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AROUND THE COLLEGE NATION
January 27, 2005

CAN'T GET IT RIGHT

We saw this past college football season how bad officiating can be. That sport has turned to instant replay in some conferences in order to get more calls correct. College basketball officials are also allowed to use replay monitors in certain cases, but just last week, we saw that instead of getting a call right thanks to the monitor, the refs only caused increased confusion.

Arkansas visited LSU last Wednesday, and the game was a tight battle late. UA's Mike Jones rammed home what was first ruled a three-point shot with just seconds remaining, apparently giving the Hogs the victory. However, after the clock ran out, the officials chose to view the replay to be sure the basket was indeed from long distance.

Upon reviewing the play, the crew became aware that they missed a traveling violation that occurred prior to the shot. Though various replays appeared to show Jones' feet behind the line, the official ruling was that the replay was inconclusive. So the call stood, and Arkansas won the game, right?

Wrong. Officials changed the basket to a two-point shot, sending the game to overtime where LSU eventually prevailed. As Stan Heath pointed out, that decision was a way for the officials to correct a mistake they made by not calling the travel. While it is perfectly legal to use the replay monitor to review issues like determining whether a shooter's foot was behind the line, it cannot be used to correct a call like traveling.

This is yet another example of inept officiating in high-level collegiate sports. While missed calls like traveling are sometimes understandable, blatantly changing a call to correct for a missed call is something no professional should make.

I don't know what kind of system the SEC or NCAA uses to evaluate officials, but it is clear that it does not work efficiently. The same officials who made mistakes in football games this past season were allowed to continue working games. Putting inept officials on the field or court is unacceptable. It is unfair to the players, the coaches, and the fans.

There should be some type of accountability for game officials, and any punishment should be handled publically. Why publically? Because the SEC reprimanded Arkansas head coach Stan Heath publically for his comments on the officials following that game. If the coach gets in trouble for complaining about a bad call, the official who made that call should also face punishment, and his mistake should be made public.

Though the SEC reviewed the call and the situation, they did not change the ruling, and I can understand that. It was the right decision. The outcome of the game should not be changed, but the people wearing the black and white stripes who determined that outcome should be.

ILLINI MARCH ON

Illinois took a huge step towards a possible undefeated season on Tuesday night with a road victory at Wisconsin, ending the Badgers' 38-game winning streak. Ending that streak meant Illinois' overall winning streak was extended to 20 games, the nation's longest.

The game was back-and-forth most of the way before Illinois went down by eight about midway through the second half. But that's when the Illini showed what they are made of. Coach Bill Self's team stormed back and eventually scored 14 of the game's final 15 points, totally dominating the final five minutes in Madison.

So now the Illini looks ahead and sees ten remaining regular season games between them a perfect season. Next Tuesday's trip to Michigan State will be another huge test. If the team survives that with a victory, only four road games would be left on the schedule. Though I expect the Illini to slip up somewhere along the way, it's hard to argue against them as the NCAA Tournament's favorite at this point in the season. They have proven they can win at home, on the road, and at neutral sites.

WEEKEND SPOTLIGHT LEAGUE

This weekend's spotlight conference is the ACC. Several of the league's top teams have tough road games on the schedule, so we'll see how they fare and how the standings look following the action on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday gets started early as North Carolina travels to Virginia in an 11:00 AM CST ESPN televised contest. Much was expected from UVA after some early-season success, but after a 9-1 start, the Cavs have gone 1-5 in the conference and are tied for last place. North Carolina's only loss in league play came on the road at Wake Forest, so how will the Heels fare in another tough atmosphere away from home?

NC State has been up and down throughout the season, losing recent home games as well as winning a road game at Maryland. Their Saturday game at Clemson is scheduled for a 12:30 PM CST JP regional telecast. The Tigers have lost five of their last six, including two at home. This is a game that NC State should consider a must-win if they have hopes of earning a respectable NCAA seed.

The final ACC game on Saturday has Miami visiting Wake Forest. Tip-off is set for 3:00 PM CST with JP regionally televising the battle. The Hurricanes had a fabulous start to conference play, winning three of their first four. Since then, however, the schedule has gotten tougher, and UM has dropped two straight. Wake should win this game, but a 'Cane victory shows this team is for real.

Georgia Tech visits Maryland late Sunday afternoon. The 4:30 PM CST contest will be shown regionally by FoxSportsNet. The Jackets have gotten off to a less-than-stellar start in ACC play and are just 2-3 in the conference. Maryland returns home after traveling to Duke Wednesday night. Neither of these teams is a NCAA lock as of now, but the Jackets could get back on track with a win.

The final ACC game of the weekend has Virginia Tech visiting Duke on Sunday evening. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM CST on FoxSportsNet regional. The Hokies are rolling, sitting at 3-2 and in fourth place in the conference. VT has won four straight games, including recent victories at home over NC State and on the road at Georgia Tech. A win at Cameron Indoor would certainly shock the world.

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