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The refs marred North Carolina’s upset win over No. 1 Baylor in March Madness

North Carolina’s upset win over No. 1 Baylor had everyone talking about a ref conspiracy before the Bears’ comeback bid fell short.

North Carolina v Baylor Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The No. 8 seed North Carolina Tar Heels dominated No. 1 seed Baylor for the first 30 minutes of their round of 32 matchup in the 2022 men’s NCAA tournament on Saturday. That’s when Baylor started a massive comeback fueled by their full court press defense and aided by several questionable calls and non-calls from the refs that had all of social media talking about a conspiracy.

The Tar Heels led 67-42 with 10 minutes left in regulation when UNC star Brady Manek hit Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan with an inadvertent elbow and was called for a controversial flagrant-2 foul and automatic ejection. Baylor promptly went on a huge run, using a full court trapping defense to force Carolina into so many turnovers and quickly chip away at the lead. It sure seemed like Baylor got away with plenty of contact in forcing some of those turnovers that the officials let them get away with.

As fans complained about the officials during Baylor’s big comeback, the Tar Heels still had themselves to blame at times. UNC was up three with 25 seconds left when Armando Bacot went to the foul line. The star big man missed two free throws, giving Baylor a chance. Bears guard James Akinjo drove to the basket for a layup plus the foul on the next possession. He drained his free throw to tie the score with 15 seconds left. UNC missed a last season second on a poor final possession and the game went to overtime.

North Carolina hung on to win in overtime, 93-86. This year’s men’s March Madness tournament won’t have a repeat champion. Baylor is the first No. 1 seed out of the tournament.

Baylor outscored UNC 30-13 after Manek’s ejection to end regulation. Watch the play here.

Manek’s ejection completely changed the course of the game. After scoring 28 points in UNC’s first round blowout of Marquette, the Oklahoma transfer again caught fire with 26 points before the ejection. Manek’s elbow didn’t appear intentional enough to warrant the ejection in such a big game, but fans were even more upset with everything Baylor was getting away with as the final 10 minutes played out.

Akinjo appeared to be out of bounds on this trap that eventually went Baylor’s way.

This seemed like a quick whistle on a five-second call that went against the Heels.

Fans were also mad about this out of bounds call, but the refs did get it right after review.

Social media was full of people blaming the refs for Baylor’s big comeback.

The game remained close and competitive throughout overtime. UNC got an early lead and felt like it was playing something resembling prevent offense. With the Heels leading by five, Baylor got an offensive rebound and appeared to be fouled on a late three-point attempt, but the refs didn’t call it.

UNC had its own issues in OT:

Carolina went on a 7-1 run in overtime to lock down the win. The Heels advance to play the winner of St. Mary’s vs. UCLA in the Sweet 16.

There were 53 total fouls called in the game. This matchup surely did not help the reputation of college refs.

Carolina was led by R.J. Davis in the win, who finished with 30 points. Dontrez Styles added nine big points for UNC off the bench. It seemed like Baylor had all the momentum going into OT, but a big three by Styles to start the extra session gave UNC the boost it needed to finish off the win.

Even if the game wasn’t well officiated or all that well played, it certainly was exciting. The tournament never lets us down.