This sure has been the NCAA tournament of costly late-game lane violations, with Ohio State the latest team penalized after guard Aaron Craft crossed the free-throw line too early during a crucial last-ditch phase of the Buckeyes' tilt with Kansas.
Down by three with just 2.9 seconds remaining, Craft was fouled to send the Buckeyes' young guard to the charity stripe for a one-and-one bonus situation.
After successfully converting the first free throw, Craft anxiously waited for the administering official's customary bounce pass before quickly catching and releasing a try in an effort to catch the Jayhawks off guard.
It worked, insomuch that Kansas had no clue the free-throw attempt had been released, though Craft committed one pivotal error: He crossed the free-throw line in anticipation of a rebound prior to the basketball striking the rim.
Per NCAA Basketball Rules 9-1-c and 9-1-d, this was an obvious violation and was correctly called by officials Tom Eades, Jamie Luckie and Pat Adams:
c) The free-thrower shall not break the vertical plane of the free-throw line with either foot until the ball strikes the ring, flange, or backboard or until the free throw ends.
d) The free-thrower shall not leave the semicircle before the try contacts the ring, flange, or backboard or when the free throw ends.
Though provision (d) reserves some interpretation for contest officials, provision (c) is very clear: A free-thrower may not so much as cross the mid-air restraining boundary until the basketball strikes some part of the backboard assembly, such as the ring.
Craft clearly did so here, though CBS Sports was unprepared for such a quick catch-and-shoot on a free throw that the broadcast was unable to locate a proper camera angle in time to see the violation as it occurred.
Nonetheless, this marks the third high-profile lane violation incident that has dearly cost a basketball team the chance of claiming a late-game victory during this NCAA tournament.
In the Round of 64, No. 16 UNC Asheville was correctly called for a lane violation after guard J.P. Primm, lined up outside the three-point arc, crossed the restrictive boundary prior to the ball striking the ring. Not 24 hours later, Notre Dame was called for a crucial late-game lane violation after committing the exact same rules infraction.
To Craft's credit, his blunder falls under Rule 9-1-c while the prior two cases are instances of Rule 9-1-g, though Craft's violation is still of a very similar vein as the UNC Asheville and Notre Dame infractions.
For Craft, this is not his first brush with the lane violation: On March 17, Craft was warned about crossing the three-point arc too soon on a free throw. At the time, he indicated he understood the rule: "I saw it yesterday [with Notre Dame]."
Either Craft did not completely grasp the rule, or in his haste to create a huge play against Kansas, he simply moved too quickly for his own good.
No matter the true explanation, Ohio State lost to Kansas because of much more than just one very technical part of the NCAA Rules Book: The Buckeyes simply fell victim to a huge Kansas comeback, featuring a 44.6 percent shooting performance (compared to just 33.9 percent for the Buckeyes) and a rebound game dominated by the Jayhawks at 41 boards to just 30 for OSU.
Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.