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Anthony Chiusano | | March 17, 2017

Flagrant foul at the end of Arkansas vs. Seton Hall explained

  Desi Rodriguez's flagrant foul was the deciding play in Seton Hall's loss to Arkansas on Friday.

No basketball fan wants to see a highly competitive, back-and-forth game decided by a late foul call. That's what happened in Friday's late-afternoon NCAA tournament first-round matchup between (8) Arkansas and (9) Seton Hall when a flagrant one was assessed on Pirates forward Desi Rodriguez with about 17 seconds remaining in the second half.

With Arkansas up one point and pushing the ball up against a full-court press, Jaylen Barford was delivered the ball and was pushed in the back with two hands by a trailing Rodriguez, causing Barford to trip over Rodriguez's foot as he fell forward and lost his balance. The call on the floor was originally a common foul, but was upgraded to a flagrant one after further review. Arkansas was sent to the line for free throws and maintained possession afterward, allowing the Razorbacks to seal a 77-71 victory.

Was it an unfortunate ending to a good game? Yes.

But was it an incorrect call? From the NCAA men's basketball rulebook, Rule 4; Section 15; Article 2.c.2:

A flagrant 1 personal foul is a personal foul that
is deemed excessive in nature and/or unnecessary, but is not based solely
on the severity of the act. Examples include, but are not limited to:
1. Causing excessive contact with an opponent;
2. Contact that is not a legitimate attempt to play the ball or player,
specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting;
3. Pushing or holding a player from behind to prevent a score;
4. Fouling a player clearly away from the ball who is not directly
involved with the play, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock
from starting; and
5. Contact with a player making a throw-in.
6. Illegal contact caused by swinging of an elbow that is deemed
excessive or unnecessary but does not rise to the level of a flagrant 2
personal foul (pg. 47)

There's a couple key points in this excerpt that justify Friday's call, even if it appeared Rodriguez had no ill intent. First, the rule dictates that a player must make a "legitimate attempt to play the ball or player." Second, it states there can't be any "pushing or holding" to prevent a score.

For further context, here's NCAA national coordinator of men's basketball officiating J.D. Collins' take. He was with the TNT crew to break down the play:

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