NCAA hoops needs challenge rule

EAST RUTHERFORD-- Vanderbilt fans here awoke to a bleak, dark, miserable morning after watching their team lose last night because of a missed call. In a game Vanderbilt should have won an official who was either weak, dishonest or blind stole the hard work and dreams of twelve Commodore players who should be getting ready to face North Carolina tomorrow.

The NCAA is full of rules. Rules that fans can't help the poor mother of a murdered player. Rules that you can't bring a Gold shaker into an NCAA Tournament facility. Rules against players that can't afford shoes getting help from their coaches. Rules concerning the number of pages in a media guide. These rules are vigorously enforced. But on the court it's a different story.

With 3 seconds remaining and Vanderbilt leading by 1 and seemingly headed to their first Elite 8 appearance since 1965 Georgetown's Jeff Green drove toward the basket and shifted left and shifted right and pivoted his left foot and then pivoted his right foot. Green then banked a shot off the backboard and the Georgetown fans went wild and rightfully so, why shouldn't they be happy? The problem is not with Georgetown winning but how Vanderbilt was not allowed to win.

I talked with The Tennessean Vanderbilt beat writer Maurice Patton after the game and he said that he saw the walk from the opposite side of the court, almost 30 yards away. Millions of television viewers also saw the walk as it occurred. If Patton could see a walk at such a distance, why on earth couldn't a supposedly trained and seasoned official see a walk from 10 feet away?

We'll never know whether the official actually saw the violation or not but the fact is it was a violation and it should have cost Georgetown. This is not about a ticky tack foul that wasn't called; this is a blatant violation of the ball handling rules. The whistle should have sounded before Green even took a shot and the ball and game handed over to Vanderbilt. Instead the hard work and dedication and a rightful place among the Elite Eight is ripped from the arms of a deserving team and Commodore fans, some of whom paid thousands of dollars to attend games in both Sacramento and East Rutherford, saw their dreams of a trip to Atlanta for the Final Four vanquished.

What will it take to get fair officiating in NCAA games? We don't know why the officials seem to screw teams like Vanderbilt. It may be because of pressure from the networks to let the glamour teams advance for rating purposes. Money certainly matters to the NCAA. The fact is though; action needs to be taken whether or not it was just an honest mistake by the official. Why should teams like Vanderbilt continue playing if they aren't given a fair shake?

The NCAA needs an instant replay similar to what is used in football. In the last two minutes of a basketball game a head coach should be able to challenge one of any of the official's calls or no calls except for technical fouls. Officials would have the option to review any play in the last two minutes. This would be complicated because of the nature of basketball and how the game progresses as opposed to football but a system could be made workable with some effort.

Let's hope the NCAA gets as serious about enforcing on the court rules as much as they are off the court rules. Top Stories