The NCAA Might Finally Stop Pretending Sports Betting Doesn’t Exist

Grant Lucas February 8, 2019
NCAA Betting

The meaningless 3-pointer that seals a backdoor cover as a game expires makes for a bad-yet-entertaining beat.

But the meaningless 3-pointer made to cover the spread — a shot that should not have counted to begin with — is just brutal.

Such an occurrence happened not once, but TWICE this week: A player getting up an attempt that would not influence the outcome of the game, the final horn blaring throughout the arena well before the ball leaves that player’s hands, allowing his team to still lose but by a slimmer margin.

Neither shot was reviewed… because the team leading still won. Understand, though, that the NCAA has long opposed legalized sports betting, citing the industry’s potential impact on the “integrity” of college basketball games. Seems like it has its own integrity issues.

And the NCAA is at least (emphasis on “least”) addressing said issue:

Post-buzzer shots in question

On Monday, No. 17 Iowa State avoided an upset to visiting Oklahoma, holding on for a 75-74 win.

The Cyclones, though, came in as 3-point favorites at many sportsbooks. And it appeared as if Iowa State would leave the arena as four-point winners. Cyclone covers for the win, right?

Yeah, well, that running 3-pointer arguably should not have counted, as video evidence indicated that the shot did not get off before the buzzer.

Then there was Wednesday’s matchup of Big East teams Creighton and Villanova.

With less than 3 seconds to play, Creighton’s Kaleb Joseph crossed midcourt and made his way into the lane. He pulls up for a floater and buries the shot. But even the play-by-play was skeptical:

“Joseph does not get the shot off. That does not count. Does it count? (Referee) Roger Ayers says it’s good.” Then, after a moment of stunned silence. “That’s an interesting call there at the buzzer.”

Villanova entered as a 9-point favorite at many sportsbooks, and the Wildcats led by that margin when Joseph went up for the shot. His “made” attempt gave Creighton the cover with a 66-59 loss.

NCAA officials will review ALL shots

As ESPN’s David Purdum noted, the NCAA will ask referees to “review all shots made at the buzzer.” That includes made field goals that become “One Shining Moment” fodder and, theoretically, those that trim a 27-point loss into a 24-point loss.

This request comes “in the interest of accuracy of score and team and player statistics and even if the outcome of the game isn’t riding on the officials’ call.”

Said shots may result in a buzzer-beating win. Or they might affect the outcome for point spread or over/under total. Perhaps neither. Either way, the NCAA said, officials need to review every single time.

Here is a reading of the NCAA instant replay rule:

“Officials shall use such available equipment in the following situations: a. When there is a reading of zeroes (or should have been zeroes on the clock) on the game clock at the end of any period, after making a call on the playing court, and when necessary to determine the outcome of the game in the following situations: 1. Determine whether a try for field goal entering the basket was released before the reading of zeroes on the game clock. When it is determined that the try for goal was successful, the official is permitted to put the exact time back on the game clock as to when the ball passed through the net.”

So, in theory, these frequent replays should always occur. Although one could argue that determining “the outcome of the game” is up for interpretation.

Funny, though, how an organization so adamantly against legalized sports betting has come around to the ways of the force.

NCAA urging should already be happening

Funny enough, the NCAA has at least (emphasis on “least”) embraced the advent of regulated sports betting.

Last summer, the association announced it would explore the ins and outs of the industry while “examining the long-term impact” of sports betting. To do so, the NCAA pieced together an “internal team of subject matter experts” that would explore “how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.”

There’s that “integrity” again.

The NCAA specifically said that referees will review ALL shots occurring around the final horn during the NCAA tournament. That’s nice, especially considering how much sports betting action will take place during March Madness.

But even to REACH the Big Dance, teams across the country will have their seasonlong resumes under the microscope of the tournament selection committee. Bubble teams, especially, will have their performances against opponents examined. Who did they play? How did they do? By how much did they win or lose?

Every point matters during the regular season. ESPECIALLY for bubble teams. Maybe the NCAA will discover its own rule and put it to proper use next year.