Something fishy just happened in the 2023 NCAA Tournament Championship for men’s basketball. With Florida Atlantic knocking off Kansas State in the first game on Saturday—and either Creighton or San Diego State guaranteed a spot in the Final Four on Sunday—the Gonzaga Bulldogs got some serious shaft from officials against Connecticut in the second Elite Eight game on Saturday, to the tune of seeing their key player bounced from key action by strange foul calls.
The NCAA was staring down the possibility of having three small schools in the Final Four: FAU, Gonzaga, and Creighton/SDSU. The other Sunday matchup features two schools from power conferences (Texas and Miami-FL), so that spot is safely in the hands of alleged moneymakers. UConn plays in the Big East, considered a power conference for basketball purposes—and the Huskies have won four national titles since 1999, although not in the cleanest ways.
Both Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie, the coaches of those four title teams, were investigated and punished for illicit practices. Anyone who thinks UConn won those four championships cleanly is drinking a lot of flaxseed-oil Kool Aid, right along with New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, and Houston Astros fans, etc. Teams that get caught cheating have been cheating for awhile, and unless punished properly, they will continue to cheat. Basic logic.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga runs a very clean program and has made the Sweet 16 for a stunning eight straight seasons, although they were denied national titles in 2017 and 2021 when the team lost in the Finals. The first one was especially galling, since North Carolina—amid a years-long investigation of academic fraud—still was allowed to compete. So, why would the NCAA want to shaft Gonzaga in favor of Connecticut? It’s the same old answer.
Money. Money. Money.
Bulldogs star Drew Timme was the tournament’s high scorer coming into Saturday’s game, and the Gonzaga offense was ranked No. 1 in efficiency nationally by KenPom. So what happens? Somehow the Bulldogs shoot just 33 percent from the field and score just 54 points—more than 32 points below their season average. A lot of this was because Timme picked up two fouls in the first half and had to sit, and then he picked up two more fouls right away in the second half.
This is a guy who averaged 2.2 fouls per game all season, yet he picked up his third foul just 25 seconds into the second half and then his fourth soon thereafter as the Huskies turned a 7-point halftime lead—built when Timme had to sit after his second foul—into an eventual 32-point victory as Gonzaga scored just 22 points in the second half. Were the officials directed to make sure UConn won? While the Huskies are good, they were only favored by 2.5 points on a neutral court.
How does a 2.5-point favorite end up winning by 32 points over the top offensive team in the country? Simple. Officiating. The NCAA couldn’t face the possibility that three small schools would be in the Final Four, and at this point, we guarantee you that FAU and Creighton/SDSU will not be allowed to win the national championship. It will be either cheatin’ UConn or Texas/Miami come April 3. Because when the money is involved, the little guys still get the shaft.
We wish we were wrong.