The Blue Devil is in the Details: How Two Blown Calls Ruined the NCAA National Championship Game

Duke celebrates 2015 title

Duke celebrates winning the 2015 title. (Screen shot from

It is fashionable for everyone in America to hate the Duke University basketball team. That hatred is something that has been a part of the fabric of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for years, and I bet that it won’t go away any time soon.

But the reason that I hated the ending of Duke versus Wisconsin isn’t because I hate the Blue Devils. I actually respect the success that the team has had in the past 30 years. I respect Coach K, and I’ve watched some of the guys on the team since they were in high school.

So why am I hating?

Because two plays that significantly affected the outcome of the game went uncalled by the referees. Ordinarily, the referees tend to get a lot of blame, and a good amount of it tends to be unfair. But in this situation, one has to overanalyze the national championship, right? I mean, if you can’t scrutinize officiating during the national championship, then when can you?

Listen, I don’t think that it is an issue of simply just being “a missed call,” as people have casually tried to tell me. It was two missed calls, with the first being instrumental in Duke’s ability to run away with the game.

Here you have a play where Justice Winslow is pulling off his best Steve Nash impression by driving the ball along the baseline, but in the process he steps out-of-bounds. As a defender, it is really difficult to guard someone along that baseline — particularly if they are tall and quick — and Winslow is incredibly fast for his size. But it is even more difficult for a defender to actually cover someone along the baseline well, only for the attacking player to step out-of-bounds and then conjure up some sort of hesitation/yoga move in midair. If the defender had a slim chance for success on a normal baseline drive, there’s not much he can do with all that going against him.

That play resulted in Winslow giving up the ball to Jahlil Okafor for a three-point play. Sure, Frank Kaminsky could have stopped Okafor, but that isn’t the point. The offensive player stepped out-of-bounds.

The game was 59-58 with the advantage going to Duke at that point. If the play had been called correctly, Wisconsin could’ve gone to the other side of the court to regain the lead. Do not forget that this was with three minutes left. Instead, Okafor’s basket made it 61-58.

Then, when the Blue Devils scored again, making it 63-58, Wisconsin went to their side of the court and shot a brick. When the ball went into the air and then out-of-bounds, it was ruled that Wisconsin touched the ball last. But as you can see here, again, Winslow clearly touched it last.

This call was reviewed, but still wasn’t overturned. Duke went on to win the game, in part because they benefited greatly from these missed calls.

I am neither a Duke fan nor a Wisconsin fan, so it isn’t as though I have some sort of bias. But if you’re a fan of sports, you can’t see two things go uncalled at the end of the game and still have a good feeling about the way it ends.

Where was the justice?

Out of bounds, that’s where.


Chris CruzChristopher Cruz (@_chris_cruz) is a staff writer for Little Utopia.

Previously from Christopher Cruz:
♦ “Togetherness” Goes Astray on the Spirituality Question
What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: The Career of Adam Sandler
Will Derrick Rose Ever Return to MVP Form?
The Heat is On: Miami Acquires Goran Dragic
Why I’d Prefer Harper Lee Not Publish Again

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