LAWRENCE — Earlier this week, the Big 12 issued a vague and cryptic statement that admitted its officials made mistakes at the end of Kansas’ victory at Iowa State on Monday night. On Thursday, Kansas coach Bill Self said that statement — or more accurately, the fact it was even released — felt like a slight over-reach from the league office.
“I really believe,” Self said, “and I’m not speaking behind the Big 12 office’s back or anything like that, that I think we’re on the verge of crossing the line, that I think isn’t good.”
The Big 12’s statement did not specify which calls had been blown, and Self said he had been given no such insight from the league office. But among those in question: KU forced overtime after a questionable no-call on a Elijah Johnson drive to the basket.
Iowa State’s freshman Georges Niang was then called for a hold that sent Johnson to the free-throw line for two game-tying free throws. Officials also errantly gave a foul on Jeff Withey to forward Kevin Young. Earlier, though, officials also called a questionable charge on Withey that appeared to be a clear block.
Despite all that, Self said he didn’t want to criticize the officials or any specific calls.
He did, however, voice a greater concern: That issuing a statement on a couple of questionable calls will set an unhealthy precedent.
“We benefited from a no call,” Self said. “There’s been many times we haven’t benefited from a no-call. There’s been many times that other coaches have benefited and haven’t benefited from a no-call.
“We benefited from a no-call in a big-time game. And I’m not gonna make light of that. We were the beneficiary of that one play. Now there were other plays in that game, too. But we were the beneficiary of the one play that received all the attention because it was game point.”
Self, animated, continued.
“I am concerned that now,” he said, “have we opened up Pandora’s box that now anytime something happens in the future, now we have to make a comment about it? I always thought you handled your situations in-house.”
The controversial end to the Iowa State game overshadowed a blistering 39-point performance from Johnson and forced pundits to consider how officiating could be improved. Self says that hard-and-fast answers can be elusive, but he is among those who would like to a see a more “unified structuring” of all college officials. For now, officials are independent contractors employed by each conference.
“I think that’s kind of an inexact science, something that’s been thrown around a lot,” Self said. “I think that most coaches would love getting it under one umbrella, without question.”
On Thursday, Self echoed a common complaint among coaches: Officials rove from one conference to another, where the pace and physicality of the game can often differ.
“The rules are the same,” Self said, “it’s just style sometimes dictates a little bit differently how it’s called. And you get to the NCAA Tournament, and there’s no more style.
“I’m not criticizing the officiating at all; I think there’s some things that would make it easier on the officials, if we had more of a unified structuring.”
Johnson accepts apology — Johnson said he accepted the official apology of the Iowa State student body president after two students sent out threatening and racially charged tweets in the minutes after Kansas’ victory on Monday night in Ames, Iowa.
“I’m honestly not having a hard time dealing with it,” Johnson said, “because I’m real good at blocking out the negative stuff. I can hear you and pay you no mind. It’s just something about being able to man up and not pay attention to certain things.”
The statement from Iowa State student body president Jared Knight was released on Wednesday. Self said Thursday he’d addressed the situation with Johnson and added that he held no ill will toward Iowa State or its fans.
“The Iowa State student body has responded in a way that left no doubt where they stood,” Self said. “… and that’s good enough for me. It’s over.”
No. 1 seed in view — After a five-game winning streak, Kansas (24-4, 12-3 Big 12) has played its way back into discussion for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks were a No. 2 seed last season before advancing to the NCAA title game, but three more regular-season victories and a victory in the Big 12 tournament would almost assure the Jayhawks of another No. 1 seed.
Self hopes his team remains in the discussion.
“We’ve got three more league games to play,” Self said. “And then I think after the league race is over with and we prepare for the Big 12 tournament, I think that’s when I’ll probably start thinking about that stuff.”