Louisville Cardinals Championship: Streetball on the Biggest Stage

Todd PheiferAnalyst IIIApril 9, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 08:  Trey Burke #3 of the Michigan Wolverines attempts to control the ball in the second half against Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals during the 2013 NCAA Men's Final Four Championship at the Georgia Dome on April 8, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Congratulations to the Louisville Cardinals, who won the 2013 NCAA national championship. Of course, the game of college basketball has apparently gone completely streetball. Why bother with referees?

First of all, understand that I did not have a dog in this fight. My Dawgs (University of Washington) finished off an unspectacular season by losing in the NIT. Therefore, I was able to watch the NCAA national championship game as an impartial observer.

What did I see? Violence. Scratch that. Celebrated violence.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not yearning for the good old days of short shorts and a complete lack of muscle development in players. The modern game can be a wonderful collection of high-flying action and amazing feats of athleticism. Most of the time college basketball is a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, the championship game was not about athleticism. It was about one team setting a violent tone, and the guys in striped shirts taking the night off. Sad.

Missed calls. Pushing. Shoving. Playing defense with your hands and forearms. Slapping. Reaching. More body checks than a hockey game. Literally jumping on top of other players.


At one point the announcers suggested that this game was much like a playground game. Good point. There aren’t any refs there, either.

When did the game of basketball dissolve into this sloppy collection of cheap physicality?

Ironically, Trey Burke made an amazing (and clean) block with 5:09 remaining in the game. Did the refs let that one go? Nope.

You want to see teams win with speed, strategy and smart play. Steals are good. Slapping arms is not. Undisciplined little kids can do that.

Obviously officiating a basketball game is a difficult task, but you have to wonder if this type of MMA-style basketball is actually desired by the NCAA. How do you tell kids to play defense with their feet when the Cardinals spent the evening mugging the Michigan Wolverines, particularly in the first half?

If this is where basketball is going, perhaps the NCAA should just put up some glass around the court and give everyone some skates.

This game will be celebrated as a great contest, and it was a close game throughout. Plenty of action. Clutch shooting.

However, this was not just a display of basketball skill. It was a slugfest. Literally.

Most of the tournament was great basketball, but Louisville did not win this game by just playing better basketball. Louisville came in with a reputation as being a great defensive squad, and the referees didn’t seem interested in containing any sort of overly physical play.

The Cardinals won because quality basketball was left behind. Basketball, as a sport, is better than this.