A Defense of Jamie Luckie

Posted on December 31, 2017, in Our Blog by Seattle Hoo.

This post represents the personal opinion of Seattle Hoo, and does not reflect an official position of HOOS Place or the opinions of any other contributor.

Jamie Luckie is not my favorite referee.  Shocker, right?  But the opprobrium being tossed his way in the wake of yesterday's game is misplaced, unearned, and simply wrong.  Jamie Luckie was not one of our problems yesterday, and he did an excellent job.

Luckie is not against Virginia. He has his things. I have noticed from close watching last season that when a game is lopsided, especially with the home team trailing and the game on national TV, he will favor the trailing team during a stretch of the game.  But if the trailing team fails to close the gap within a few minutes, or once the game does tighten up, he will go back to simply calling the game.  He is what I call a "game manager".  This is largely a second half thing, which is one explanation I have for why so many ACC games will appear to be called one way in the first half and a completely different way in the second.  Roger Ayers is the consummate game manager in today's game.  These are the guys who know what their employers want, and they give it to them as much as they can: dramatic TV.

Yesterday's game never got lopsided, so Luckie never went into game manager mode.  The foul counts stayed low, as did the free throws, and pretty equal. He stayed in ideal referee mode.  He is not the ref who called the bullshit fouls on Zay and Guy.

And his actions in the final sequence were, according to my reading of the 2017-18 NCAA Rule Book and Case Book, and review of the video, correct.  He noticed that the clock had started before the ball was touched by any player, and he blew his whistle to stop play and have the error fixed. That is what a referee should do. From where he was, he could see the play on the floor and the opposite end clock by not over-focusing on any one point, which is a skill referees develop.

When a ref blows the whistle, the ball goes dead. When Luckie blew the whistle - IMO based on the reactions of Ty and Kyle who both turned their heads to look at Luckie at the same moment - Zay had touched the ball, but not gained control of it.  That means that when the ball went dead, BC was still the last team to control it, thus the ball was still in BC's possession.  The only outcome permitted in that situation was a BC throw in.  The only question was where. Because no BC player controlled the ball inbounds, it goes back to where the throw was made.

You could argue, I guess, that he should have let the play go on and then they could go back and fix the clock afterward. But I don't know that the referees justifiably have discretion to do that. You see an error like that, you stop it. Because if the clock is wrong, it impacts the decisions of the players.  Had BC picked up the ball Zay knocked away, made a quick pass to the front court and Bowman sank a 26-foot three-pointer at the buzzer, would we have then claimed Luckie screwed BC by blowing his whistle in that same situation? Whether not blowing the whistle and letting the play go might have been the better decision under the circumstances or not, I don't think you can fault a referee for instinctively blowing his whistle when he sees something that generally calls for the whistle to blow.  It's what we want - a referee to call what he sees.

No, Jamie Luckie is not my favorite official.  But yesterday he was not the problem.

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Boston College (December 30, 2017)