After taking a six-point lead with 6:47 left, the team shot 1-of-11 from the field, turned the ball over four times, and went 0-of-2 from the free-throw line.
Still, No. 9 Seton Hall had a chance to walk away victors—until a controversial flagrant foul call with 18 seconds left effectively ended their season.
Trailing by one, a Desi Rodriguez attempt to send Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford to the free-throw line looked much worse when the players' feet got tangled and Barford went flying.
— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) March 17, 2017
The officials hit Rodriguez with a flagrant 1 foul, citing a lack of a play on the ball and illiciting essentially one response from Twitter.
What a garbage call against Seton Hall there.
— Chris Herring (@Herring_NBA) March 17, 2017
What an awful decision by the refs in the Seton Hall game. Let the players decide the game, not whistles. #CollegeHoops
— Sam Dekker (@dekker) March 17, 2017
Chris Webber was 100% right. Who ever makes a play on the ball when fouling intentionally at end of game. Awful call. https://t.co/ZmTv7Uw94Y
— Ryan Ruocco (@RyanRuocco) March 17, 2017
Broadcast analyst Chris Webber summed up the general opinion of the call: "Who has a play on the ball when you foul late in the game?"
The ruling gave Arkansas two shots, which they hit, and the ball. The Razorbacks won 77-71.
"I didn't realize how hard I pushed him, but I thought it was a basketball play," Rodriguez said after the game. "It wasn't intentional."
J.D. Collins, the NCAA's coordinator of men's basketball officiating, later defended the call in the broadcast studio.
“The referees have to officiate the play for its own merits. And that makes a really difficult situation," Collins said. "The rule is … contact that is not an attempt to play the ball or player, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from running. And when a player puts two hands in the back and doesn’t make any attempt to play the ball or the player in front of him, it’s an F1 foul.”
Charles Barkley told Collins he hates the rule.
“It’s only a flagrant because that’s how the rule is written," Barkley said. "If he had grabbed him, it would not have been a flagrant.”
That's where the official gets somewhat of a pass here—by the letter of the law, it is a flagrant 1. However, by the laws of literally decades of guys grabbing the jerseys of and shoving opponents with no effort to go anywhere near the ball so they can send them to the line and get the ball back out of desperation, this is no different than any run-of-the-mill foul late in a close game.
Except for one minor detail—if their feet hadn't gotten tangled and had Barford stayed upright rather than fly so surprisingly far, there's no way the refs rule it similarly.