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.