Interminable Replay — a different type of March madness

Interminable Replay — a different type of March madness

The video review process should be improved to minimize the delays in the games.

OK, I get it. The NCAA Basketball Tournament is a big deal. That’s not hard to understand, considering all the revenue that is generated for not only the organization, but for all the teams and conferences that participate in the tourney.

There is constant talk of “teams on the bubble” which seems to start after the first weekend of conference play back in January of each year, and coaches, athletic directors and even higher college officials may have their livelihoods threatened by losing seasons and not making the tournament. That, unfortunately is the nature of the business.

And, of course, no one wants a team to be left out of the tournament because an official calling the game made an incorrect call, causing one team to lose possession of the ball, or a basket to be disallowed due to a timing error. The result could be devastating to a team “on the bubble” as well as many of the coaching staff and administrators.

Such a condition occurred in yesterday’s Tennessee-Vanderbilt game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Trailing 67-65, Vanderbilt, rebounded a missed free throw attempt and the Commodores’ Wade Baldwin IV drove the length of the floor and hit a lay-up as time expired to send the game into overtime. At least that’s what the officials said.

As required by the NCAA on all last second buzzer-beater shots, the officials huddled around a tv monitor on the sidelines and the replay clearly showed the ball still in Baldwin’s hand as the time had expired, nullifying the basket. The loss quite probably knocked Vanderbilt out of the NCAA tournament, according to most experts. That said, it is very possible the Commodores would go on to lose in the extra period anyway, so the outcome might have been the same.

It was the correct call and in this instance, the replay justified it being used. So, what is the issue? Despite being clear and indisputable evidence that the shot was no good, it still took forever for the officials to decide. I know you want to get it right, but these long pauses disrupt the continuity of the game, if not exactly in this instance.

I, too, want to get the call right. But the last two minutes of a college basketball game can last longer than a full episode of The Big Bang Theory on my DVR, when fast-forwarding through the commercials. It seemed to me, and I have no scientific evidence to back this up, that every game I watched yesterday, from buzzer-beater endings to 25-point blowouts, had these long pauses where everyone just stood around, including the officials, waiting for the call.

And in a number of cases, after reviewing the monitor, the three officials will huddle for another minute or so at mid-court to discuss the call, and then go to each bench to explain the call to the coaches, as well as a visit to the tv announcers. This seems to happen at some point in almost every game I have seen this year.

This process can take as much as five minutes to complete and completely destroys the rhythm of the game, not to mention icing the poor free throw shooter who was fouled. It’s like waiting through three or four timeouts before shooting.

The NCAA needs to take a serious look at this during the upcoming off-season. Perhaps having a back-up official making a preliminary call as to whether a call warrants a further review, as the game officials are setting up the free throw or inbound situation, a kind of mini-timeout, where both teams remain on the court. Many calls are so obvious, they could have a ruling to review or continue to play by the time the officials can gather to huddle around the monitor.

Everyone wants to get the call right, so much depends on it. Let’s just don’t jeopardize the game we love to do it. That is March madness that needs to be addressed.

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