Everybody Knows … Wrong Team Was Given the W

Lyn Scarbrough

April 08, 2019 at 5:31 pm.

Apr 6, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Virginia Cavaliers guard Kyle Guy (5) is fouled by Auburn Tigers guard Samir Doughty (10) during the second half in the semifinals of the 2019 men's Final Four at US Bank Stadium. Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 6, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Virginia Cavaliers guard Kyle Guy (5) is fouled by Auburn Tigers guard Samir Doughty (10) during the second half in the semifinals of the 2019 men’s Final Four at US Bank Stadium. Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Fredericksburg is a rural community in northeast Iowa, population 971 according to the most recent census.

I’m writing this column while passing through Fredericksburg, on the way back to Lindy’s office in Birmingham after covering the Saturday games at the NCAA basketball Final Four in Minneapolis.

It’s possible that few people in Fredericksburg watched the televised first game from U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday and probably even fewer care about how that game ended.

But, a lot of others do.

Auburn fans, SEC fans, college basketball fans, anybody who cares about the integrity and credibility of the game of basketball … they all care.

In case you’ve been unconscious since Saturday afternoon, here’s what happened.

Virginia, the No. 1 seed, faced Auburn for the right to play for the national championship on Monday night. The Cavaliers had a 10-point lead with just five minutes left in the game. From that point until the final seconds, the game was all Auburn.

The Tigers scored 14 unanswered points, totally dominated the game on both ends of the court, recaptured the momentum, and had the tournament’s top seed near hopelessly defeated. Everybody in the cavernous football stadium could sense it.

Then, in the closing seconds … literally … a basketball horror story was written. If you’re interested in the co-authors, you can check the game’s box score for the names of the officials.

Auburn had stormed back ahead in dominating fashion and led, 62-60. Virginia had one last gasp chance to tie or win the game with only 5.4 seconds remaining. Cavalier guard Ty Jerome dribbled toward the basket, loosely guarded by Auburn long distance marksman Bryce Brown.

Jerome dribbled the ball off his foot. The ball bounced behind him, so that he had to turn around to retrieve the ball, then pick up his dribble again. This happened in completely open view of everybody in the stadium and millions of viewers around the country.

Anybody that was watching the ball realized what had happened and anybody that understands the rules of basketball knew what it meant.

Apparently that did not include the three officials calling the game, those three co-authors of this horror story. Not sure what they were watching or thinking, but for sure it wasn’t the game unfolding before their eyes.

CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore, a man with “no dog in the hunt,” expressed it most clearly.

“As we start to watch Ty Jerome dribbling the basketball, it bounces off his back foot,” he explained. “It doesn’t go far either, so there’s no defense that touches it. He (Jerome) regains possession with both hands and starts a new dribble sequence. By rule, that is a double dribble.”

Couldn’t be much clearer than that.

Ball goes over to Auburn.

Ball game!! Tigers will play for the national championship.

But, no. There’s no call.

Then, the co-authors write another closing chapter making things even worse.

With just 1.5 seconds left, Auburn’s Samir Doughty was called for fouling Virginia’s Kyle Guy on a desperation shot that never came close to being good. The red lights around the backboard lit up, Auburn players rushed onto the court to celebrate. Tens of thousands of fans in the stadium erupted in cheers.

But, no … again.

Doughty was called for the violation, sending Guy to the line for three shots.

While the double dribble no-call indisputably took away Auburn’s earned victory, the foul call wasn’t cut-and-dried.

Replay showed that contact was made.

The applicable rule is Rule 4.1 which defines an “airborne shooter” as a “player who has released the ball on a try for goal or has tapped the ball and has not returned to the floor.” If the defender makes contact with the shooter before his feet are back on the playing surface, a foul can legitimately be called and the shooter will be given the number of shots as the points that would have been earned if the shot had gone in.

In this case, Kyle Guy would be given three shots, which is what happened.

But, even that isn’t without controversy.

Things can be viewed differently if the shooter jumps into the defender, initiating the contact. A shooter can’t extend his leg into a defender in order to cause contact.

Watch the replay again and make your own call on those things.

Then, during a game there are many times when players come in contact with each other when officials wisely have a “no-call.”

In this case, Guy wasn’t knocked to the floor. The contact came low, did not hit the shooter’s arm, did not in any way alter the trajectory of the errant shot. The two players made body contact, but that’s all. For sure, that contact wasn’t nearly as severe as on some three-point attempts at the other end of the court during the game.

In fact, the entire game was called inconsistently, especially when compared to those final seconds.

Here are the numbers:

Before the final desperation toss by Guy, there had been 49 three-point attempts during the game, 31 by Auburn and 18 by Virginia. There had been zero calls for fouling the shooter until the one that almost without question would determine the outcome of the game.

Virginia and Auburn are two of the best defensive teams in college basketball. The Cavaliers are the leader in scoring defense for the season. Auburn is in the top 10 nationally in steals, blocked shots, turnover margin and points off turnovers. Active, aggressive defenses.

But by the closing minutes, only eight personal fouls had been called on both teams combined. Both teams had to intentionally commit fouls at the end of the game to even make their opponent become eligible for 1-and-1 shots.

So, it’s obvious that the officials, the co-authors of this story, had been letting them play. Only 12 fouls were called on each team during the entire game.

But with that being the case, that three-point prayer was actually called!!


After blowing one of the most glaring double dribble calls in basketball history to take victory from Auburn, then that foul is called to insure it.

The instantaneous, deafening, long-lasting chorus of “BOOs” from almost everybody in the stadium who had watched it first-hand gave evidence of what had happened. The flood of text messages, tweets, e-mails, Facebook posts and calls that immediately flooded social media from countless thousands who were watching in on television live and on replay, gave that same evidence.

Unfortunately, this was not a situation where evidence mattered. This wasn’t a jury trial. It was a case determined by three people, the co-authors, and their verdict was without appeal.

Around the country, analysts at all levels criticized the calls and defended Auburn’s position.

“I certainly credit Guy for making the three free throws, but he never should have been on the line. Obvious double-dribble was missed. What a gut-wrenching way to lose for Auburn,” said Dick Vitale, America’s best-known basketball broadcaster.

On the front page of the New York Post are two full-color action photos showing the blown double dribble and showing the Auburn defender holding his position as the Virginia shooter jumps and extends his leg. The boldface caption says, “UVa escapes Tigers after ticky-tack foul, and missed double dribble.”

The giant all caps headline reads, “AUBURNED” … a new verb created. From now own, if you’re unfairly victimized from a sports championship, you will have been “Auburned.”

Of course, a valid case can be made that Auburn could have won the game earlier. The Tigers hit nine three-pointers, two below their season average. What if they had hit their average?

In the last minute, Jared Harper, arguably the team’s best at the free throw line, missed one of two free throws. If the second one had been good, the two officials’ decisions would still have only sent the game to overtime, not insured a loss.

But you can’t deal with what might have happened. You can only deal with what did happen and every basketball fan in the country knows that.

Much like the pass interference no-call that kept the New Orleans Saints from the Super Bowl, nothing can be done about it now. But, maybe a rule can be established that all “no-calls” can be reviewed in the final two minutes in the future to insure that no team ever again gets unfairly eliminated from a football championship like happened to New Orleans.

Same situation here. Something needs to be done so that no team ever again gets unfairly eliminated from a college championship like what happened to Auburn. Maybe a similar rule to what could be done in the NFL.

To their credit, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl and his players handled things the right way. They said the right things. They took the high road, despite what had been done to them down the stretch.

An hour or so after the game had ended, Pearl addressed a boisterous, emotional crowd at the team’s hotel in downtown Minneapolis. He thanked them for their support throughout the season, as well as for that night a few blocks away. He said that Auburn’s unprecedented run through the NCAA Tournament proved that it deserved to be there and told them that Auburn “will be back again.”

In the postgame interview, Brown talked about the team’s determination and resiliency.

“We’ve been down like that before and I think it’s just staying together,” he said. “We kind of thought we had it sealed. It came down to that last possession.”

Harper was asked about how the game finished.

“I would just say that I think it was a tough call,” he said. “But that’s not where we lost the game, I don’t think.”

The sportsmanship and humility are appreciated, Jared, but not sure that many people agree with your assessment.

As I’m finishing this column, the final game between Texas Tech and Virginia has not yet been played.

We don’t know who will win this game. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that we don’t know who will be given the opportunity to win this game.

But it shouldn’t be Virginia.

Even the people in Fredericksburg, Iowa know that.