NCAA legislators may have to make a belated addendum to their list of New Year’s resolutions.
An otherwise unsuspecting New Year’s Day tilt between Connecticut and Marquette brought to light a peculiar rule, the kind that requires incompetent officiating to even come into play.
As if regulation hadn’t offered enough drama—Ryan Boatright’s step-back, fall-away jumper with the shot clock winding down extended Connecticut’s lead to three, then a Junior Cadougan buzzer-beating trey sent the game to overtime—the plot thickened when both teams needlessly switched sides to start the extra session. Worse yet, the officials didn’t correct both teams until after the overtime period tipped off, after the Huskies had a 2-point basket wiped away by a goaltending call and a misinterpretation of a technicality that ensued.
Connecticut controlled the overtime tip. Shabazz Napier streaked down the right alley 12 seconds into the period and flung up a runner that was discarded by a Marquette defender—an obvious goaltending violation that was ruled accordingly. But after the referees conferred, realizing only then that the two teams had been lined up the wrong way, UConn never received the two points. In fact, because of the head official’s misunderstanding of the appropriate rule, the Huskies didn’t even get the ball back.
According to Rule 5, Sec.1, Art. 3, when officials permit both teams to go the wrong way, all activity and time consumed prior to the identification of the error counts. There’s no restarting the period or retroactively voiding all points scored in it. If one team scores 10 points on the wrong basket, those 10 hold up provided the officials enabled both teams to line up the wrong way in the first place. Theoretically, each point scored by a team going the wrong way shouldn’t count, as the team would be committing a backcourt violation beforehand. Rule 5, Sec.1, Art. 3 stipulates otherwise.
The officials in the Connecticut-Marquette game ruled that Napier had attempted an illegal shot at his own basket; thus, a goaltending violation is inapplicable. By their [wrong] interpretation of the rule, the initial goaltending call becomes an inadvertent whistle, which summons the “alternating possession” arrow. Hence, Marquette basketball.
Here’s the rub: Rule 5, Sec.1, Art. 3 states that all play that occurs while both teams are inadvertently going the wrong way counts as if the teams were shooting on the proper baskets. In short, the officials should have upheld the goaltending call, awarded Connecticut two points, then allowed both teams to switch sides with 4:48 showing on the game clock.
Connecticut lost the game for myriad reasons, not the least of which was not fouling Cadougan while nursing a three-point lead with less than five seconds to play in regulation. But the Huskies were inexplicably denied two critical points in OT for no other reason but incompetent officiating, and no amount of deflection can defend that.
Not only did the refs allow the two teams to line up the wrong way; they compounded the problem by botching the rule designed to address that specific situation.