Jan 3, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Mark Lyons (2) defends Colorado Buffaloes guard Sabatino Chen (23) during the second half at McKale Center. The Wildcats beat the Buffaloes 92-83 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Refs Wave Off Game-Winner, Cheat Colorado Out of Win vs. Arizona


Unlike the applicable rule in the NFL, rules governing instant replay in college basketball say nothing about an official needing “indisputable evidence” to overturn a call.

But there does need to be some kind of evidence—any kind—to justify annulling a would-be game-winning shot in a marquee conference game, especially with Pac-12 title implications possibly weighing in the balance. On Thursday night at the McKale Center, there was none such evidence to speak of—only fragments of replays and fuzzy snapshots that seemed to show Colorado senior guard Sabatino Chen getting off a should-have-been clincher just in the nick of time.

The game officials had other ideas. After initially ruling the basket was good on the floor, the three officials visited the monitor, reviewed the play via multiple angles and determined the ball was on Chen’s tip as the clock expired. You be the judge yourself. Bear in mind the red light edging the backboard and the game clock on the bottom-right corner are both irrelevant. The clock high atop the backboard is the official timer used by the officials when consulting the replay.

Need a better angle? Squint your eyes and tilt your head. It’s that close. (BTW, anyone insisting Chen clearly got off the shot in time is lying through his/her teeth).

No more than two takeaways are possible from the video footage and attendant image: 1) Chen released the shot milliseconds before the clock struck zero; or 2) the replay is inconclusive. The refs, however, concluded one of Chen’s fingers was visibly touching the basketball as the clock struck zero—this despite a half-dozen angles, both frozen screenshots and slow-mo replay, which show everything but.

Unless you can unmistakably see skin on the basketball—you can’t from any of the angles made available to the officials in standard definition television on a 12” screen—there is no grounds to reverse the call on the floor and wave off the shot. The officials went by their own rules instead, and the inauspicious upshot is a pivotal two-game swing in the Pac-12 standings.

The Buffaloes should be 1-0 in league play with a signature road win as good as any in the country. The Wildcats, meanwhile, should be 0-1, pinned with a cold reminder that their reliance on herculean comebacks and late-game heroics is a dangerous habit to continue.

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  • Heliocracy .

    The clock hitting zero and the ball leaving his hand both happened between frames on the video. Since action between the frames of a video are lost forever, there’s really no way to be absolutely sure of what happened. And the “call on the court” was split, with one ref calling it good and one waving it off. Doyle should have, and probably did, tell his team that they never should have been in that position at the end of the game, when they had a comfortable lead with less than two minutes left. They should know by now that Arizona tends to find a way to get it done when it counts the most. Still feel sorry for the kid from Colorado, though, but refs make mistakes all the time, this one (if it was one) is really no different.

    • Evan, Busting Brackets

      The official ruling on the court (which was relayed to the scorer’s table) is that the basket counted. Hence why I have a problem with the initial ruling being overturned. Since the replay was inconclusive and largely unhelpful, the officials should have upheld whatever the initial call was–in this case a made basket.

      If the officials waved off the basket on the floor (before going to the monitor) this is a non-issue, as all the footage / screenshots I’ve seen have been inconclusive. Those saying the ball “clearly” left Chen’s hand before
      the clock read triple 0s is inaccurate. You’re right about the lapse between frames when the clock strikes zero. One of several reasons why the video is inconclusive and the original call, as I know it, should have stayed.

      That said, Colorado has a million other things to point its finger at for this loss: more bad free throw shooting, poor defense down the stretch and Arizona hitting big time shots (again). Can’t fault the Buffs for not coming out for overtime. That’s as deflating a moment for a team as there is.