Is it a "Buzzer Beater" or not? (not)

The basketball "buzzer beater" is a sublime moment in sports.  Radio and TV guys scream like idiots.  Fans go nuts, babies cry, drinks spill.  And referees have to make sure the shot did, in fact, beat the buzzer.

But the buzzer is not really what has to be beaten.

I bring this up after the recent Wisconsin-Michigan State game.  Wisconsin appeared to make a 3-pointer "at the buzzer" to force a second overtime.  But the officials went to the replay and waved off the basket.  Why?  I was not sure at the time.  Neither were the ESPN guy and 99% of the viewers.  BUT..... the next time you see it happen you can be Sir Smartypants Knowitall by citing the following NCAA rule.

Rule 5     Section 7     Article 2b.      In games with a 10th-of-a-second game clock display and where an official courtside monitor is used, the reading of zeros on the game clock is to be used to determine whether a try for goal occurred before or after the expiration of time in any period. When the game clock is not visible, the officials shall verify the original call with the use of the red/LED light(s). When the red/LED light(s) are not visible, the sounding of the game-clock horn shall be utilized. When definitive information is unattainable with the use of the monitor, the original call stands.

So it's 1) game clock, 2) red lights on backboard, 3) buzzer, and then if all else fails 4) go with the call on the floor when the shot went in.  And you would think events 1 thru 3 would all happen at the same time but they don't.  There is a split second between the clock hitting zeros, the red lights coming on and the buzzer going off.

To further confuse the Wisconsin situation there were two clocks that did not match up... the clock on top of the shot clock on top of the backboard and another clock up on the marketing ribbon that was right behind the backboard that showed one tenth of a second more than the backboard clock.  Wisconsin officials said the backboard clock is tied to the timing system and is the official clock.  Any other clock could be delayed when it is relayed to an external timing display.

The most vivid "local" buzzer controversy example I can remember is an SDSU women's game at Minnesota in 2007.  Maria Boever made a shot "at the buzzer" to win it 59-58.  The officials reviewed it and said it counted.  They said it was shot made-clock to zero-lights-buzzer, although I remember there being a loud argument (from the Gopher coaches) that it wasn't more like clock to zero-shot made-lights-buzzer.  There was confusion then and there is still confusion today about what element actually ends the contest.

There should have been a glorious "throw in a 3 and run off the court in victory" at the buzzer moment in Aberdeen this past week.  Northern State's Geoff Fermin made a 3 "not quite at the buzzer" to beat Winona State by 2.  The controversy in this one was that the clock was not started for at least a second after the Wolves inbounded the ball, dribbled up the floor and hit the game winner.  (check it out on YouTube)  The refs put 1.2 seconds back on the clock but Winona couldn't hit a heave.  Northern would have won either way, but it would have been even more exciting as a true "buzzer beater".

Anyway---let's root for more!  It obviously makes for good games and fun finishes.  And if you can come up with a better name than "buzzer beater" please send it to me.  ("Clock Clipper"? "Zero Sum Shot"? "Timeless Twine Tickler"?  Those are all lame.)

And by the way, there is no "buzzer beater" TV review in Division Two or NAIA or high school or Y-League or pee-wees... so in those games I would just like to say to the refs, Good Luck.  We hope you get it right.


Filed Under Basketball | College