Imagine something with me; I’ll try to make it easy. You’ve just tuned into a sport you’re wholly unfamiliar with just because it’s a cultural phenomenon. We’ll say it’s curling, because I know a lot of you did just that a month ago when the Olympics were on.
You’re not entirely sure what’s going on, but you’re picking up on it. You can tell the good shots from the bad. You can tell from the energy in the arena and the reactions of the teams basically who is performing well. With a minute left, it’s all left to play for. I love this new (to me) sport, you think in the excitement of the moment.
Then three dudes you had kind of noted were present but hadn’t been paying attention to suddenly take over the spotlight. They huddle together, then go to the side and huddle, then talk to each other again. It’s not clear what exactly that was all about, but now we’re back to the action.
Just under a minute left. It’s winning time. Your new favorite team in your new favorite sport might be on the cusp of something great - wait, it’s those three dudes again. They’re doing the same song and dance with the huddle and the table while the announcer drones on about how important it is to get these things right.
Your excitement is probably giving way to mounting annoyance. The energy in the arena is dying, and the teams are just standing around mumbling to each other. That minute that was buzzing with excitement has stretched into a flaccid how long of a petering out.
That’s what happened today.
The final minute of Marshall-Wichita State took 18 minutes, 26 seconds— the longest we've ever recorded in the NCAA tournament— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 16, 2018
Marshall and Wichita State saw the end of their riveting game turn into an interminable ref show as seemingly every dang play required a monitor review to add a couple of tenths of a second to the clock or confirm a pretty obvious call. I understand there’s value in getting calls right, but there’s also value in the flow of the game.
The NCAA currently lacks rules regarding how much time the refs can hover over a monitor while the rest of us grow old and disinterested. It’s beyond annoying to the core fan base of the sport and - here in the month that should be a rolling commercial for the greatness of college basketball - unappealing to people who should be being drawn in by the drama. If the NCAA doesn’t fix this, it’s going to continue to hamstring the experience of every should-be-great finish.