Auburn starter Chad Baker-Mazara got his marching orders after a flagrant 2 foul just three minutes into Friday's matchup against Yale Screen Grab: TBS

The tension was thick in the opening minutes of Auburn’s first-round matchup against Yale. And that saw significantly different perspectives on the TNT broadcast.

Auburn starter Chad Baker-Mazara got his marching orders after a flagrant 2 foul just three minutes into Friday’s matchup, and his ejection sparked much debate. While CBS/TNT Sports rules analyst Gene Steratore backed the refs, adding fuel to the controversy, studio analyst (and Auburn grad and superfan) Charles Barkley and Tigers’ head coach Bruce Pearl both didn’t see it that way.

Surely, it was a foul, which everyone could agree upon. But Steratore’s explanation went beyond that, saying it was nothing related to basketball whatsoever, and he agreed with the decision to remove Baker-Mazara from Friday’s contest.

“It was excessive in nature, completely unnecessary, and not a basketball play,” Steratore explained. “When you see him starting up the court, he lines up his opponent, he looks, and then we see him deliver. That activity—we don’t want that in basketball games. I think it’s a good decision by the officials.”

While a Flagrant 1 is for any unnecessary contact, a Flagrant 2 requires a higher threshold of violence. This distinction was a sticking point for both Pearl and Barkley.

“Well, obviously, we just saw the replay,” Pearl told sideline reporter Lauren Shehadi. “What he did was wrong. I thought it should’ve been a Flagrant 1. To remove him from the game after an entire season of work is something that, obviously, is going to disrupt us. He’s one of our very best players. And it was retaliation; it was because he got hit in the throat on a play before. He shouldn’t have retaliated.”

Barkley agreed that Baker-Mazara made a poor decision but didn’t think he should have been ejected.

“It was a bad decision,” said Barkley. “I just thought he shouldn’t have got tossed because he didn’t head-hunt. Was he trying to intimidate? Probably. But it was a body shot, not a head shot.”

Auburn was eventually eliminated by Yale, losing 78-74. With the Tigers upset by a 13-seed, questions will linger about the decision to eject Baker-Mazara. And that’s especially true for a foul that Pearl and Barkley saw as not being ejection-worthy, even if there is some Auburn bias behind those claims.

While the Tigers only have themselves to blame, even with losing a starter three minutes into the game, they certainly could’ve used Baker-Mazara, who was live tweeting from the locker room following his ejection, retweeting an image from “Pablo Escoburner.”

[Awful Announcing on Twitter/X]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.