Sunday, January 26, 2014

The 2 foul question

First of all it's good to be back after a nice long hiatus overseas, but unfortunately my Badgers don't seem to be able to win when I am not around. They must have been hung over from the lack of my presence against Minnesota, but they returned to their winning ways yesterday. I promise I will not take anymore overseas trips this season. I also expect they will not lose another game until the dreaded back to back road games against Iowa and MI. Even I don't have the power to help them overcome a back to back road affair vs. ranked Big Ten opponents. On to the post.

Just one game after benching Kaminsky for the rest of the 2nd half against Minnesota due to picking up his 2nd foul in the first half, Ryan put him back in the game in the first half multiple times after doing the same against Purdue. There are pros and cons to either strategy, and I don't really feel either one is right or wrong. This is one of those issues much like fouling at the end of a game when up by 3, that some people seem to have strangely strong feelings about, when in reality it is about a 50-50 type of situation.

Matt Painter also put Hammonds back into the game after he collected his 2nd foul. Hammonds only played about a minute and a half into the 1st half before he got his 2 fouls, and then when put back in the game he gave Painter all of 30 more seconds before collecting his 3rd. Hammonds has been a hacker this season, so it is not that surprising that he picked up his 3rd right away. Kaminsky is not as foul prone, but on his first series on the floor after picking up his 2nd foul he almost climbed the back of a Purdue player going for an offensive board and got his 3rd. You could see him pulling back his arms as he realized the folly of what he was doing trying to get a rebound over an opposing player when he already had 2 fouls.

In general I like the idea of sitting a guy after he gets 2 fouls in the first half. The primary reason is that there is no better teacher to a young college player than spending some time on the pine. While some fouls are the result of bad calls or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the vast majority are the player's fault. Spending a little time watching your teammates play and possibly struggle without you is the best medicine to remind players that they need to mind their hands and move their feet. There is also the rather large risk that the player will keep picking up fouls and take the choice out of the coaches hands, as Hammonds did.

I don't like keeping a player on the floor with 2 early fouls because it messes up your defense. The player must play cautiously knowing they have 2 fouls, so they can't challenge shots, work over screens, or even box out as they would normally. It also effects the entire team defense because the player can't rotate as aggressively and the player can't help as they normally would. When you are defending a screen and roll and the other guy is basically useless because he can't close out on the shooter, hedge or really anything that might risk getting a cheap 3rd foul it screws up your whole defensive plan. It's not like you can hide the fact a guy has 2 fouls, there is that giant scoreboard glaring at you from center court with that big 2. Every good coach will make sure all his players know that, and whoever is matched up on that player should be attacking them at every opportunity.

Then there is the human element of the game. We have all played in games when your head is just not on quite right. Often these are the games when we get into foul trouble because we are making mistakes. Getting called for fouls is frustrating, especially when you think they were bad calls. Getting tossed back into the game after getting 2 fouls when you are already frustrated is a recipe for making another mistake.

All that being said, I don't really have a problem if a coach plays a guy after getting his second foul in the first half. There are players that just don't foul much, and if a coach played that guy in the 2 foul situation I wouldn't criticize him for it. I also think there are definitely circumstances that merit a change in coaching philosophy. For example, if you are playing in a win or go home game in the NCAA and your star player gets his 2nd early in the half. Your team starts to struggle and the game appears to be getting away from you, then put your star player back in and take your chances. If you are a bad mid major team and you are playing against a ranked team and are hanging with them and a star player gets his 2nd foul, take a chance and leave him in. You only get so many of these opportunities. Much like an NFL coach is more likely to go for it on 4th down in the playoffs, the risk-reward equation in any single game may be different than what you usually do on a normal basis.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. Especially about the unusually strong opinions people have on this topic.

    Bo mentioned that he put Frank bank in against Purdue after Hammons went out, because he didn't want Frank banging with Hammons with two fouls.