BlackJack: NCAA’s Negligence on Incorrect Buzzer Beaters Must Be Stopped

BlackJack: NCAA’s Negligence on Incorrect Buzzer Beaters Must Be Stopped article feature image
  • Creighton hit a meaningless buzzer beater against Villanova that swung the point spread for some bettors.
  • That shot should not have counted since it came after the buzzer, but officials counted it anyway and didn't review it.
  • BlackJack Fletcher outlines why the NCAA must judge all calls the same, and have a system in place to get these calls right.

Again, I’m going to start this by saying that I did not have action on the Creighton at Villanova game last night. I’m also going to say that I agree with the many voices online who say this is not a “bad beat.”

Villanova was never covering this number until the back end of overtime and even then it would have been a push.

But again, the spread of Villanova -9, was not the only bet effected. And again, the result is utterly and completely unacceptable.

Almost exactly like Monday night’s Iowa State-Oklahoma game, there was a last-second shot in Creighton-Villanova that clearly shouldn’t have counted. Villanova was up by nine in overtime when Creighton ran down the court and got a shot off well after the clock expired, and the red lights lit up on the shot clock.

In fact, in some ways, this was more egregious than the call for Oklahoma, since the Creighton’s Kaleb Joseph had barely begun his motion when the clock read 0:00. And still, the basket counted and anyone with Villanova -9 (or Nova -7 in the second half) was plain screwed.

I know we had the same referee on the court in both games, which is undoubtedly problematic — not because I believe there is any nefarious intent, but rather because he should have been and most certainly was aware of the controversy surrounding the call on Monday night.

Referees are human and they talk about things going on at work. This was a major talking point in the sports world and you cannot convince me Monday night’s call was not brought up, despite the NCAA’s refusal to publicly acknowledge or be interested in gambling. Yet, we had the same error made Wednesday night in Pennsylvania and the result was the same. Bettors lost money they shouldn’t have.

This brings us to only two possible conclusions, and I don’t like either one. The first is that the officiating in the NCAA is incredibly poor, as both calls were obvious with the benefit of slow motion replays. Two missed calls of the same nature in three days of major conference play is simply inexcusable.

The second explanation is that the referees may be qualified and trained, but they simply don’t pay the same attention to calls at the end of games that aren’t close. Again, the lack of focus is unacceptable. Every play in every game is important and should be officiated the same.

As bettors, we depend on games being legitimate and on the “up and up.” This is why leagues are so strict about enforcing anti-gambling rules on players, coaches and officials. We, and they, do not want anyone effecting the outcome of games. We, and they, want the outcomes to be fair, right, and legitimate. It is why Pete Rose isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is why Tim Donaghy will never referee another basketball game again. Because we demand the games, and the results, to be legitimate.

These two results are not legitimate. You can make the argument that the ultimate result was unchanged, and that’s true. But the results are not what they should be. The final score was incorrect in both games. Clearly incorrect. If those two plays happened at the end of the first half instead of the second, they would have been reviewed, and likely corrected. But because the winner and loser was not at stake, the NCAA does not deem it worthy of a review.

The problem with that is it ignores the ever growing legion of people who legally, and legitimately, gamble on those games. It ignores the money that those gamblers put into the pockets of the NCAA and its conferences. As gambling grows in America, TV rights deals will be more profitable for leagues, including the NCAA. Ratings will go up as more people have more action on more games. All of this benefits the leagues. Yet, still they look down on bettors and treat them as if they don’t matter. The fact is, we, and our money, do matter.

If the NCAA, or any other league, does not care to make sure its results are fair and legitimate, than that is not a product worth my wager. It is not a product worth your hard earned money. Gambling is hard enough without the governing bodies openly slapping bettors in the face and not caring what happens to their money.

As bettors, we must demand that the results of games are fair. Missed calls happen. That’s life. But these calls directly changed the final scores of games on plays that should not have happened. This is unacceptable and simply cannot stand.