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Referee’s missed a crucial call that could have cost Syracuse a trip to the Elite Eight

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A ref who couldn't see a play blew his whistle to make an incorrect call on an unreviewable play.

Syracuse beat Gonzaga 63-60 to move onto the Elite Eight, but the referees almost robbed them of the opportunity. Trevor Cooney stole the ball from Gonzaga with under 20 seconds to go in a one-point game, but the refs blew the whistle and ruled his foot went out of bounds while making the play.

One problem: his foot wasn't out of bounds. CBS' replay showed clear space between his foot in between his foot and the out-of-bounds line:

Unfortunately, the referees couldn't use that replay, because the play wasn't reviewable. The rulebook specifies that certain plays, such as "which team caused the ball to go out of bounds when there is a deflection involving two or more players," are reviewable. But whether or not the ball actually went out of bounds is considered a judgment call. Unless a violation is specifically mentioned as a reviewable situation, refs aren't allowed to review it, and "did a ball go out of bounds" is not specifically mentioned.

So when Doug Sirmonds made the call from 30 feet away and no other ref was able to convince him otherwise, they had no recourse. The referees had to watch the replay showing Cooney's foot inbounds without saying anything.

What made the call particularly bad is that it wasn't made by the right referee. The official who made the call wasn't the referee on the baseline, who might have been able to see the play. It was Sirmonds, who was all the way up the baseline.

Unless Sirmonds has X-Ray vision and can actually see through Cooney's foot, he has no reason making that call.

It's excusable for a ref to make a call that turns out to be wrong by perhaps an eighth of an inch. It's less excusable for that ref to incorrectly make a call he shouldn't have made when the rulebook forbids reviewing it for no particular reason. I expect we'll see a tweak added to the rulebook to allow for this play to be reviewable in future.

Luckily, Syracuse was able to make a stop on the ensuing play to avoid a bad call from denying them a trip to the Elite Eight.

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March Madness: Does 10-seed Syracuse qualify as a Cinderella story?

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