Big East fans got pretty familiar with the work of James Breeding and Michael Stephens this season.

By Charlotte Carroll
April 01, 2019

Two Big East referees who were involved in highly disputed decisions this season, James Breeding and Michael Stephens, were named to the 10-person crew that will work the Final Four this weekend. 

Breeding officiated a contentious and bizarre Big East tournament semifinal game in which Seton Hall came away with a 81–79 victory over Marquette, but not before nine technical fouls, 49 total fouls, 85 free throws, three ejections and four foul-outs were issued. Breeding worked that game with Jeff Clark and Tim Clougherty. At one point, Pirates star Myles Powell earned his second flagrant foul of the night and ended up in the locker room thinking he was ejected before he was brought back onto the court.

According to the Asbury Park Press, in an interview with an Associated Press reporter following the game—an unusual decision on its own—Breeding said the ejection was a miscommunication, due to the types of fouls. 

"Because he had had a flagrant personal foul in the first half, the Seton Hall bench thought that he was ejected for a second foul, not understanding that—I won't say they didn't understand, but it probably wasn't communicated clearly to them that his personal foul in the first half is a live ball flagrant personal foul which carries a different penalty than the technical foul, and those two together don't result in ejection," Breeding said. "Only two technical fouls, unsporting technical fouls, result in ejection.

"The Seton Hall bench thought that he had been ejected. When I saw that he went to the locker room, I went to them and said, 'He has one technical foul, one live ball flagrant personal foul, that does not result in ejection.' They went and got him back."

Breeding and Stephens worked a Seton Hall–St. John’s matchup that came down to a controversial finish after Stephens blew the whistle on what appeared to be a clean steal on a Seton Hall that would have sealed the game for St. John's. The officials ruled the play dead after review, giving Seton Hall the opportunity to win the game, 76–74. Following the game, Big East senior associate commissioner for sports media relations John Paquette said, “The officials decided it was a timing error, the clock did not start on the initial touch by the St. John’s defender on the throw in."

No. 1 Virginia will take on No. 5 Auburn on Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET on CBS, followed by No. 3 Texas Tech against No. 2 Michigan State at 8:49 p.m. ET on CBS. The teams of officials for each game will be determined by J.D. Collins, the national coordinator of officiating and the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee.

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