Last night against Michigan, Tennessee came all the way back from a 15-point deficit with 10 minutes left to be in a position to get jobbed in the final seconds. With 10 seconds left in the game, Tennessee trailed Michigan by only one, 72-71. That's when the Volunteers put the ball in Jarnell Stokes's hands for the possible game-winner and Michigan flopped into the Elite Eight.
It's hard to reduce a 40-minute game to one play or one call by the referees, but when it happens like this—at the end of a comeback, in the final seconds of the game, and obviously, um, "embellished"—it's fair to say that this play cost Tennessee an honest shot at winning the game. Stokes still has to make the basket, but at least he's got that chance, instead of effectively ending the game with the change of possession.
The worst part is, this was a great game. A Spike Albrecht layup gave the Wolverines a 15-point lead at 60-45 with 10:57 to go. Four minutes later, Tennessee had cut it down to 62-56 and then it was the Jordan McRae show. He scored 11 of his 24 points in the final six minutes and, combined with some costly Michigan turnovers, made the final seconds of this game truly exciting. As deflating as the last 10 seconds were, the preceding ten seconds were nuts. Michigan almost gave the whole game away.
Off a sloppy Michigan inbound, Glenn Robinson III's pass bounced off players and rolled halfway across the court before Stokes came up with the steal. He pushed the ball up the court for an eventual McRae layup that pulled Tennessee within one, with 13 seconds left. On the ensuing inbound, Michigan again turned it over when Caris LeVert stepped on the baseline. The Volunteers now had the ball with 10 seconds left and, after climbing back from down 15, found themselves in position to take the game-winner, maybe even a buzzer-beater.
Tennessee got the ball to the player and spot they wanted, and Stokes lowered his shoulder and drove to the basket. As soon as Jordan Morgan felt the contact, he let himself go and that was it. All that rising tension and the rug gets pulled out from under you.
It's just a lousy way to end a game. Tennessee fans are pissed because they feel they were robbed, Michigan fans can't bask in the win because everyone is talking about it as if it were a foregone conclusion that Tennessee wins but for the call, and the rest of us were deprived of the potential for another quintessentially insane Tournament finish. No one wins (except Michigan).