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Purdue vs. Tennessee live score updates: Boilermakers lead Vols at halftime in Elite 8, latest March Madness highlights, bracket


The play ended with Zach Edey and Nolan Winter back to back, Winter bent over at the waist and Edey splayed across his shoulder blades. They wound up there, in an awkward reverse piggyback while fighting for a rebound on the final day of the regular season, only after their forearms got wrapped around one another like dueling boa constrictors.

Fans in Mackey Arena, angry that their Purdue big man got tangled up, voiced their displeasure, while Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, convinced his big man got the brunt of the workover, voiced his. Amid the din, officials Doug Sirmons, Brian Dorsey and Kelly Pfeifer went to the monitors to review it all. On the broadcast, Fox analyst Robbie Hummel deadpanned, “There’s a lot to unpack there.”

The hardest job in college basketball is not defending Zach Edey; it’s officiating a game in which he plays. The Athletic talked to five recently retired officials and coordinators and one currently working to ask them about the challenge that Edey presents. They all agreed that the big man is no picnic, not just because of his size (7 feet 4, 300 pounds) but also because of the scrutiny he brings to every possession, let alone every game.

Whistles and no-calls merit equal attention. Big Ten coaches and opposing fans screeching about the first, Purdue fans enraged at the second. Northwestern coach Chris Collins earned himself an ejection after storming the court to vent his frustration after Edey earned 17 trips to the free-throw line while Collins’ entire team took eight from the charity stripe. And an irate Tom Izzo, when asked by Fox during a timeout of Michigan State’s Big Ten tournament quarterfinal against Purdue how his team might better defend Edey, bristled. “I don’t like how it’s being called. How’s that?” And in a tourney semifinal, Edey alone fouled out three Wisconsin players.

Yet the chorus of caterwauling that has trailed Purdue throughout this season has not even reached its crescendo. That comes now. The NCAA Tournament is upon us. Everything matters more in March, including every foul call.

“You have to watch him on every single play, get your head on a swivel,” says former NCAA coordinator of officials J.D. Collins, who retired from his position in 2022. “If he’s setting a screen, posting up, dunking, every single play he’s involved in, we need to decide if it’s legal or a foul.”

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Purdue’s Zach Edey is difficult to defend. The 7-foot-4 star is even harder to officiate

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