Wisconsin Basketball Won on the Single Worst Call Ever

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Wisconsin basketball, treading water against a remarkably difficult non-conference schedule, could not afford a home loss to Conference USA opponent Western Kentucky.

Thanks to one of the worst officiating decisions I have ever witnessed, the Badgers escaped with a win Wednesday, 81-80.

Everything about this call against the Hilltoppers, which led to the game-winning foul shot, is indefensible.

I am a proponent of letting players decide the outcome, to use a cliche. That doesn’t mean I advocated officials abandoning the playbook or calling the game drastically differently from how they have the rest of the game. Still, in the final minute of a close contest is not the time for whistles that are rarely, if ever, employed.

And this is a call I’ve rarely seen — because it’s the wrong call.

At its core, the purpose of fouls is to prevent a player from gaining an unfair advantage. This is why I am against foul calls when a shooter hurls himself into a nearby defender; the shooter has only impeded himself.

It’s possible for defenders to gain unfair advantages on screeners, but not without turning to the screener to engage. A defender being catching a screen on the blindside is how a pick is just how a pick is supposed to work, so long as it’s cleanly applied. That means the defender is given space — typically one step or more — and the defender is moved into the screen.

Rarely do you see the screener get knocked over; usually, it’s the other way around. The reason Brad Davison went down in this instance? He flopped.

The NBA faced a veritable epidemic of flopping in the late 2000s/early 2010s, prompting the league to institute fines for egregious instances. This is an egregious instance, not simply because the official badly blows the call, but because Davison’s flop also trips the blind-sided defender.

And that the defender falls over Davison shows that it’s not a foul. Were he to have purposefully engaged to move Davison out of the way, he’d have braced for impact; his momentum wouldn’t have continued him in the direction he was attempting to move to defend the inbound pass.

This is a call I cannot remember ever seeing before, and certainly not to end a game. It’s a call I don’t ever want to see again.