Colorado buzzer-beater: Arizona, Miller not new to bang-bang calls

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats stole one from the Colorado Buffaloes, and there's a few ways to go about looking at it.

By now, you've seen about 99 percent of the reaction to Sabatino Chen's potential game-winning shot that would have doomed the Arizona Wildcats go in favor of the Colorado Buffaloes. There's little-to-no evidence that the call should've been waved off.

But there are a number of issues that go into this, and no, I'm not talking about the fools on Twitter posting pictures of the ball out of Chen's hands with 0.00 seconds on the clocks (that proves nothing, people).

For one thing, it was a hard call to make in live time. That's easy to say.

It also isn't very clear if you look at every screen cap out on the internet in the aftermath. This here is possibly the best screen grab, but it appears that the shot is too blurry to completely tell that Chen's finger is definitely off the ball at this point.

The NCAA officiating higher-ups are backing the Pac-12 refs. NCAA coordinator of officials John Adams texted The Sporting News that he agreed with the call -- the officials said there was fingertips on the ball when the clock struck 0.00, and so did Pac-12 coordinator Eddie Rush. But NBC Sports' Rob Dauster pointed out another mistake that should have given the Buffs a win:

First things first: here is the rule pertaining to a situation like this.It's Rule 5, Section 7, Article 2a:

"In games with a 10th-of-a-second game clock display and where an official courtside monitor is used, the reading of zeros on the game clock is to be used to determine whether a try for goal occurred before or after the expiration of time in any period. When the game clock is not visible, the officials shall verify the original call with the use of the red/LED light(s). When the red/LED light(s) are not visible, the sounding of the game-clock horn shall be utilized. When definitive information is unattainable with the use of the monitor, the original call stands."

The refs initially called the shot went in. But wait:

Update: We originally wrote that the refs called the shot "good," but that's apparently not the case, according to The Sporting News' Michael DeCourcy. The motion made by the official only meant that the ball went in the cup, not that it beat the clock. A "sweeping downward motion with the index finger" would mean the refs called the bucket good.

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle was reasonably upset afterward. Indeed, Arizona was outplayed for the most part. Colorado still had overtime to win, though it's hard to do on the road in such circumstance.

"If it's the wrong call, I'm really, really sick to my stomach," Colorado coach Tad Boyle told reporters after the game, " because we had guys in this locker room that deserved to win that game."

Miller also did everything but admit the call was correct. He knows he got away with one.

As I noted in the game recap, there were several other calls in the final minutes -- two against Arizona and another no-call on the Wildcats that Miles Simon pointed out -- that were pretty blatant, and even terrible. So yes, it appears the Buffs probably got jobbed. Still, they wilted and put themselves in a position where destiny was on the referees' shoulders.

But this isn't a Green Bay/Seattle situation in football where one play could doom a team's postseason hopes. There's a near-full Pac-12 schedule ahead of the Buffs.

Either team could have won, and Arizona was extremely fortunate in every sense.

Sean Miller's brief time in Tucson has had this type of controversy before, and those too were in closing seconds. Twice in the 2011 NCAA tournament run, Miller got the benefit of the doubt. Against Memphis to open that run, Jamelle Horne seemingly fouled Wesley Witherspoon as he went up for a shot that was then blocked by Derrick Williams, which saved the Wildcats. In the next game, Arizona got a very fast five-second call in the late seconds to set up a game-winning shot by Williams against the Texas Longhorns.

Both times, the Wildcats were the aggressors -- maybe human nature makes close calls go their way.

The point in those two contests and then Colorado's play on Thursday? From a column I wrote for the Daily Wildcat:

... if it's in the officials' control, there's a definite risk.

But Arizona has played it correctly so far. Attack, play well enough for an entire game, and you'll be on the winning end of things.

Be a Memphis, who didn't have a constant focus to put the Wildcats away, and it probably won't turn out well. Be a Texas, who played catch-up all game before floundering their last timeout with the lead and the ball - Jordan Hamilton grabbed a Williams miss with 14 seconds left and called time, which (then) led to the five-second inbounds call - and you'll lose.

Same for Colorado. They did earn their lead with big shot after big shot, but it's also a credit to the Wildcats that they had the fight and the consciousness to know that crazier things have happened. The fact the shot was banked added a bit of luck to the equation as is.

That doesn't mean, however, the correct call was made.

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