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2014 NCAA Tournament: Replay review is a mess and needs to be fixed

If you haven't noticed, this has been a pretty exciting NCAA Tournament. But the stripes are feeling left out, and neglecting common sense by abusing their replay review powers.

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
SB Nation 2014 Final Four Preview

With 15 seconds remaining in maybe the most stress-inducing juncture of Friday's Kentucky - Louisville classic, we were forced to sit and wait.

Down two, Louisville's Luke Hancock drove to the basket looking to tie the game at 70. He was denied, as many have been this season, by the Wildcats' Julius Randle. The ball was batted towards the ground and Randle, Stephan Van Treese and Andrew Harrison tried to corral it, only to have it sputter out of bounds.

The waiting game began.

Greg Anthony, who has proven to be exceptional as the lead NCAA Tournament color man, had to resign himself to speculating not what Louisville could and should do in their final possession to defeat Kentucky, but whether or not a basketball went off the hand of Andrew Harrison or Steven Van Tresse, with no conclusive evidence to work with.

Greg Anthony is better than this, and the review did not nothing to heighten the moment - it only deflated it.

After exactly 4:30 of downtime, Louisville was rewarded the ball. We ran in a circle for 270 seconds and arrived at the very same spot. Awesome.

College and pro basketball have long been made fun of for having its final two minutes last a lifetime. The four step process of fouling > free throws > quick shot > time-out elongates and slows down a game has far fewer pauses than other sports.

Now, since introducing replay review, the NCAA has injected a new means of making the end of close games (and some games that are not close) take that much longer, and it is absolutely crippling the watchability.

Basketball, if you've ever played it, is a rhythm sport. You don't stop unless there is a foul or the ball goes out of bounds. In football, you stop after every play; baseball after every pitch. Hockey and soccer go back and forth too, but they don't score four to five dozen times a game.

Basically, adding more stops to a basketball game just makes it less exciting and it has become a common theme to many of the most competitive games we've seen in the last week.

Perhaps it is time to refine review?

In the NFL, you could argue that replay review seems to actually enhance the drama of a close game. A ref has the challenge flag and there's actually strategy involved in using them. Sometimes there's even entertainment in juxtaposing Jim Harbaugh launching a red flag towards the middle of the field against Bill Belichick pull a flag out of his sock and listlessly drop his inches in front of his foot.

But that doesn't exist in college basketball. Every replay review begins with confusion on the court, then a moan from viewers that we have to sit and wait. We check our watches, go to the bathroom, maybe throw about a tweet, and collectively wonder what took the stripes so long to make their decision. There is no heightened drama.

Deadspin's fantastic Regression blog has been tracking the duration of each 2014 NCAA Tournament game, specifically how long it takes to complete the final minute.

As you would expect, closer games have resulted in a longer finish, but the numbers are staggering if not downright gross:

Sixteen of the 64 games played in this year's tournament have had their final minute of play account for 7% or more of the total length of the game, while nine of those game's final minute have account for 10% or more of the total length.

Michigan's Sweet 16 win over Tennessee took the longest to complete, while Saturday's Elite Eight game between Arizona and Wisconsin was both particularly long and served as the breaking point for declaring widespread ineptitude among college basketball officials.

This research, and much of the ire drawn at the officiating throughout this college basketball season has been centered around late game management, but there's also frustration over the diligence refs have been taking this year to police the flagrant foul. Far too often have games been paused in the middle of an exciting sequence because an inadvertent elbows. These have been called when a player is trying to beat his defender off the wing, coming down for a rebound under a crowded basket, or simply making a hustle play where limbs can go in any direction.

Advancements in technology are supposed to provide solutions to problems and make our lives easier. In college basketball, it is doing exactly the opposite, by halting the game's flow and robbing it of common sense. Because we have it at our disposal, we feel it must be abused.

College basketball's rules committee meets to agree to rule changes every other year, so modifications to the review process won't officially be made, if at all, for at least another season. When they meet, the should consider limiting the number of reviews per game.

Instead of an allotment of coaches challenges, we should put that on the officials. If a call can't be made to a replay review after two minutes, the call stands and we play on. There's plenty more potential changes too.

What we are dealing with now is bad. Players are still capable of deciding these games, not three zebras huddled around a monitor.