With the high school basketball tourney underway, fans, players and coaches will be hearing whistles being blown more often than regular-season games.
However, it’s important to remember that referees are not judges and are trying to enforce the rules of the game evenly and fairly.
During the postseason, all games are covered by three officials instead of two, so six eyes are seeing more than four eyes.
The occurrences in which whistles are blowing more frequently are personal fouls.
Even in the days of two officials, my past tourney scorebooks usually showed an increase in the number of fouls called during the tourney and now, with three officials, the area of coverage is reduced from one-half the court to one-third. That means a better chance of calling more fouls.
Players and coaches have to understand this or foul trouble will occur.
Now that teams are playing courts that are 10 feet longer than their home gyms, fatigue becomes a factor that can also lead to more fouls.
Another reason for one of the biggest increases in more fouls in tourney play is many teams don’t use three officials during the regular season and aren’t prepared for the differences of playing with three come tourney time.
Teams should use three officials for at least their last three home games of the season so they can adjust to three-person officiating.
Another call that is made more frequently during the tourney is the traveling violation. If it looks like a travel, it’s usually whistled a travel because it’s easier to watch a player’s pivot foot with three officials.
The three-second violation is also called more often during the tourney because it’s easier for the lead official to concentrate on that area rather than working as a two-person crew and following the ball out of your covered area.
As a coach, I always liked to have the game called tight because I wanted my teams to be finesse teams, playing at a slower game pace so it was easier for two-person crews to follow the game and make calls that really affected the play. What isn’t called in a game affects the outcome much more than what is called.
However, the onus is not on the officials if there is an increase in whistles and a game is called tighter in the tourney, instead, it is on the players and their coaches.
Poor fundamental play and poor basketball decisions lead to more violations and turnovers.
There are more cases of bad shot selection because coaches allow the players to determine who, where and when the shots are taken. This leads to more defensive fouls and more player control fouls.
Three officials are more likely to spot those violations.
During tourney week, players and coaches may want to follow the advice I gave my teams about officiating. I told them that the officiating is at least an inch above the level we are playing and if we wanted them to improve, we needed to improve our play.
Enjoy the tourney, despite the extra whistles.