NCAA March Madness 2019: Looking at the most controversial calls in NCAA Tournament historyApril 8, 2019 7:55am EDTApril 8, 2019 7:52am EDTBasketball, College Sports, Auburn, NCAA Division I, Duke Blue Devils, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Gonzaga Bulldogs, Kansas Jayhawks, Maryland Terrapins basketball, Michigan State Spartans basketball, North Carolina Tar Heels, Purdue Boilermakers basketball, Seton Hall Pirates,
Tennessee Volunteers, Virginia Cavaliers, Wisconsin Badgers basketballThe Final Four matchup between Virginia and Auburn featured two notable calls that will likely be called controversial in the years to come. But they’re not the first in NCAA Tournament history.
The NCAA Tournament over the years has been rife with questionable, confusing and outright bad calls, no-calls and otherwise blunderous errors that, unfortunately, became the story of a game.
The 2019 NCAA Tournament has been no exception. Even in the Final Four matchup between Virginia and Auburn, a foul called on Samir Doughty against Kyle Guy was the main storyline of the game — until it was revealed refs missed a crucial double dribble on Ty Jerome that could have resulted in an Auburn victory.
Recency bias will tell you the frequency and egregiousness of these calls has never been higher, but there have been plenty of doozies over the years. With that, Sporting News takes a look at some of the most curious and head-scratching calls in NCAA Tournament history:
The game clock stopped for between 11 and 19 seconds with 2:21 remaining on the clock. The issue wasn’t noticed at until coach Michigan State’s Jud Heathcote slammed his fist on the scorer’s table, but even then the clock wasn’t adjusted. The game continued right where it had left off, with 2:21 remaining. That only became an issue when Kansas’
Archie Marshall tipped in the game-tying score with nine seconds left, sending the game to overtime. The Jayhawks made good on the extra time, eventually winning 96-86. Heathcote contended the game should already have been over at the time of Miller’s tip-in — and it would have been, if not for the malfunction.
This call still reverberates as one of the most controversial judgments made in NCAA Tournament history. Official John Clougherty called Seton Hall’s Gerald Green for bumping Brian Robinson while the latter attempted a pass as he drove through the lane.
Seton Hall led 79-78 with just three seconds left, but that lead disappeared when Robinson hit both shots on a one-and-one. Seton Hall couldn’t score on its last possession, and Michigan got its first national championship on a call that has become one of the defining moments of the NCAA Tournament. Even Robinson, the beneficiary of the call, said he was surprised Clougherty called it at that point of the game. “Honestly, I thought it was kind of weak to make that call at that time.”
Georgia Tech’s Kenny Anderson hit a last-second buzzer-beater to tie the game at 75 and send the Yellow Jackets to overtime against Michigan State. The only problem is, Anderson’s shot didn’t beat the buzzer; the CBS telecast showed the ball still clearly in Anderson’s hands as the game ended, meaning the Spartans should have advanced with a 75-73 win. The officials did not overturn the call, however, and the Yellow Jackets ended up winning 81-80 in overtime.
This might not have had an effect on the outcome of the game, but it was still bizarre to watch UNC coach Dean Smith, considered one of the great gentlemen of the game, ejected from a Final Four. Smith was ejected with 35 seconds left to play and his team down 76-71.
The official who issued the technical, Pete Pavia, made the call because Smith had left the coach’s box. Smith had done so to escort fouled-out Rick Fox off the court — which he contended was standard practice — and ask Pavia how much time left he had to make a substitution. That’s when Pavia hit him with the T, which Smith would later describe as “ridiculous” and “an embarrassment.” UNC lost the game, 79-73.
A notable entry in the “Refs gave Duke the game” lexicon. This game, which featured a 22-point comeback by the Blue Devils, saw some controversial foul calls (and no calls) that still infuriate Terps fans. The most notable one occurred late in the game, with Duke now leading Maryland 84-79.
Maryland center Lonny Baxter was backing down Duke’s Carlos Boozer — both with four fouls — when the refs called Baxter for his fifth of the game. Duke ended up winning, but the foul-out and seemingly preferential calls for the Blue Devils will always remain an unfortunate facet of this game.
This was not a particularly well-officiated game — egregious enough for the fact this is the Final Four we’re talking about — with bad calls going both ways. Who could forget Kentucky’s Trey Lyles smacking Josh Gasser in the face, free of charge?
The one that may have had a more noticeable impact, however, came with 2:44 left in the game and Kentucy nursing a 60-58 lead. A wild possession from Wisconsin ended with a Nigel Hayes putback that tied the game at 60. Except, it was obvious it should have been a shot-clock violation. Kentucky never led again in a 71-64 loss, its first of the season.
Another example of an unconscionable screw-up by replay officials. Duke led by five with under two minutes remaining in the national championship game when the ball was sent out of bounds. Most camera angles seemed to suggest possession belonged to Duke, until CBS showed another angle that proved definitively Jahlil Okafor touched the ball last and possession belonged with Wisconsin. The officials still gave possession to the Blue Devils and.
After the game (which Duke won 68-63), officials said they never saw the angle that proved the ball belonged to Wisconsin. That caused quite a stir-up, including from tournament vice president Dan Gavitt, who said the officials should have taken the time to get the call right. It was a bad look for the officials for getting it wrong and the NCAA for (allegedly) not getting them the correct angle to review.
Give credit to the refs for one thing: At least they didn’t favor any one particular team. But this game quickly became a stilted, disjointed mess that was less about the championship game participants and more about the whistle-happy officials. They called four fouls in the first 78 seconds of the second half, nine in the first four minutes, 16 in the first eight minutes and 22 with eight minutes remaining. Apart from the frequency of the fouls was their veracity; there were certainly some ticky-tack calls that probably should have been left alone. In all, UNC and Gonzaga each had 22 fouls called on them. Carolina won the game 71-65.
Virginia’s game vs. Auburn wasn’t the only controversial call made in the 2019 tournament. The first belongs to the foul called against Lamonte Turner in the Sweet 16 matchup between Tennessee and Purdue. The foul occurred late in regulation while Carsen Edwards attempted a 3-point shot that would have given the Boilermakers an 83-82 win.
He missed the shot, but Turner was called for the foul for hip-checking Edward’s outstretched leg in the air. Edwards hit two of his foul shots to knot it up at 82, sending the game to overtime. Purdue eventually won 99-94 — but not without Twitter working itself into a tizzy trying to determine whether Turner should have been called for a foul.