When referees ruled Brandon Taylor had committed a last-second foul before the end of Friday's Utah-Duke game, their decision to put seven-tenths of a second back on the clock and send Quinn Cook to the foul line wasn't as meaningless as it may have seemed.
A lot of money changed hands because Cook sank one of two free throws to increase the Blue Devils' final margin of victory to 63-57.
Most sports books listed top-seeded Duke as either a five-point favorite or a 5.5-point favorite entering its Sweet 16 matchup with fifth-seeded Utah. A bet on the Utes to cover would have either won or pushed based on those lines until Cook's otherwise innocuous free throw changed that.
Reaction from gamblers was immediate and wide-ranging on social media simply because of the unusual circumstances in the game's final seconds. Both teams were so sure the game was over that Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Utah's Larry Krystkowiak had already shaken hands and the players were already going through the handshake line as well before referees sent them back onto the floor.
The decision to extend the game helped gamblers and hurt sports books for the most part. According to the web site Top Bet, 83 percent of those who wagered on the game bet that Duke would cover the 5.5-point spread.
Referees were technically correct that Taylor committed a needless reach-in foul with time still left on the clock, though reviewing the play and forcing the teams to return to the floor served no real purpose. Furthermore, if the refs were that interested in making calls right up to the final buzzer, they certainly could have ruled a jump ball seconds earlier when Delon Wright appeared to cleanly tie up Cook.
Among those gamblers who had the most reason to be furious was a Twitter user named @Tanesurf, whose six-team parlay included the Utah-Duke game. Instead of winning $1,000 for hitting on five of those bets and pushing on the Utes, he gets nothing.
— Brady Jones (@Tanesurf) March 28, 2015
Of course, he's not the only gambler affected by the last-second foul. A sampling of reaction from others who either caught a lucky break or endured the bad beat of the NCAA tournament:
For anyone that bet Utah +5.5 like me... That has to be the biggest screw job in the history of sports betting.
— Brady Greschner (@B_Gresch) March 28, 2015
— Lauren Joffe (@thespinzone) March 28, 2015
I bet Duke twice -4 & -5 How about the last sec foul shots to cover..Hey Utah come back on the court so millions can win their wager. Wow!!
— OddsOnYourSide (@Oddsonyourside) March 28, 2015
My buddy is at the Mirage in Vegas said the place went wild as everyone bet on duke he said eruption happened on the foul call lol
— Keeneland Dan (@fatbaldguyracin) March 28, 2015
Dad laid a bet with a guy that Duke had to win by 6 and they brought the teams out to shoot those last two with no time and he covered!! 😂😂😂
— Kendall Lewis (@k_lew1) March 28, 2015
That BS foul call going to cost me money. Utah +5.5 #DukevsUtah
— Shane Flannagan (@shaneflannagan) March 28, 2015
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