College basketball has no choice but to implement instant replay

Will Anderson

There, but for the lack of instant replay, go I.

A number of college basketball coaches must be repeating that phrase to themselves this week as they reflect on their second- and third-round tournament victories in preparation for this weekend’s action.

You have the half second that was never added back to the clock in the North Carolina-Washington game. Then there was the inexplicable five-second call against Texas in the Longhorns’ third-round loss to Arizona.

But it goes back even further — in the Big East tournament, St. John’s escaped with an egregious non-call when Justin Brownlee stepped out of bounds and then heaved the ball into the stands with 1.7 seconds left on the clock to beat Rutgers.

Forget the missed fouls and phantom charging calls, which are not reviewable under current NCAA rules or in most major professional sports — clock issues should be immediately reviewed and corrected in the high-stakes, big-money world of college basketball.

It’s a common occurrence in college football, and basketball referees have the ability to consult instant replay to correct clock operator errors. They often do, and the vast majority of referees, if not all, do their best to call a fair game.

But a top-down emphasis from the NCAA must be pushed that stresses correcting clock errors, especially with the added safeguard of technology.

Basketball purists might accuse replay consultation of slowing down the game and ruining its flow.

It’s an argument often repeated in sports such as professional soccer, where such breaks in the action are frowned upon.

But the English Premier League is planning to test out some goal-line technology this season and FIFA is considering using it in the next World Cup.

Closer to home, tennis long ago embraced the advantage of instant replay and MLB now uses it to rule on home-run calls.

College basketball, especially in America, should be at the forefront of such advances.

I understand not wanting to come out and criticize officials in the final weeks of the season — the statement issued by Big East commissioner John Marinatto acknowledging the mistake in the St. John’s-Rutgers game was surprising. But the NCAA should be making sure that critical seconds aren’t being left or taken off the clock in close-game situations.

Anything less is an affront to students, alumni, fans, boosters, coaches, and family, not to mention the young men and women who spend their entire college careers practicing basketball with the hopes of postseason success.

That such errors still occur, when there exists the technology to correct them, is embarrassing for a tournament that tries to position itself as the most exciting in sports.