Remember a few years ago when Memphis guard Darius Washington cost his team an NCAA tournament berth when he missed the potential tying and go-ahead free throws with no time left in the Conference USA title game?
The gaffe Cincinnati's Dion Dixon made on Thursday night was almost as devastating.
Tied at 51 with 6.4 seconds remaining in a must-win Big East quarterfinal against West Virginia, Dixon received an inbounds pass, headed up court and inexplicably lost control of his left-handed dribble out of bounds. That paved the way for DaSean Butler's contested buzzer-beating bank 3-pointer from the top of the key, sending West Virginia to the Big East semifinals and likely relegating Cincinnati to the NIT.
"[Dixon] just got it in a hurry," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told reporters after the game. "We would have liked him to catch it. ... He turned and dribbled it too fast. He was out of control before he even put it on the floor. I feel bad for him. He's devastated right now."
Maybe the most frustrating part for the Bearcats was they had a real chance to play their way into NCAA tournament consideration with a win Thursday night. In spite of a 7-11 Big East record and five losses in six games to end the regular season, Cincinnati would have had a legitimate chance as a result of the way other bubble teams have crashed and burned around the country.
It was no surprise to the Bearcats that Butler received the ball on Cincinnati's final possession. He had beaten Villanova on a game-winner in overtime just a week earlier, but this one was an even more difficult shot, off balance with Cincinnati star Lance Stephenson's hand in his face.
"He called it," Stephenson told reporters after the game. "He said 'bank.' I said 'What?' I turned 'round and I saw it go in. Oh man."