On Tuesday night Duke and Wake Forest were tied 74-all with the clock winding down. Duke drove into the lane and tried to lay it in, but it bounced off the rim. With only a few fractions of a second left, a Duke player seized the ball and dunked it in with just 0.2 seconds left. The Cameron Crazies erupted, but wait—a whistle. Basket interference—what?!? “No way!” would shout half the TV viewers while the other half would go, “Yep, that’s the right call.”
Following routine procedure, the officials went to the monitor and checked it out. The replay, when slowed down to a speed where human eyes and brains can actually know for certain what happened, showed that without a doubt the basket counted. “Okee-doke, just needed to be sure,” we can imagine the officials saying as they casually count the basket and watch Wake heave the ball at the buzzer and fall 76-74.
Just needed to be sure. That is EXACTLY how instant replay helps basketball wins and losses not be handed to the wrong teams by human error, and calling basket interference was EXACTLY what the officials needed to do and did indeed do, because the whole thing happened so fast and literally right at the end of the game.
If you say, “But since it wasn’t basket interference, they shouldn’t have called it in the first place right but still reviewed it, right?” that wouldn’t have worked. This was a situation that only replay could without a doubt make the right call unless an official was literally sitting on top of the backboard with his eyes glued to the play as it happened, but the only way to have replay resolve is to call the call and pause the game even if there is uncertainty. Obviously, if the result of the play was obvious, then this wouldn’t have been needed, and if it was in any other part of the game besides the final two minutes it wouldn’t be worth doing. But by putting the game into a position where they were able to slow everything down to instant replay and have the freedom to choose the correct call rather than just make sure “the clock didn’t already run out” or something which never changes anything, the refs were able to nail the call, avoid all the controversy, and give Duke credit for a fantastic basketball play while not leaving Wake Forest and their fans feeling robbed more than they need to.
Oh, and how does all this relate to Kentucky? Welp, things would’ve been a lot worse after that whistle in Tuesday’s Duke game without a certain UK-LSU game three years ago because the review wouldn’t have been able to change anything and the basket would NOT have counted. Oops, that would’ve been really bad! Well, not for us UK fans who hate Duke but y’know what I mean. LSU scored a basket right at the end of the game that probably should not have counted, but because a whistle for that was an all-or-nothing-no-replay call, the right call wasn’t able to be verified without a doubt by replay. UK fans were mad, as you would expect, and a rule change was made that is now enabling situations like Tuesday’s end the way they should (though unfortunately that meant Duke winning, buuuuut y’know what I mean).
Now if only that Wake Forest player’s one-handed 70-foot heave went in...