Sports Editorial: How a Missed Double Dribble Ended a New Era of College Basketball

It’s April 6th, 2019; Auburn is playing Virginia in the College Basketball Final Four.  There are 5 seconds left in the game and Ty Jerome brings the ball up the court to try and tie or win the game.  Auburn leads by 2 points; a 3 pointer wins the ball game. But as Ty Jerome brings the ball up the court, he mishandles the ball, which ends up bouncing off his foot.  Right after this happens, he picks the ball up with two hands and continues dribbling. After an Auburn foul with 1.5 seconds left, Virginia receives the ball with 1.5 seconds left in the game.  Jerome inbounds the ball to Kyle Guy, who shoots a 3 pointer, but a whistle is blown; shooting foul on Auburn. Guy, being one of the best free throw shooters in the nation, sinks all three shots.  In what looked to be a historic comeback for Auburn ends up being one of the most heartbreaking losses in March Madness history.  

Shortly after the controversial game, CBS rules analyst Gene Seratore said this about the final seconds of the game, “As Ty Jerome brings the ball up the court, he accidentally bumps the ball off his back foot … he then re-possesses this ball with both hands. That ends his dribble.”  Seratore also stated this was a double dribble by rule. A double dribble would have essentially ended the ball game. At the moment, Auburn lead by 2 points and would retain possession, forcing Virginia to foul and send Auburn to the free throw line.  Even if Auburn only made one of two free throws, Virginia would only have a chance to tie the game, and with Auburn’s momentum, there was no doubt Auburn would finish off the Virginia Cavaliers in overtime if necessary. After that, Auburn would get a shot at Texas Tech in the National Championship, in which they would have the advantage in experience and defense.  

It’s also important to note Auburn played without their best player, Chuma Okeke, who averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds in the 2019 season and also scored 20 points against UNC in the Sweet 16 before tearing his ACL.  Despite Chuma’s injury, Auburn rallied until the Final Four, which proved to be very impressive. On its way to the Final Four, Auburn defeated three of the most heralded college basketball programs of all time: Kansas, Kentucky and UNC.  Before the tournament, the Tigers capped off their 2019 regular season with an SEC Championship and finished 30-10 overall.  

But what if Auburn had beaten Virginia? What if a simple double dribble call wasn’t missed in the 2019 Final Four game? Surely, a dynasty would begin.  Even after Auburn’s Final Four run, their recruiting class improved and they began to put themselves on the college basketball map. Currently, Auburn is 20-2 and ranked 11th in the country.  College basketball analysts expect Auburn to attain a 5 seed or better in the 2020 March Madness Bracket. Despite starting the season 17-0, Auburn appears to be still under the radar. Bruce Pearl has truly found stars in his newest recruiting class, including guard Isaac Okoro, who is one of three players averaging double figures.  With a young, talented group of players, Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers appear to be the team to beat come March Madness time. Auburn’s fans are eager to see another Final Four run, and maybe this time, a championship.  

While Virginia went on to win the 2019 National Championship, the 2019 Auburn basketball team will never be forgotten.  Shortly after the controversial game, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl appeared on ESPN’s “Get Up” and stated in an interview to “Get over it”, with “it” being the missed double dribble.  But many fans, not just Auburn supporters, cannot simply “get over ” the missed double dribble call, the missed double dribble call that prevented the SEC’s first basketball championship since 2012, the missed double dribble call that ended the Auburn basketball era.  

-Diego Palko ’21