By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
First, the trio of officials working the UK-LSU game Tuesday night did not cost the Wildcats the 73-71 loss. Also the block/charge call that was overturned in the UofL-Duke game also was not the reason Duke was able to pull out a 71-69 victory after trailing the Cardinals by 23 points midway through the second half.
In the Kentucky-LSU game the Tigers played an extremely physical game and the Wildcats wilted down the stretch. UK cost itself any chance at a victory by hitting only 16 of 23 free throws — and some of those misses were the front end of a 1 and 1 — and letting the Tigers steal the ball eight times. That’s what cost UK the game.
With Louisville it was a similar situation. Huge turnovers down the stretch in that game literally “handed” the game to Duke. The fact that with 14 seconds on the clock and the score tied a Duke player was called by an official right on top of the play for a charge — that would have given the ball back to the Cardinals — and was overturned later by video review did not seal the game. The two free throws by Duke after the overturned call were the winning margin but Duke won the game earlier in the half with it’s press defense and 2-3 zone. Even so the call at the time was made incorrectly by an official right on top of the play. That’s inexcusable and should be reviewed and it was.
But with all that being said, let’s talk about what transpired at the end of the UK game, namely the missed call on the offensive basket interference by LSU’s Kavell Bigby-Williams. Replays from every angle showed that Bigby-Williams touched the ball while it was still in the cylinder. The replay from above the basket and from each side showed Bigby-Williams hand on the ball in the cylinder. That constitutes basket interference per NCAA rules.
Now with that established — knowing that all three officials on the floor missed the call — why would the NCAA allow a situation to exist where technology as it is today could be used to solve a problem and yet they refuse to use it? Why would they penalize the participants of the game by providing less than the best opportunity to prove who is the better team according to the rules?
I know critics will say, “It’s a judgement call. Officials make mistakes and miss plays.” That’s is true. I’ve seen it firsthand. In fact I have had KHSAA officials say to me, “The players won’t make every shot and we won’t make every call correctly.” And they were right. They didn’t, and that’s exactly my point. If the powers that be in the NCAA know that officials won’t make every call correctly why not use the technology that exists today to help them get the calls made correctly. They did it in the block/charge call in the Duke-Louisville game and it was a game-changer.
And make no mistake — game changing calls can impact huge swings in money — paid revenue and gambling revenue. College sports is big business. The NCAA reported annual revenue of $1.1 billion dollars for 2017 which was slightly less than the total revenue for the New York Times for that same time period. That is big business.
So knowing that some calls are allowed to be reviewed — out of bounds calls, block/charge calls, time keeping errors and 3-point shots to name a few — why would they not make any call reviewable? With each game having such a great impact on revenue generated for the schools and conferences that make any type of a playoff system — not to mention the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized gambling activity across the US that could lead to an over $100 billion dollar sports wagering industry — it would seem that the NCAA would want to ensure that every call was made correctly — either in live action or immediately afterward by video replay.
And yet here we are discussing missed calls in two NCAA basketball games on a Tuesday night in February that both will have significant ramifications on final conference standings and ultimately seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
And that’s the problem folks. We are still talking about it. It seems like a no-brainer to everyone else except the NCAA. That of course is the problem. The NCAA seems to always make the wrong decisions in no-brainer situations. Decisions like absolving North Carolina of any wrong doing because there was a supposed “loophole” in the NCAA governance guidelines even though North Carolina attempted to stonewall any investigation that the NCAA was attempting and yet throwing the book at Missouri because one individual within the Missouri tutoring program decided to disobey the rules and Missouri was willing to cooperate in the NCAA investigation.
Those results should show any rational individual that the NCAA governing body does not have the athlete’s best interest at heart. If they did they would have forced North Carolina to remove all the offending parties at the university, from the President on down, and they would have thanked Missouri for cooperating in their investigation, given them penalties equal to the crime and moved on and yet they did neither.
So for the rest of the college basketball season as you watch games potentially being impacted , not by the participants, but by the incorrect or no-calls made by officials that literally work games five and six nights a week remember that the NCAA has the opportunity to correct it and up to this point has chosen not to.