EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the controversy surrounding Sean Miller’s technical foul in last year’s Pac-12 Tournament, an event in which former Pac-12 director of officiating Ed Rush reportedly placed a bounty on Miller to be thrown out or given a technical, this site will monitor the league’s officials during the course of the season through the conference tournament in March. The integrity of the game and its officiating was called into question by Rush’s actions, which ultimately led to his resignation.
The numbers indicate that Pac-12 teams playing at the “mountain schools” — Utah and Colorado — have a difficult uphill climb when it comes to referee calls.
Arizona experienced that the hard way with Aaron Gordon fouling out of Wednesday’s game at Utah with 8:41 left in regulation. It was Gordon’s first disqualification of the season.
The Utes lead the Pac-12 drawing 43 less fouls than opponents at the Huntsman Center. Colorado is second with 29 fewer fouls than conference visitors.
The Buffaloes have a significant edge in free throws attempted at the Coors Event Center. They have attempted a remarkable 88 more free throws than visitors. ASU is next with a plus-59 margin at Wells Fargo Arena. Arizona is third at plus-58 at McKale Center.
Overall, Colorado leads the conference with 53 fewer fouls called than opponents and a plus-128 margin in free throw attempts compared to the opposition. Arizona is next with a plus-86 mark in free throw tries.
Why such a discrepancy in calls when playing the mountain schools?
Utah coach Larry Krystowiak and Colorado coach Tad Boyle stress an aggressive attacking style using plenty of screens to free up shooters.
Gordon fouled out at Utah by not reading those screens and being out of step with some of Utah’s drives to the basket. The Utes became only the fifth team to outscore Arizona in the paint this season. Their 34-26 margin is the largest against the Wildcats inside the paint this year.
Arizona was also outscored in the paint last Friday against ASU, which had a 28-26 margin. It is the first time Arizona has been outscored in the paint in consecutive games this season.
Expect Colorado to try to establish an inside-outside game from the start, trying to take Arizona off the dribble or pass out for a three-point shooter. This is not a team that passes around the perimeter like Oregon. Part of the Buffaloes’ game plan is to get to the line. They have outscored Pac-12 opponents by 79 points at the line in their 14 games.
Arizona’s best answer to Colorado’s scheme: Play smart. Tune out the crowd. And most important: Stay in attack mode themselves.
Michael Irving Watch: The official who gave Sean Miller a technical foul in last year’s Pac-12 tournament semifinal against UCLA has yet to officiate an Arizona game. He has officiated three Washington games and three Cal games. He has also yet to officiate a UCLA game. He officiated all three Arizona-UCLA games last season.
Whistle-happy: In five games, veteran ref Bob Staffen and his crews lead all Pac-12 officials with an average of 42.8 personal fouls and 54.4 free-throw attempts. Interesting to note: Staffen has not officiated a Pac-12 game since Feb. 1. He has officiated only Missouri Valley and WAC games since.
Swallowed whistle: Kevin Brill’s crews have called league-low averages of only 30 fouls and 27.8 free-throw attempts in six games. The next lowest is Bill Vinovich at 37.8 in four games.
Biggest homer?: Randy McCall and his crews have this distinction with home teams having 47 less fouls called than visitors and 61 more free-throw attempts than visitors in the 14 games he’s officiated.
Thick-skinned: This honor goes to Larry Spaulding, whose crews have called a league-high 25 more fouls on home teams in his seven games. Visiting teams have also attempted 28 more free throws than home teams in games Spaulding has called.
Most used: McCall has officiated a league-high 14 games and Verne Harris is next at 13. David Hall and Mike Reed have officiated 12.
Least used: Eleven of the 52 referees used have called only one game, including Jon Stigliano, who officiated the Arizona-Utah game. The night after that game (on Thursday), Stigliano returned to the Big Sky to officiate the Weber State-Montana game.
The following five charts involved a few hours of my time putting together data of league referees. I will update the data through the season. Here is a brief description of each:
Chart 1 and 2: Chart 1 indicates the referees who have officiated at least three Pac-12 games in the first four weeks of the season. Chart 2 lists all officials.
Within Chart 2, it first lists the years the referees have worked college basketball games per statsheet.com.
The conference record shown indicates the cumulative combined conference records of the teams at the time they played in the game called by the ref.
The “Rank” column is the number of games called that involve AP Top 25 teams. Also listed are stats related to games called by a referee’s crew: Personal fouls, average of personal fouls, disqualifications, technical fouls, free-throw attempts and free-throw attempt average a game.
Other columns: PFDiff — Difference between fouls of home and away teams (a minus score reflects more calls made for the visitor), and FTDiff — Difference between free-throw attempts of home and away teams (again, a minus score reflects more calls made for the visitor).
Chart 3 and 4: Chart 3 indicates the number of overall games called by a ref of a particular conference team. Chart 4 has the same principle but indicates only certain locations where the referee called a game.
Chart 5: Indicates difference of calls made for a team at home compared to on the road in Pac-12 games. HPFDIFF stands for “Home Personal Foul Difference” compared calls to visitors. HFTDIFF stands for “Home Free Throw (attempts) compared to visitors. The same principle applies for when on the road for APFDIFF and AFTDIFF. The total of each category is signified with TotPFD and TotFTD.
CHART ONE: MOST-USED OFFICIALS
CHART TWO: ALL OFFICIALS
CHART THREE: REFS BY TEAMS CALLED
CHART FOUR: REFS BY LOCATIONS CALLED
CHART FIVE: DIFFERENCE OF CALLS HOME AND AWAY