Tennessee is rolling into the second round of both the women’s and men’s NCAA basketball tournaments. And on paper, its two blowouts – the women’s 100-60 win over Liberty, the men’s 73-47 win over Wright State – were pretty uneventful.
Alas, that was not the case. Because the Lady Vols’ victory on Friday featured the quirkiest moment of March Madness so far.
Tennessee’s Mercedes Russell sealed her defender, and was fouled while making a layup. She went to the line for what should have been a chance for a three-point play.
Instead, after a lengthy review, the referees inexplicably ruled that the basket didn’t count. The reason? Because the ball, after passing through the rim, got stuck in the net.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick was both astonished and furious after the ruling, and understandably so. The ball quite clearly dropped through the rim, and only didn’t fall through the net because the net – likely a new one, freshly installed for the NCAA tournament – was too tight.
And there’s nothing in the rules that explains the call. It doesn’t even seem like a gray area. The NCAA women’s basketball rulebook specifically says that a basket counts when the ball “remains in or passes through the basket”:
Art. 2. A goal is made when:
a. A live ball that is not a throw-in enters the basket from above and remains in or passes through the basket …
That ball passed through the basket, if the “basket” is the rim. And if the “basket” includes the net, it certainly “remained in” the net.
It was popped out of the net by a Liberty player seconds later:
But even if the refs for some reason considered the ball still live while it hung in the net, and therefore considered the basket no good when the ball was tapped out, that would surely make the correct call goaltending, right?
Anyway, the call ultimately didn’t matter. Tennessee cruised to a 40-point win. But it was only up two at the time. Just imagine if that call had proven costly.
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