of it was far more costly than two calls.

          • Ben Nielsen

            I think this line at the end of the post goes to your point: “[B]ut teams cannot put themselves in a position where the game can be decided by an official.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/khieber Kimberly Poffinbarger

        And by the way, I enjoyed your article, and do agree with your point that the team should have played so as to avoid being so close that a costly call could be made that may or may not alter the outcome of regulation.

        • Ben Nielsen

          Thanks, Kimberly.

      • Joe Ross

        Ben, there is a difference between getting MORE calls and getting FAVORABLE calls. A lot of teams come really aggressively at Kansas simply because Kansas is GOOD. They end up overplaying etc., and that leads to more fouls than if teams were playing, say, Texas Tech. So dont give me this crap about more calls being synonymous with favorable calls. You erode your own credibility by NOT posting the article you speak of by kenpom, though you refer to it often. Embed a link!!!! Its not hard to do. Until then you are just a homer trying to torture statistics to get them to confess to what you want them to say. Second, I don’t understand all the misguided statements about calls down the
        stretch being more important. Hey…the buckets scored at the beginning
        of the game STILL COUNT when the clock reaches 00:00.
        Likewise, bad calls called early are still critical calls. There were
        bad calls on Withey early that caused him to play timidly late, and you
        can’t tell me that didn’t affect Iowa State’s ability to score.THIRD, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY. YOU SAY WITHEYS PHANTOM FOUL REDUCED KANSAS’ CHANCE OF WINNING BY 10% BUT THE NOCALL AGAINST JOHNSON REDUCED THE CHANCES BY 25%. TWO ERRORS HERE. FIRST, THAT 25% FIGURE AT THE END OF THE GAME WOULD NOT BE 25% HAD THE CALL AGAINST WITHEY GONE THE RIGHT WAY EARLIER IN THE GAME. SAME WITH PHANTOM FOUL ON KEVIN YOUNG. THAT 25% IS NOT INDEPENDENT OF THE BLOWN CALLS AGAINST KANSAS BEFORE IT OCCURRED.

  • Joel Wagler

    Hate the game not the schools… Every single game has a number of calls go poorly for each team. That its a fact of the game. It was the same when I played 30 years ago and its true now. Cry time is over

  • jayhwk01

    Wally I am not sure what statistical fact you are quoting from 810 but they guy who did the study is Kurtis Seaboldt and it shows exactly the opposite. According to him the past 1.5 years the study has been done has actually shown KU gets FEWER calls than their opponents over the course of this study.

    Now all that said no doubt KU benefited from two really atrocious calls and if I were an ISU fan I would be upset. Here is the deal though. Why did ISU disappear not once but twice in OT sets vs Kansas? Didn’t EJ still had to make the FTs, threes, and drives? Kansas still had to play D and they did. ISU wilted in OT when it mattered. Did you see the body language of the ISU with 3 min left and a 5 pt lead? It was terrible. They were already hanging their heads and looked scared after EJ hit a 3 to cut it to 5. That was way before any of the calls that supposedly decided this game. That attitude is on ISU not the officials. Even with the calls ISU had a chance to run a real play at the end of regulation…they didn’t. Is that on the officials? KU scored 100+. Did officials cause that or was it KUs coaching, talent, skill and Hoiberg’s absolute refusal to teach his teams to play D and rely on outscoring everyone?

    I am a lifelong fan and I have not problem admitting in this game KU benefited huge from two calls. What I cannot accept is KU won BECAUSE of two calls. That is muddled thinking.

    • http://puckettspond.com/ Wally Fish

      That is the study I was referring to but there is a difference between home games and road games. On the road Kansas actually gets more love than their opponents who, as home teams, you’d expect to get the benefit of the doubt. Quoting directly from Seibolt’s published findings and this is exactly what I said in my initial comment:

      “But Kansas has had a huge advantage on the road. On average, the Jayhawks have been called for 5.5 fewer fouls per game than their opponents when KU is on the road. That’s a difference of 7.4 from the norm. Remember, road teams, on average, are called for 1.9 more fouls than home teams.”

      Since this was a road game it’s the relevant point of the discussion statistically. I’m not sure why you think anyone on this site has argued the Jayhawks won Monday – or any game for that matter – because of foul calls. That’s not the case. Ben’s point was the Cyclones shouldn’t have let it get to the point that refs could influence the game and it’s on them far more than the refs that they wilted in the final 5 minutes of regulation.

      KU should get credit for all that they did and all that they forced ISU into. The Jayhawks get road love from refs in large part because they have better players and better coaching. That was my point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/themonkeysays Gene Cummings

    Bad calls both ways all game. I’m glad KU got the “questionable” call(s) at the end. A couple stats nobody seems all that interested in is that KU shot 54.4%, and held Iowa State to 35.7%. “How about playing a little defense, you ever heard of that one, Stan?” Also, KU was +10 in rebounds and shot 7 less foul shots (which I don’t think was due to Iowa State being more aggressive about getting the ball inside as they chucked up 41 threes to only 29 twos) so they couldn’t have gotten ALL the calls. But I’d be a little butt-hurt too if my team gave up in overtime.

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