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Final Four: Did missed call in final minute hurt Gonzaga?

North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks places his right hand

North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks places his right hand outside of the line as Meeks and Gonzaga's Silas Melson (0) battle for a loose ball during the second half in the finals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Many observers groused over the number of fouls called by the officials in Monday night’s national championship game between North Carolina and Gonzaga. But it was a call that went unseen by one of the referees that may have helped determine the outcome of the game.

In the final minute, with North Carolina leading by one point, Tar Heels center Kennedy Meeks and Gonzaga’s Silas Melson dove to the floor under the Carolina basket for a loose ball. Referee Mike Eades called it dual possession and a jump ball with 49.1 seconds remaining, and North Carolina won possession. They wound up hitting a critical basket on Isaiah Hicks’ shots with 25 seconds left to go ahead, 68-65, in their eventual 71-65 win.

The problem was that photos clearly showed Meeks’ right hand touching the court out of bounds beyond the baseline while he was holding the ball with his left hand. That should have resulted in Gonzaga’s ball, down one with plenty of time remaining for things to play out differently.

“I had no idea,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few, whose bench was at the other end of the court, said after the game. “From my angle it didn’t look like it was a situation where there was an out-of-bounds situation or I else I would have called for a review . . . That’s tough. It’s tough to hear. But, you know, that’s just the way it goes.”

Few, unlike most others, said he had no issues with the 44 total fouls called in the game, even though five of them on 7-foot freshman Zach Collins limited him to just 14 minutes of play (he had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in that abbreviated experience).

“I thought they did a great job,” he said of the officials. “I mean, these are two heavyweight teams going at it, inside, playing really, really physical basketball. You still have to officiate the game of basketball and that’s what they did. I had no issue whatsoever. I thought they did a fabulous job. And I’m on the losing end.”

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