Welcome back to Fire This Moron, our occasional series where we point out the particularly inexcusable foibles of college basketball referees and call for conferences around the country to never employ them again as a result of their transgressions. You might remember our last entry, discussing Karl Hess.
And now, on with the show.....
Late in Wednesday night’s Marquette victory in the first round of the 2018 NIT, the Golden Eagles found themselves clinging to a six point lead over Harvard after leading by 19 early in the fourth quarter. After Markus Howard got tangled up with a bad pass attempt along the sideline, the referees determined that the ball had gone off of a Harvard player last, thus MU was inbounding on the sideline nearest the hard camera.
Andrew Rowsey received the pass, backed up a little bit, got trapped, and then this happened.
Official runs right over Harvard player setting up for a wide open 3 on a two-possession game in the final 25 seconds. Marquette ball. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? pic.twitter.com/FRbbOi7oUF— Matt Thompson (@MattThompson87) March 15, 2018
YOW. The referee in question, after a quick consult with the box score and some rudimentary googling, is Jim Schipper. I want to take the picture out wider so you get an idea of what happened here. Here’s a still from the WatchESPN replay right as Harvard gains full possession following their trap and strip of Andrew Rowsey:
You can see Schipper standing by, watching the play develop, both feet clearly on the blue sidelines at the McGuire Center. Kipp Kissinger is out at midcourt on the other side of the court, and, as you’ll see in a moment, Matt Morales is out of frame, as he’s down on the other end in case Marquette activated the inbounds towards that end quickly. This is all fine and expected refereeing.
Here we’ve advanced right up until the point where Justin Bassey has realized that Corey Johnson is super wide open in the corner and has completely committed to the pass for the open triple while down six with 23 seconds left. It’s absolutely the right play at the moment, and the ball is essentially out of his hands here. Johnson is ready and waiting, while Schipper has decided to trim a few feet off of his run to the baseline, where he belongs given the layout of the other referees. Kissinger is moving into position on the far sideline, while Morales, in the bottom right, has returned to the half of the court where the action is. In all fairness to Schipper, this is a run he has probably made over 70 times in this game alone, and probably bordering on a thousand times in the 44 other games he’s refereed this season, and he’s most likely curling through the corner out of muscle memory more than anything else. In a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong with Schipper curling through the corner of the live action. It only becomes a problem three frames later, when he smashes Johnson out of the way, causing Bassey’s pass to go sailing out of bounds, and then he calmly whistles: Marquette ball.
Let’s go live to Harvard assistant coach Mike Sotsky for a reaction.
Totally fair, Mike.
Ok, look. The way the game works is that the referees are considered part of the playing surface or area. However you want to quantify that idea. If you tip a pass, but it goes straight at a referee’s knee and deflects away from your path towards it and out of bounds, it’s off you, and your opponent gets the ball back. That’s just how that goes. It’s random chance to a certain degree, but the refs usually do their damnedest to stay out of the way of the ball, not to mention the players.
If Johnson had been running the baseline to get open and Schipper had collided with him face-to-face, well, sucks to be Harvard in that case. In this instance, though, Johnson was just chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool and trying to shoot some b-ball inside of this school. Along comes Schipper, WHO IS WATCHING BASSEY THROW THE PASS IN HIS DIRECTION, running onto the court from the out-of-bounds area on the sideline where he collides with Johnson, who’s been in the corner for what amounts to the length of the Paleolithic Era given the situation of the game and (admittedly inadvertently) shoves him out of the way while Bassey’s pass sails out of bounds. Not only does this (maybe?) cost Harvard the game, now Johnson’s mom is going to make him live with his auntie and uncle in Bel Air.
I guess if you want to give Schipper the benefit of the doubt here, Johnson was 1-for-6 on threes in this game, so the chances that the he was going to drain this one was pretty low. Then again, Johnson is also a career 38% shooter.
So yeah. Jim Schipper, refereeing his first game of the year that involved a Big East team and first game of the year that involved an Ivy League team, may have just made The List in both leagues. According to KenPom’s referee database, this was Schipper’s first game at all since calling the Pac-12 regular season finale between Stanford and Arizona State on March 3rd. His 22 assignments for conference games this season was scattered between the Pac-12, the Mountain West, the MAC, the Big Sky, the Summit League, and the Horizon League, and yet, somehow, none of those leagues made sure to bring him in to call any of their conference tournaments. This is after drawing MAC tourney assignments last year, and MAC and Summit League tourney assignments the year before.
He might not be good at this, to the degree that he may have just cost Harvard a chance at winning last night’s game. In fact, he ranks #131 out of 200 referees in the aforementioned KenPom database and ranking system, although only working 45 games may have something to do with that.
If he’s going to be out there ball-watching and not being able to perform simple tasks like “don’t mow down players,” he can’t be out there anywhere.
Fire this moron.