Illegal Screen or Not: Women’s Basketball Ruled the World!

Illegal Screen or Not: Women’s Basketball Ruled the World!

Illegal Screen or Not: Women’s Basketball Ruled the World!

Friday night, in the NCAA Women’s Final Four game between UConn and Iowa, there was a late offensive foul called against UConn that left the world in an uproar. Where does one turn to to discuss its dismay? Social Media. You could get on just about any social media outlet and see the divide. The two sides of people discussing what they “think” about the call.

I have to say, as a women’s basketball fan, I loved it! I loved to see people talking about female athletes. I loved to see people talking about the game I love. I loved the attention to the growth of the game. I played the game. I coach the game. My kids play the game. I have no allegiance to any team currently playing. That will change immensely when my daughter commits to a college in the next few months, and I will instantly be an avid fan of whichever school she chooses. But for now, I am impartial and unbiased and was not rooting for any specific team in that game. I placed no bets. I filled out zero brackets. I have no one I know personally playing for either school.

As the game winded down, my daughter looked at me and said, “I have no idea who I want to win.”  And that was exactly how we both felt. We weren’t cheering or rooting for anyone. We were being entertained. We were watching a high-level basketball game and enjoying it. We didn’t get emotionally attached at any point to any play, not when we disagreed with a call and not when Iowa made its comeback. I do remember at one point saying, “Oh, I don’t agree with that one,” but carried on.

Aside from being a women’s basketball fan in general, if I could choose two players that I absolutely love to watch play, they would be Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers. So, a matchup featuring both of them had me in my glory! And even in the midst of all the discussion after the game, the debate, and the social media frenzy, I was so proud of those players who are changing the game and the way we talk about it for all those aspiring female athletes.

However, some thoughts came to mind as I was scrolling….

  1. How many of the people who had strong opinions that UConn got “robbed” were actually UConn fans? Or were they just Clark haters? The people that fell into that category lost me with their arguments. I know what we say: “Haters are a good problem to have. No one hates the good ones, only the great ones.” But if your opinion on that foul was tainted in any way because you “are sick of hearing about Clark” or “just wanted her to lose,” I can’t enter that debate with you. I will never fall into the trap or class of people who want to hate a person solely because of their success or wish for the failure of a successful person.
  2. Conspiracy theories that the game is rigged and that the referees have to keep Clark in the tournament for money… lost me there, too. I guess we could say that about all sporting events that are viewed on TV, and some of you do. I guess we could say that about any sport we can bet on in Vegas, and some of you do.  So I’ll be excited that we are going to include women’s basketball in that discussion that has most often and historically been reserved to sports that are dominated by men. But that argument is flawed to me, and you lose me there, too.

So, what arguments are more viable to me and worthy of discussion and debate?

  • A – “The referees shouldn’t make that call at that point in the game.” A foul is a foul regardless of when it is committed. A moving screen is no less of a moving screen if it is committed in the last minute of the game than if it were committed in the first minute of the game. Honestly, at that point in the game, referees have to be hypervigilant in watching all activity occurring both on and off the ball because the time is winding down. They have to be sure that no team is given an unfair advantage.
  • B- “Let the players play.” We all say this when we think the flow of the game is being interrupted by the referees too frequently calling fouls. But do we really want complete chaos in the final seconds of this game? Do we really want to throw out all the rules of basketball and allow “illegal” movements or fouls just because the game is almost over? Where would we draw the line? Can we tackle someone now? Punch them? If you really mean don’t call a foul that is “ticky-tack” or that close of a call, then see C below.
  • C- Referees are human. Humans, by their very nature, are fallible. They make mistakes. They get it wrong sometimes. Many are pointing out calls that they missed in other parts of the game. Yes. That happens. There are objective parameters to what a foul is. The players know those parameters. The coaches know those parameters. But we have decided that as a sports society, we are going to list those objective parameters and then allow them to be subjectively interpreted, usually in a split second’s time, by a human being who is not perfect. We have decided to pay those human beings money to do that interpreting. We are giving referees that job. I would guess that these referees deemed good enough to call the Final Four are revered as some of the best in the industry by their colleagues. Yes, many people think that their whistles should be taken and that the call was horrendous, but someone thought that these referees were better than the rest and tasked them with this huge game.

My take: During live play and with the angle of the camera, I could not adequately see the play unfold. However, with the help of the replay, I could totally see why the referee called it a moving screen. Extra wide base. Sticks knee out. Even gives a little elbow. Flop or no flop, those three things impeded the defender and gave an unfair advantage to UConn (specifically delaying Marshall’s timing to recover on defense to get to Bueckers, who ultimately got the pass.)

I think the referee got it right. Just my two cents. But continue to debate it! Continue to fuss over it! Continue to bring more attention to these remarkable, hard working WOMEN!