A primer on fouls, Why Ohio State isn't on my AP ballot, more
The NCAA's ref czar breaks down the different categories of fouls
Ohio State is getting there, but the Buckeyes aren't a Top 25 team yet
Looking at the top college basketball states by using the AP poll
I don't know if there are more instances of players getting ejected and/or suspended this season, but it sure seems that way. It also seems that the various categories and penalties for technical fouls are getting more confusing -- and more numerous -- every year. So with an assist from John Adams, the NCAA's new supervisor of officials, I figured I'd begin this week's mailbag with a primer on all the fouls beyond your normal, every day, garden variety whistle.
Put simply, these calls can be grouped into four categories: technical, intentional, flagrant and fighting. Here's how they break down:
Technical foul. For the first time this season, the NCAA has divided technical fouls into Class A and Class B. The Class A is the type you're most familiar with: cursing at an official, taunting, inciting the crowd, etc. The penalty for a Class A technical, which also counts as a personal foul against that player, is to give the other team two free throws and the ball. Two Class A T's, and a player is ejected. Any player ejected for any reason must be leave the court.
Class B technicals are less serious: excessive hanging on the rim, goaltending during a free throw, entering the game without checking in at the scorer's table. The other team still gets two free throws and the ball, but it takes three Class B technicals, or two Class B's plus one Class A, to get ejected.
Intentional fouls. These are classified as personal (live ball) or technical (dead ball), but either way the penalty is the same: the other team gets two free throws and the ball. One of the key distinctions in the rule book is that this category includes excessive contact while playing the ball.
The intentional foul is one of the trickiest calls to apply. After all, in the waning minutes of almost every game, the losing team fouls the winning team on purpose to stop the clock. If a defender hits a guy hard but makes a play on the ball, he has a better chance of avoiding the intentional foul call than if he lightly grabs the back of the player's jersey. A perfect example of this conundrum is the personal (non-intentional) foul called on Greg Oden at the end of regulation in Ohio State's second-round win over Xavier in the 2007 NCAA tournament. Yes, Oden fouled Musketeers forward Justin Cage hard, and yes it was intentional, so many people (especially Xavier fans) argued Oden should have been whistled for the intentional. But because Oden clearly went for the ball, the refs went with the straight personal, which I still believe was the right thing to do.
Adams says he does not want every intentional foul committed at the end of a game to result in two free throws plus the ball to the other team, but he does want this call made more often. Says Adams, "If there's a coach standing there yelling 'Foul him!' and his player runs up and pushes the guy, how do you call that a personal foul? What could be more intentional?"
Flagrant foul. Again, this is classified as personal (live ball) or technical (dead ball). This is a foul that involves extreme contact and results in automatic ejection, as well as two free throws and the ball for the offended team. As far as the NCAA rule book goes, the player is ejected only for the rest of that game.
This year, the NCAA added flagrant fouls to its list of situations where officials may go to a television monitor. That's what happened during Oklahoma's win over USC on Dec. 4, when Trojans forward Leonard Washington punched Blake Griffin in the groin as they were running downcourt. The officials did not see the foul live, but they could see it clearly when they checked the replay. Washington was immediately ejected, though the officials misapplied the rule by allowing him to remain on the bench for the rest of the game.
When a player is ejected, that team's league office office (or the coach himself) can decide to suspend him for one or more additional games, but that is not required by the NCAA. Miami guard Jack McClinton was ejected after being called for a flagrant foul in the Hurricanes' loss to Ohio State on Dec. 2, but the ACC decided the foul was not worth an additional penalty. On the other hand, when Davidson guard Max Paulhus Gosselin was ejected for committing a flagrant foul against N.C. State, he missed the Wildcats' following game against West Virginia because the Southern Conference has its own rule mandating a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul.
Fighting. This is the commission of a "combative act," and it is the most severe call an official can make. Even if a player attempts to punch another player and misses, he is still supposed to be called for fighting. In this case, the offended team gets two free throws plus the ball; the player who violated the rule is ejected and must serve an automatic one-game suspension beyond that. If that same player participates in a second fight, he is automatically suspended for the rest of the season.
In the event of a fight, a conference may extend the player's suspension past the required one game, but it may not overturn it. That's why Adams prefers his officials err on the side of caution. "I've told guys, be darn sure you have a fight if you're going to call it fighting," Adams says. "That's why they go to the monitor."
One of the most controversial recent applications of the fight rule came two seasons ago, when Duke's Gerald Henderson clocked North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough on the nose while committing a hard foul during the final minute of a Tar Heels win in Chapel Hill. Henderson's foul was clearly intentional and excessive, so at the least it warranted a flagrant foul call and ejection. After consulting the monitor for several minutes, however, the refs took the unusual, added step of designating the foul a combative act, even though it came during the course of a basketball play. Thus, Henderson was automatically suspended for the first game in the ACC tournament, and there was nothing Duke or the ACC could do about it.
If we're lucky, the instances where you'll have to remember all this stuff will be minimal from here on out. At any rate, I hope I haven't confused you any further. If I have, it may have been flagrant, but I assure you it wasn't intentional.
On to the Bag ...
How could you not rank Ohio State on your AP ballot, yet you give them quite a bit of credit for beating two top 25 teams in your Hoop Thoughts column? Do you admit to making a mistake by not ranking them? If not, then what is your rationale for leaving them out?
I'm continually amazed by how much discussion and debate is devoted to poll rankings. I think it's terrific, but it definitely contravenes the conventional wisdom that polls don't mean anything. So in the spirit of full disclosure, and at the risk of incurring more criticism, here is the AP ballot I cast based on results through last Sunday night:
1. North Carolina 2. Connecticut 3. Pittsburgh 4. Oklahoma 5. Gonzaga 6. Notre Dame 7. Texas 8. Duke 9. Purdue 10. Wake Forest 11. Tennessee 12. Louisville 13. Michigan State 14. Georgetown 15. UCLA 16. Arizona State 17. Miami 18. Davidson 19. Syracuse 20. Baylor 21. Villanova 22. Xavier 23. Memphis 24. Michigan 25. Clemson
As for Soham's question, I don't mean to sound like your dad, but the simple answer is, "Because I said so." As an AP voter, I tend to be more subjective early in the season and then let results dictate my ballot as time goes on. I suspect much of the balloting this time of year still includes impressions left over from last season.
In the case of the Buckeyes, I see a team that could very well be good enough to win the Big Ten. However, I also see a team that lost three starters from a squad that failed to reach the NCAA tournament. Yes, they won at Miami, but as I said you have to at least take into account that the Hurricanes played most of that game without McClinton as well as backup point guard Eddie Rios. If you want to accuse me of undervaluing the Buckeyes' win over Notre Dame, that is probably fair. As long as they keep winning, Ohio State will probably be on my ballot within the next two weeks -- and certainly if they win at Michigan State on Jan. 6 -- but I am obviously in the minority on this because the Buckeyes are ranked 17th in this week's official poll.
Looking at some other teams on my ballot, why would I rank Villanova at No. 21? Because they were a Sweet 16 last year, and based on my eye they look just a little bit better than Ohio State. The one entry that makes me wince is Xavier at No. 22. That's partly because the Musketeers needed a halfcourt heave to beat a mediocre Virginia Tech team, but to be honest, it's also because when I voted on Monday morning, I hadn't yet watched Xavier's win at Cincinnati on my DVR. Once I did, I concluded the Musketeers looked better than the 22nd-best team in the country. You can be sure if they beat Duke at the Meadowlands on Saturday, they'll move up to the top tier of my ballot.