Thursday, February 12, 2015

A disastrous evening for the Foul-Up-3 strategy

We are in agreement that there is no obvious answer to the #FoulOrDefend question (that is, when up by 3 points with less than 10 second left, should a team play defense or foul intentionally?).

And I think we are in agreement that it is annoying that there are some people who insist that defending in that situation is just stupid. The events in college basketball last night are why.

As far as I can tell, there were six "Foul or Defend" scenarios, and here's how they went down:

Defend: 3 for 3

La Salle v. VCU, second OT. La Salle, up 3 with less than 10 seconds left, allowed VCU to take a 3-point jumper, which missed. They collected the defensive rebound, hit two free throws, and won.

Southern Ill. v. Loyola Chicago. Loyola, up 3 with less than 10 seconds left, allowed Southern Illinois to dribble up the court without fouling. Then the Saluki player fell down while trying to turn a corner, and turned the ball over. Loyola hit one free throw, and the game was over.

Tennessee v. Vanderbilt,  OT. Tennessee hit two free throws with 8 seconds left to go up by 3. They allowed Vandy's Riley LaChance to take a three-pointer with one second left, which missed. Game over.

Foul: 1 for 3, with an Instaloss

Tennessee v. Vanderbilt. We just learned that Tennessee won this game by defending in OT. But here's how the game got to OT: LaChance hit 1-2 free throws with :08 left to give Vandy a three-point lead. Vandy fouled intentionally with :06 left, and Tennessee hit both FTs to cut the lead to one. Tennessee then fouled immediately, and Vandy hit just one of the two free throws, so the lead was just two. Tennessee's Robert Hubbs III nailed a jumper to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Winthrop v. High Point. This was the nightmare scenario: the foul strategy leading to a loss in regulation. Winthrop was up 3 and fouled intentionally with just :05 left. High Point made both free throws to cut the lead to one, and then fouled Winthrop with still :05 left. Winthrop missed the front end of the one-and-one and then committed a foul going for the rebound with :03 left. High Point's John Brown nailed both free throws to win the game in regulation. INSTA-LOSS

Richmond v. Fordham. This was the foul strategy's only "success" of the evening, and even it led to some serious heartburn. Richmond took a three-point lead with :11 left, and fouled intentionally with :05 left. Fordham hit both free throws to cut the lead to one and fouled immediately, with :04 left. Richmond hit both free throws to go back up by 3, and then immediately fouled again with :03 left. Fordham's Antoine Anderson hit the first FT, then missed the second intentionally allowing Fordham's Mandell Thomas to grab the offensive rebound and attempt a two-point jumper as time expired. It missed.

So the defend strategy was perfect, and foul was 1-3 with a double asterisk: one of the fails was an insta-loss and the "success" allowed a higher-percentage shot at a tie than likely with the defend strategy.

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