The Washington-Oregon State endgame was a disaster… and the consequences are severe

When the Boise State Broncos were unfairly deprived of a victory they earned against the Colorado State Rams a few weeks ago, at least the outcome didn’t affect the structure of the NCAA tournament bubble.

Wednesday night in Corvallis, Oregon, a timekeeping error affected the outcome of a game with significant bubble implications.

Do we have to do this AGAIN? Unfortunately, we do.

Another timekeeping error, and another failure by on-court officials to handle an administrative task which ought to be processed by a conference-run replay command center (in this case, Pac-12 headquarters in San Francisco), cost a visiting team a game.

This time, though — unlike Boise State-Colorado State — the losing team paid a severe price.


We previewed this and other Pac-12 games earlier in the week. Washington-Oregon State wasn’t going to punch a ticket to the NCAA tournament, but the loser was going to cede a lot of leverage in the chase for an at-large berth. The Huskies and Beavers didn’t have much of a margin for error. This game was crucial for each team’s chances of returning to the Big Dance.

With Washington leading by two and 3.3 seconds remaining in regulation, all hell broke loose.

As was the case in Boise State-Colorado State, the clock did not start when it should have, but in that game, the time lag was not substantial enough to override Boise State’s game-winning shot. The play still should have counted, as the Mountain West (after an initial error) eventually acknowledged.

In this case, it certainly appears that the length of the clock delay exceeded the amount of time left when Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson hit a game-winning three (just under 0.7 seconds at the time of his release).

Let’s stop with the words for a moment and give you pictures you can examine.

Here’s the best video of the full sequence, because you can pause and freeze-frame the video throughout, especially the first four seconds.

Plenty of people did just that (freeze-frame the video), and these follow-up images emerged:

To see the live-action sequence when Stephen Thompson first caught (touched) the ball, here’s a quick vine:

That’s more than 0.5 seconds.

The freeze-framed images, posted side by side, showed that Thompson covered a LOT of ground all while the clock remained frozen at 3.3 seconds. Long strides, a long dribble, and the start of a second dribble unfolded in an amount of time greater than the 0.7 seconds left on the clock when Thompson released his shot.

Surely, if the confusing Boise State-Colorado State situation, with deficient equipment (which mistimed the replay review process and led the on-court officials astray), required a long review, this play should have demanded the same. However, there was no prolonged huddle. The coaches weren’t standing near the monitor, breathlessly waiting for a ruling. The attitude from the people presiding over the administration of this game seemed to be, “Move along, nothing to see here.”

As a result, Washington’s bubble will now pop if the Huskies can’t upset Oregon this weekend in Eugene.

God bless Oregon State — the Beavers haven’t been to the NCAAs since 1990, and it would be a feel-good story of the highest order if they make it. OSU is a team to root for.

If the Beavers do get into the Dance hall, however, it shouldn’t be like this. Washington should be awarded the win, just as Boise State should have against Colorado State, and just as Duke should have against Miami in football.

Meanwhile, command center replay still isn’t used by our power conferences in college sports.

Yes, we have to say it again… and again… and again.


We conclude with a tangential postscript, since education about the rules of sports is always desirable, even if a play in question is removed from a game’s central controversy.

A tweep raised the claim that Oregon State (unable to run the baseline — the previous foul shot by Washington had been missed) traveled on the inbound:

An inbounder — when unable to run the baseline — can move forward or backward as much as he’d like. You can even see that the cheerleading area was cleared out to facilitate a long baseball pass if the inbounder had wanted to make one. A player is allowed to move, and he can even move laterally — just not very much.

A player has a three-foot box in this situation. Essentially, he can take one long jab step to either side of the box, or two very small steps with each foot — he does not have a pivot foot, but he can’t move outside his three-foot box. (In this sense, while the traveling signal is used by officials to call violations, the violation is not strictly “traveling,” but more an out of bounds violation. That’s confusing, but unavoidable.)

You can see above, then, that the Oregon State player moved forward, not laterally. He did not violate the three-foot box.

Washington got jobbed Wednesday night in Corvallis, on a night when it had to win to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. Traveling on the inbounds pass was not a call the refs got wrong… but that’s small consolation to a Husky team which still deserved better from timekeepers and from a sport which refuses to adopt replay command centers as the new standard in administering replay reviews.

About Matt Zemek

Matt Zemek is the managing editor of The Student Section, covering college football and basketball with associate editors Terry Johnson and Bart Doan. Mr. Zemek is the editor of Crossover Chronicles, covering the NBA. He is also Bloguin's lead tennis writer, covering the major tournaments. He contributes to other Bloguin sites, such as The AP Party.