Tracy Smith was half right in his criticism of the officials working N.C. State's 67-59 loss to Wake Forest on Sunday.
It's the part he got wrong, "favoring" Wake Forest, that got Smith suspended for Wednesday's trip to Arizona. If Smith had just pointed out that there were too many touch fouls called — and there's no disputing that — then he would have been OK, and actually to be commended for his honesty.
The work of Karl Hess, Joe Lindsay and Sean Hull won't be making any conference "to-do" highlight films any time soon but it's crossing a line to question their integrity.
Given the discrepancy in free throws, 23 to 19 in Wake's advantage, you can discredit Smith's "favoring" line. But the touch fouls and overall inconsistency of the calls? Absolutely that's an issue the ACC should take a long look at.
Officiating is an imperfect art, and often a thankless one, but as a general rule, if you're bad, be consistently bad. Call the same touch fouls, the same light contact — or go the other way and let the players play — but call it the same way on both ends for the whole game.
Sunday's officiating crew was disjointed even before the tip. Lindsay was a late substitution for John Cahill, who was supposed to work the game but could not get to Winston-Salem because of weather issues.
Lindsay, who worked State's loss to Northwestern on Dec. 1, was positioned under the basket for at least two of Smith's five fouls.
There was one sequence at the end of the first half under the basket where State's Dennis Horner was pushed by two Wake players — and pushed in the sense of normal game contact — going for a loose ball. The ball clearly went out of bounds off of Horner. Either it was a foul on Wake or Wake's ball. Inexplicably, State was rewarded the ball without a foul call.
Hess, the lead official, seems to be getting the brunt of the criticism from the State fan base. In his defense, he wasn't as involved in the game as he typically is (and that could be construed as a problem seeing as how he was the lead official).
I don't know if Hess was tired but he looked like he was out of energy. According to statsheet.com, he was working his fourth game in five days and in four different states. It showed. The questionable calls, usually controlled by the lead official, were made on Sunday by either Lindsay or Hull.
Certainly without Smith, State's not the same team but it's important to note, Hess didn't miss 15 3-pointers or turn the ball over 16 times. Those two factors contributed to State's loss more than how the game was called.
That doesn't mean the valid portion of Smith's criticism should be dismissed. There needs to be more consistency in how the game is called and it should err on the side of contact and letting the players decide the game, not watching it from the bench.