The new "toy" available at every men's and women's MAAC game more often than not goes unused, unneeded.
But, the end of Thursday's stunning Manhattan upset of Iona on a last-second shot by Jaspers' freshman Emmy Andujar, the toy was consulted and it's nice to know that it works.
The toy is GamePlan SIFT, and your Hoopscribe will readily admit that he doesn't know what the acronym stands for. Suffice to say that it is a replay system that has five cameras, two at each end of the court (one from each side) plus one on the game clock, that is used as a tool for game officials to watch replays of certain situations.
The system allows officials to watch replays of, mostly, whether shooters were on or behind the three-point stripe and on timing calls (did a shot beat the shot clock or halftime/game-ending buzzer).
And, Thursday night at Iona, was the perfect test. With the score tied at 72 with slightly more than a second remaining, Manhattan in-bounded the ball from near half court.
A pass from Manhattan guard Mike Alvarado found Andujar a few steps beyond the three-point stripe. Andujar turned and fired and his shot banked in for the game-winning margin in the Jaspers' 75-72 victory.
Did it beat the final buzzer?
In the days prior to the installation of the replay system in every MAAC playing venue this season, there would have been no way to tell. Officials did have replay capabilities for games that were televised, either by networks or the MAAC's own productions. But, Thursday's Iona-Manhattan game was not part of any TV package.
A year ago, game officials would have made an on-court decision and that would have been it.
Thursday, though, they were able to take several minutes to view the replay, from two different angles, to ensure they got it right.
And, they did. Andujar's shot was clearly well out of his hands, probably about a third of the way toward the basket, when the game clock buzzed and the backboard lighting system, that is timed coordinated with the game clock, became visible.
The MAAC, justifiably, is proud that it is one of several mid-major conferences nationally to mandate the replay system, that also requires a courtside operator and a touch-screen monitor at the scorer's table.
"If at any point a ref wants to review a play, he can zero in on whatever he's looking for," said the conference's assistant commissioner Ken Taylor, who oversaw the system's installation at venues around the conference. "Every inch of the court is covered every second of time.
"This is something we made a decision on two years ago. We just thought that the way technology is going that it was an opportunity for us to improve the set up at all our schools to have consistency as much as possible and give officials and game staff the tools to get calls correct."
Cost of the systems, which went well into six figures for the entire league, was split between the league and member institutions.
"Some of the bigger conferences that televise every game don't need this because the telecasts already allow for a second look via replay," added Taylor. "But, for us, if the game wasn't televised we didn't have that luxury. We wanted to make sure we put the best product out there and to do everything we can to make sure there's a level playing field at every game.
"This ensures that there's no `smoking gun' play, no questionable call that might determine the outcome of a game without the opportunity to check to see if it was right, or to correct it. We wanted to be proactive on this. That's not to say we haven't had some issues on calls, but I don't think we've ever had one where you could say definitely altered a game. But, as technology evolves this makes a lot of sense to make sure we never have that issue. At the end of the day, we want to walk away doing everything possible to get it right."
And, when a shot that barely beat the buzzer determined a Manhattan upset victory over Iona on Thursday night, the league's new replay system left no doubt about whether the shot counted.
Players, coaches and fans alike might have been stunned by the outcome, but everyone knew that game officials had gotten the game-deciding call right.