You may have seen it by now. Or maybe you've heard about it. After all, the video is going viral. With 0.3 seconds remaining Monday night against Georgia Regents, Georgia College's Ryan Blumenthal tossed an inbounds pass to Royal Thomas, who caught the ball and banked it off the glass for the win. The bang-bang play happened quick, and with fans rushing the court the officials (Jeff Corley, Chris King and Matt Dipiro) called the play good.
Not to take anything away from Georgia College coach Terry Sellers and his team, but the basket should not have been counted. With 0.3 seconds left, a player can merely score by tipping a ball toward the basket. Remember, it's not 3 seconds. It's 0.3 seconds. And if you've ever played basketball, you know it's physically impossible to catch a ball (especially with two hands, like Thomas did) and bank it in with 0.3 seconds remaining. But don't take my word for it. Go to the official rule book, the NCAA Men's Basketball Rules for the 2013-14 and 14-15 seasons, which can be found at ncaapublications.com. In the rule book, Rule 5, Section 1, Art. 18 states:
"In any period, when the game clock displays 10ths of seconds and play is to be resumed by a throw-in or a free throw when 3/10 (.3) of a second or less remains on the game clock, a player may not gain possession of the ball and try for a field goal. Such player can only score a field goal by means of a tap of a pass or of a missed free throw."
Watch the video. Thomas did not "tap" the pass. Instead, he gained possession of the ball when he caught it with two hands. Even Georgia College broadcaster Scott MacLeod, for my money the best play-by-play basketball voice in the Peach Belt, says on the video that Thomas caught the ball. Remember, it's not 3 seconds. It's 0.3 seconds. And if you go by the rule book, it has to be a tip-in, not a catch and release -- especially not a two-handed catch and release.
Of course, Georgia Regents shouldn't have been in the situation. The Jaguars played awful -- they shot 37 percent from the floor and committed 14 turnovers. Devon Wright-Nelson missed two free throws with 2:50 left in the game. With 58 seconds remaining, D'Angelo Boyce missed one of two foul shot attempts. And on the final play, the team didn't want to foul the Bobcats, especially with Georgia College needing a desperation tip-in (again, not a catch and release).
Despite the Georgia Regents errors, the team still had a chance at the end. And this is where the referees come into play. (And just for clarification, I believe referees perform thankless jobs and are great at what they do, getting 99 percent of the calls right). Before the play, Jeff Corley, Chris King and Matt Dipiro had two options, according to the rules: call the game over with a catch or call the basket good on a tip-in. Referees are human. They make mistakes. They made one Monday night -- a big one -- and it will cost No. 25 Georgia Regents its spot in the national rankings. Also, it will cost the conference a potential matchup of league unbeatens on Feb. 1 when the Jaguars (14-3, 7-1) play at USC Aiken (16-2, 8-0).
I asked Peach Belt Conference assistant commissioner for communications Ken Gerlinger for an official statement from the office Wednesday about the controversial buzzer-beater. The Peach Belt response:
"The end of the Georgia Regents/Georgia College game on Jan. 20 was indeed a very close play, but the Peach Belt Conference stands behind the ruling of the three officials who were on the floor at the time of the play and deemed the shot to be good.
Our officials are trained extensively to manage these very scenarios and all three evaluated the events at the end of the game in the same way. Furthermore, footage from the contest has been shown to several rules and officials supervisors, all of whom concluded independently that there was nothing they saw that would lead them to overturn the ruling made on the court."
I love the Peach Belt Conference and the great people working there. I wholeheartedly disagree with them on this mattter, though. And I don't know which rules and officials supervisors saw the replay, but are they watching the same game? This is obvious stuff. The three officials did not go by the rule book. They used a judgment call, and it was the wrong call according to the rule book.
So now what? The league is not going to overturn the game outcome, and whether the officials should be reprimanded or suspended for fumbling the final play is the Peach Belt's call. Give credit to Georgia College for playing well and putting themselves in position to upset Georgia Regents. But if rules matter, and I firmly believe they still do, then the Peach Belt Conference owes Georgia Regents and coach Dip Metress an apology. Saying sorry -- that a mistake was made -- is never easy. But, simply put, it's the right thing to do.