Foul cry false
Daniel Routledge analyses the controversy surrounding the Mersey Tigers' clash with MK Lions.
Last Updated: 14/03/12 1:00pm
Well if I were at BBL Towers, I'd have the black and white ribbons on order for the league title.
After Friday's win over Leicester, I just can't see anybody catching Newcastle at the top of the table. Looking at the Eagles' remaining eight fixtures, an absolute worst-case scenario for them would be three defeats. Given they've lost two in 22, even that is a stretch.
That wouldn't be enough for Plymouth to overtake them, courtesy of the head-to-head record, and would only allow Worcester and Leicester to pip them if they win out. As those two play each other twice, it seems an unlikely scenario.
The Wolves, Raiders and Riders are playing for second in my opinion.
Talking point of the weekend undoubtedly came from our televised game, with the unsportsmanlike foul on Devan Bailey called with just 7.5 seconds left in a one-point game.
I said in commentary I didn't think it was a foul, let alone an unsportsmanlike, I've watched it back several times now, in super slo-mo, and I still don't think it was a foul.
As Demarius Bolds comes across the court, Bailey's hand is on his back, but he is not holding him, his other arm is out in the passing lane. To quote rule 33.11: "The touching of an opponent with a hand(s) is, in itself, not necessarily a foul."
As Bolds spins, Bailey reacts by switching hands, so the hand that was on his back is in the passing lane, a good defensive recovery in my opinion. It was at this point the whistle blew. I think Bolds' reaction tells you all you need to know about the call.
For the sake of argument let's say you think it's a foul - I don't and would point to the Bolds steal a minute earlier, which led to a score, as having much more contact but without any punishment - is it an unsportmanlike?
I've heard the argument put forward that under FIBA rules any defensive foul on the inbound is automatically an unsportsmanlike. First off that's not a rule, it's an interpretation. And secondly that is just part of the interpretation.
The official interpretation, in full, is the defender "obviously has made no effort to play the ball and has gained an advantage by not allowing the game clock to restart. An unsportsmanlike foul must be called without a warning being given."
Now I would argue he has made an effort to play the ball, the position Bailey was in at the time the whistle blew was a textbook defensive stance, but again for argument's sake let's say he didn't. It's the second part of that interpretation that makes this not an unsportsmanlike.
By what definition of 'advantage' would the team in the lead gain by not allowing the game clock to restart? There was no logical reason for Tigers to foul on that play, save to stop a certain lay-up. They want the clock to run, they are winning. There is no advantage, so even if you think it's a foul, it's not an unsportsmanlike.
So to my mind the ref made a mistake. Don't get me wrong I'm not saying he cost the Tigers the game, he didn't miss four consecutive free throws down the stretch, or turn the ball over repeatedly. Mersey did that all by themselves.
I think refs get far too much stick, it's a thankless job, and they make far fewer mistakes than many would have you believe. But that was a bad call at an unfortunate time.
I think everyone involved in basketball, including the refs, would just like to see plays like that run to the conclusion. Let Bolds, Sturt or whoever hit the shot to win the game, or miss it and lose it, rather than the somewhat anticlimactic ending we had instead.
It's the first leg of the Trophy Final this weekend with Newcastle travelling to Devon on Sunday. After the Raiders' win on Tyneside a couple of weeks ago, this is a little more difficult to call than I originally thought.
I always think six points is about par for these two legged affairs, any bigger lead than that would give the Raiders the edge heading north - anything less puts the Eagles in charge.