Did Duke get jobbed by refs in overtime of Kansas thriller?

When the words “Duke” and “refs” find their way into the same sentence, they often do so with an anti-Duke slant. Opponents love to complain about how the Blue Devils “always get all the calls.”

On Sunday evening, though, with a Final Four berth on the line, Duke didn’t get all the calls. In fact, two prominent ones went against the Blue Devils in overtime of their dramatic, emotional loss to Kansas.

Duke, after all, wasn’t in Cameron Indoor Stadium anymore, where it is often accused of naturally currying favor with refs. It was in Omaha, with the majority of fans in attendance backing Kansas. And in OT, the refs did Duke no favors.

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Kansas defeats Duke in overtime
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Kansas defeats Duke in overtime
Mar 25, 2018; Omaha, NE, USA; Kansas Jayhawks center Udoka Azubuike (35) grabs a rebound against the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the championship game of the Midwest regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: Lagerald Vick #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrates a three point basket against the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: Marvin Bagley III #35 and Javin DeLaurier #12 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrate a three point basket against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: Marques Bolden #20 of the Duke Blue Devils shoots the ball over Silvio De Sousa #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the first half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks the ball against the Kansas Jayhawks during the first half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: Kansas and Duke tip it off in the fourth round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by David Klutho/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: Marvin Bagley III #35 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts against the Kansas Jayhawks during the first half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks looks to passes the ball against Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils during the first half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: Lagerald Vick #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks looks for the ball against Wendell Carter Jr #34 of the Duke Blue Devils during the first half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: Malik Newman #14 of the Kansas Jayhawks attempts a lay up against Wendell Carter Jr #34 of the Duke Blue Devils in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Kansas Jayhawks defeated the Duke Blue Devils 85-81. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
It was pure joy for Kansas' Devonte' Graham and pure misery for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (rear) and Gary Tret (right) as the Jayahwks pulled out the overtime win, 85-81, on Sunday, March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Neb. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: \Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) and guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) the Duke Blue Devils in the fourth round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by David Klutho/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Mar 25, 2018; Omaha, NE, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Trevon Duval (1) reacts after losing to the Kansas Jayhawks in the championship game of the Midwest regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Duke's Grayson Allen wasn't having things his way against Kansas, and it showed. Teammate Trevon Duval (left) tries to calm him down during the second half of the NCAA Midwest Region Final on Sunday, March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Neb. Allen shot 3-13 from the field, 2-9 from beyond the arch, and ended the game with 12 points. KU beat Duke, 85-81. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 25: The Kansas Jayhawks celebrate their victory over the Duke Blue Devils in the fourth round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at CenturyLink Center on March 25, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by David Klutho/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
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With less than three minutes to go and the Blue Devils up one, Kansas guard Malik Newman drove into the lane. He went right at the basket, and at Duke’s Wendell Carter. The two collided. Carter was called for a block:

When the freshman saw the ref’s call, he rolled over and slapped the floor in some combination of frustration and disbelief. And with good reason.

Replays showed that Carter had established two feet outside the restricted area before Newman began his ascent toward the basket. When contact was made, there was still slight movement in Carter’s upper body, which some fans pointed to as rationale for the call.

But that’s a common misconception about the charge rule. A defensive player doesn’t have to be completely motionless to draw a charge. If that were the case, hardly any would ever be called. Carter wasn’t sliding under Newman; he had position, and probably should have gotten the call.

The other Blue Devil complaints, though, are unwarranted. Not because the call was necessarily wrong or unimportant, but because the evidence is inconclusive and the argument that uses that evidence is flawed.

With under a minute to go in OT, Kansas’ Silvio De Sousa and Duke’s Javin DeLaurier dove for a loose ball near the baseline. It trickled out of bounds, and officials on the floor ruled in favor of Duke.

But after a lengthy review, they overturned their original call.

Even after seeing every replay angle, it was very difficult to tell which player touched the ball last. The main pro-Duke argument seemed to be that no angle offered conclusive enough evidence to change the on-court ruling.

But that on-court ruling is a referee’s decision that influenced the game as well. And if a neutral observer were starting from scratch and forced to pick, he or she would probably give the ball to Kansas.

Plus, that possession turned out to be an empty one for Kansas. Svi Mykhailiuk missed the rim with a long-range jumper, and the ball went back to Duke. The upon-review decision didn’t impact the final result.

So when it comes to overtime debates, the scoreboard reads angry Duke fans 1, gloating Kansas fans 1.

And when it comes to what matters, the actual scoreboard, the 85-81 final sent Kansas to San Antonio, and deservedly so.

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