The manufacturer of the court at the men’s college basketball Final Four told ESPN on Tuesday that the spot on the floor where North Carolina star Armando Bacot injured himself during Monday night’s championship game didn’t have any structural issues.
“The court’s absorption characteristics are by design, and there were no loose floorboards or panels within the court, as confirmed by an expert technician who was present at every game of the men’s Final Four to ensure the quality and safety of the floor,” said Jeff Krejsa, vice president of marketing and strategy for Connor Sports, which manufactures the Final Four court.
In the final minute of No. 8-seeded UNC’s 72-69 loss to 1-seed Kansas at New Orleans’ Caesars Superdome, Bacot collapsed to the court and was forced to exit the game after aggravating a right ankle injury.
Slow-motion replays, which later went viral on social media, showed what appeared to be a floorboard just outside the restricted area of the paint that depressed slightly under the weight of Bacot’s right foot in the instant before he reinjured the ankle. Bacot didn’t mention the floor in the aftermath of the game, but the video of his right foot pressing down on the floor prompted countless retweets and questions about the caliber of the playing surface.
Krejsa’s comment came in an email after ESPN asked for comment from the NCAA.
“The Championship floor, as is all the floors, is a panel system engineered for athlete safety and comfort, achieved by its ability to absorb impact forces as an athlete jumps or pivots abruptly,” Krejsa said, “while also ensuring that other players nearby are not negatively affected.”
Bacot did not return after the play was finally whistled dead. He turned over the ball after the injury, and with UNC down one point with about 50 seconds remaining, it proved one of the game’s most pivotal possessions.
Reached on Tuesday afternoon, North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham said that school officials did not address anything with the NCAA regarding the court.
“We played two games over that space,” Cunningham told ESPN via text message. “Just an unfortunate thing at a critical time.”
Bacot left the Caesars Superdome on Monday night in a walking boot. He had injured his right ankle against Duke in the waning minutes of Saturday’s national semifinal and struggled to jump in pregame warm-ups on Monday. He eventually gathered himself to finish the championship game with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
But the indelible image of Bacot, a burly forward at 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, came after he injured his ankle in the final minute. He hopped the length of the court on one leg, well behind the play, so his team wouldn’t be at a disadvantage. The referees finally blew the whistle to address the injury after he crossed half court. He then exited the game.
UNC trailed by one point at the time he attempted to score in the paint, and Bacot said he thought as he was making the move that he’d be putting the Tar Heels in the lead.
“I thought I made a good move,” Bacot said Monday. “I thought I really got the angle I wanted. I thought it would have been an easy basket. And then I just rolled my ankle.”