College Basketball Has a Replay Review Problem


College basketball, the beautiful game, is an economical use of one’s time. It speaks to our furious and fast-paced existence. In an age of short attention spans and increasingly crowded schedules, the tidiness of a contest is one of the most attractive elements. It and soccer stand alone when it comes to having a good time and then getting the hell out of there.

Both can be over and done within two hours. Contrast this with baseball, which has no clock and is perfectly willing to eclipse the running time of a Godfather installment and football, which will gladly creep past 3.5 hours on Saturday and flirt with it on Sunday.

The digestible nature is a huge part of making March Madness what it is. Interminable delays and prolonged standing around? Who needs it?

There is, however, an unfortunate trend that’s cropped up over the past few years. An over-reliance on video replay has brought a plague to college basketball, and it’s been made worse by the institution of the hook-and-hold focus this season.

And it has to stop. All of it. There’s too much time being spent watching each and every replay like the Zapruder film. Oftentimes in the first half, officials for minimal contact, only to adjudicate a flagrant-one foul for something that appears to be a basketball play. Crunch time is rendered significantly less crunchy when the momentum is derailed by a review during the final two minutes.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to get things right. But there’s an art to this type of thing. At a certain point, it becomes overkill and a net negative for the game. Fifty-fifty possession calls happen for 40 minutes. For 38, they stand as called with no further inspection. Then there’s the awkward times when reviews show that a foul went uncalled, then the side that got away with it is rewarded with possession because the officials blew things in real time.

So what can be done? A few things.

First, only trigger automatic reviews in the game’s final minute. There’s no real reason it’s at two minutes now anyway. Second, there should be a three-minute cap on all reviews. If a decision can’t be made in that time, the call on the floor stands. Finally, each coach could have one official challenge, like in football, to use during the game. This, again, would have a three-minute time limit.

Simply, reasonable changes that I in no way expect to be implemented. And it will be frustrating to see as the sport gets its annual turn on the big stage. But, hey, change is hard even if it’s for the greater good.