It just wouldn’t be a Virginia win in the Final Four without some ensuing questions about the officiating. In the case of the Cavaliers’ overtime victory Monday over Texas Tech that gave them their first national championship, some viewers were upset over a key out-of-bounds call that ultimately went against the Red Raiders.
With Texas Tech down by two points with just over a minute left in the extra session, Red Raiders guard Davide Moretti got the ball and headed upcourt only to see it poked away by Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter. The initial call gave Texas Tech possession, but an extensive video review that included close-up, slow-motion footage resulted in a determination that the ball had grazed Moretti’s finger before going out of play.
That raised questions of whether replay was being used for what was arguably its originally intended function — to correct obvious errors in officiating with conclusive imagery — and whether it was fair, in this case, to the Red Raiders. As some noted, the replays also appeared to show that Moretti was fouled during the sequence, but that officiating decision was not eligible to be overturned.
“This is the problem with replay: [Virginia’s Kyle] Guy and Hunter fouled Moretti there if you put it in slo-mo,” Ryan Phillips of The Big Lead tweeted. “They can’t call that [with] replay, but they could take the ball from Moretti [because] of the ball being on his pinkie a millisecond too long.”
That last point was a theme among critics of the overturned call. Even if the ball did touch Moretti last, it did so by the barest of margins. To decide that was a more significant factor for possession than Hunter’s action in poking the ball away violated the spirit, if not the letter, of basketball law.
Not everyone saw it that way, of course. Ben Pershing of National Journal said on Twitter: “I see lots of people complaining about the replay review, but the original call was wrong and the reversal was correct. I guess you can root for the original incorrect call to stand, for game flow purposes, but it’s an odd hill to die on.”
In any event, the episode conjured memories of Virginia’s win in the national semifinal over Auburn, in which a pair of officiating decisions loomed large. Guy was able to seal that Cavaliers comeback victory by hitting three free throws after being fouled on a shot attempt with less than a second left, prompting accusations that referees had inserted themselves into the outcome.
Moments before that, Virginia’s Ty Jerome committed a double dribble violation that went uncalled, but howls over that were met by rejoinders that the replays showing the gaffe also appeared to show a possible foul on Jerome by Auburn, which also did not draw a whistle. By the same token, calling the foul there would have required more of a judgment call than seeing Jerome temporarily lose control of his dribble before retrieving the ball with both hands, thereby committing a violation when he began dribbling again.
That part of the discussion following Virginia’s win Saturday went to the notion that official reviews are best reserved for occasions when a call has very clearly been made in error or missed completely, and the debate was revived Monday.
“Every sport should have a shot clock on replay,” MMQB’s Albert Breer tweeted. “If you can’t see that you got it wrong in 30 seconds, then it’s not obvious, so don’t overturn it.”
The one thing everyone seemed to be able to agree on was that no one wanted every single basketball play to be reviewed for possible officiating mistakes. In addition, few were claiming Texas Tech would have won if not for the reversal, or that Virginia had reason to feel its breakthrough championship was tainted.
However, there certainly was sentiment that the Red Raiders were denied a chance to make the ending of the national title game more hair-raising because of an excessively hairsplitting use of slow-motion video.
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