NCAA tournament refs to review shots at buzzer

In the wake of two recent late-game officiating rulings in college hoops — both of which impacted the outcome of point spread wagers — the NCAA has moved to adjust its procedure for reviewing referee calls 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,” the NCAA’s David Worlock said in a statement to ESPN.

Beyond that, conferences and certain schools — operating independently of the NCAA — are tackling sports betting integrity issues in the lead-up to college basketball’s premier event, according to numerous experts.

The NCAA tournament is America’s most heavily bet event. With that comes scrutiny from industry stakeholders.

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

“The decision-makers in the collegiate space are making real integrity services a priority rather than just some add-on component to a data or media deal.”

The Pac-12 conference has recognized the value of integrity monitoring services too.

“Fraud prevention and consultative services are key tools that support preserving and protecting the integrity of our sports and sports competition,” wrote Pac-12 executive Larry Scott in a 2015 letter sent to government regulators in Nevada.

The Pac-12 currently partners with U.S. Integrity, a firm that also provides integrity monitoring services to other conferences and schools. An NCAA spokesperson told ESPN that conferences are free to enter into such arrangements on their own.

All of this is happening less than a year after the Supreme Court ruling that allowed states beyond Nevada to authorize full-blown sports betting. Taking proactive steps toward sports betting integrity represents a considerable pivot from long-held resistance within college sports. Indeed, the path has been choppy the past 20 years.

ESPN’s David Purdum contributed to this report.

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