The NCAA tournament is changing its rules on reviewing last second shots, ensuring that all buzzer beaters will get a second look – even if the baskets have absolutely no impact on which team will win the game.

Buzzer beaters NCAA tournament
NCAA tournament buzzer beaters will now be automatically reviewed, even if they can’t change who will win the game. (Image: Tony Gutierrez/AP)

That decision comes in the wake of two games earlier this week in which otherwise meaningless last-second baskets had implications on the result for bettors, even if they were meaningless in terms of the outcome for the teams themselves.

Point Spreads Flip on Shots After Buzzer

On Monday, Oklahoma threw in a last-second 3-pointer against Iowa State, while Creighton did the same against Villanova on Wednesday. In both cases, the buzzer beaters didn’t impact the outcome of the game, so under NCAA rules, they weren’t reviewed.

However, both baskets did change which team covered the point spread, making the shots critical to bettors. Furthermore, both appeared to have come after time expired, meaning that a review would have altered the results at sportsbooks across the country.

Those incidents prompted outrage from many gamblers. On Thursday, the NCAA responded by saying they would be more careful about getting the results right during March Madness.

“During the NCAA tournament, we will review all shots made at the buzzer, as necessary, in the interest of accuracy of score and team and player statistics and even if the outcome of the game isn’t riding on the officials’ call,” NCAA Director of Media Coordination and Statistics said in a statement.

NCAA Rides Fine Line on Sports Betting

In making that decision, the NCAA is aiding the gaming industry even as it tries to stay far away from becoming directly involved in gambling. The NCAA tournament is one of the biggest sports betting events of the year, and a controversial finish during a heavily wagered game could be severely scrutinized, with everyone from the referees to players and sportsbooks feeling the heat.

But while the added reviews should help protect against controversy and ensure everyone agrees on a proper final score for all games, it may also have benefits for the NCAA. Making sure all buzzer beaters are called correctly strengthens the integrity of the game, something that is a particular concern in college sports.

“The real need in the United States for integrity monitoring comes at the collegiate level,” Matthew Holt, president of US Integrity, told ESPN. “[Referees] at the college level, especially in college basketball, show the highest levels of vulnerability.”

There is potential for this rule change to impact schools as well, though that’s likely only true if regular season buzzer beaters were eventually subjected to automatic reviews. While unlikely to make a major impact, points added or subtracted at the end of games could slightly impact poll rankings and analytical data. For a team right on the NCAA tournament bubble, there could be situations in which that minor change impacts millions of dollars in revenue for a basketball program.

The new rules come less than a year after the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, resulting in sports betting expanding to eight states by the end of 2018. Several more states are considering allowing sportsbooks this year.

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