February 27, 2013

Borton's Blog: Show must not go on

Once represents an incident. Twice represents a pattern. More than that could suggest a plan. That's why Big Ten officials ought to be keeping a close eye on the top of conference down the stretch.

First off, Indiana is an extremely talented basketball team. It's going to win a lot of games from here on out, maybe enough to capture the Big Ten and Big Ten Tournament, and will be a crew that nobody wants to face at NCAA time.

It has plenty going for it - talent, an enviable home-court advantage, tremendous history, including NCAA titles, and a home-state reputation for basketball fanaticism and purity. So it doesn't need to be pulling garbage moves to try and pull out basketball games.

When the Hoosiers secured a huge road victory in East Lansing, some of the post-game palaver centered on whether or not big man Cody Zeller attempted to get officials to call a foul on MSU's Derrick Nix via a pull-and-dive move. To many, it looked like Zeller corralled Nix's arm into the tenderloins, then reacted with Oscar-worthy agony.

Judge for yourself: The Zeller Zinger.

All's fair, in love and Big Ten basketball, you say? No, there's a line that gets crossed. There are plenty of hard, real fouls to call in the Big Ten. Fakes shouldn't be tolerated.

An equally egregious acting job occurred in Indiana's desperate moments down the stretch against Minnesota. IU's Will Sheehy, in trying to strip the ball away, leaned into a double team then reacted as if Bob Knight had made a return appearance and cracked him in the face with the famous flying chair.

Here's a look: The Sheehy Sham.

Even commentator Dan Dakich, a former IU player and coach, flat-out said, "There's nothing there," with regard to Sheehy's flop. Both Dakich and fellow ESPN on-air talent Mike Tirico also negatively reference the Zeller incident.

The debate begins when those two render a Hey, why not, go for it feeling to the approach. It's a tight Big Ten race, so put the pressure on the officials to make the call. If it's close, and elbows are up, hit the deck.

Or, in Zeller's case, pull and pratfall.

Here's the problem - if there's no penalty for those stunts, they'll only increase. Those going-to-the-monitor moments might stretch basketball games to football game length.

Officials are headed to the monitors anyway on those plays. They need to be encouraged and empowered to look not just for whether to call the elbow contact, the flagrant foul, the not-so-sweet nutcracker, etc., but the acting action as well.

Fake it, and it's clearly visible, technical foul. Shut down the show.

With as much on the line as there is in the next week and a half, the conference needs to recognize the Oscars are over.


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