This has been the NCAA Tournament of the lane violation, the March Madness of fundamental, yet technical basketball rules. Somehow, this has also been the postseason of lapses: in judgment, in memory and in knowledge.
It certainly is no comfort to Ohio State that Craft had been warned about lane violations earlier in this year's NCAA Tournament. When warned by an official not to cross the restraining line too early during a free throw on March 17, Craft acknowledged his understanding: "I saw it yesterday [with Notre Dame]."
Speaking of Notre Dame, that game was one of two huge situations in which the lane violation has taken a team out of contention late in a ballgame: 16-seed UNC Asheville was correctly penalized for a lane violation while trying to upset No. 1 Syracuse, while the aforementioned Fighting Irish frittered away its own opportunity to shoot bonus free throws in the waning moments of its loss to Xavier, that call having been made by referee Mike Stuart.
For those wondering why mention the official's name, we will see Mike Stuart on Monday during the NCAA National Championship game between Kansas and Kentucky.
Today, however, it was Tom Eades, Jamie Luckie and Pat Adams who were tasked with officiating Craft's over-exuberant end-of-game sequence.
To reiterate once and for all—and with the hope that this call doesn't have to rear its head once again during Monday's National Championship game—NCAA Basketball Rule 9-1-d, "the free-thrower shall not leave the semicircle before the try contacts the ring, flange, or backboard or until the free throw ends."
NCAA Basketball Rule 9-1-c, "the free-thrower shall not break the vertical plane of the free-throw line with either foot until the ball strikes the ring, flange, or backboard or until the free throw ends."
Perhaps the end-all theme of this tournament really should be the ever-popular "learn the rules" mantra. I can just picture Coordinator of Officials John Adams right now in his annual referee training video sent out to conferences and officiating bodies prior to the season: "call the violation. The players will adjust."
The officials are certainly calling the violation—I'm just not that sure the players are adjusting.