I love when coaches are up three in the final seconds of a game and they don’t foul.
For me, it’s the best of both worlds.
On the one hand, it’s incredible for the game. If Kevin Stallings fouled up three, we never would have seen Marshall Henderson hit a 35-footer to force overtime just three seconds after Vandy had taken the lead. If Fred Hoiberg fouled up three, Ben McLemore wouldn’t have banked-in a three and, in the process, vaulted himself into the National Player of the Year discussion. If John Calipari fouled when he was up three, Mario Chalmers wouldn’t be a legend and Bill Self may be 0-2 against Cal in title games.
The list goes on.
And as a fan of the game first, foremost and always, there is quite literally nothing that makes me happier than seeing a great game get the gift of five free minutes of basketball because someone hit a deep three at the buzzer. That moment in time, when the ball is stuck hanging in the air and everyone — fans, players, coaches, refs, announcers, everyone — is waiting out those agonizing seconds, wondering if that shot will fall through the net is simply the best. The inherent beauty is the helplessness. Once the ball leaves the shooter’s hands, there’s nothing you can do but watch.
But there’s a second reason why I love when a coach decides not to foul up three. I’m a writer that writes about college basketball, and, in my mind, there is no reason for a coach not to foul in that situation.
The situation has to be right, mind you. You don’t want to foul in the front court, because you run the risk of bad timing and giving up three free throws. You don’t want to foul when there are more than about eight or ten seconds left, because there is too much time on the clock and two free throws is essentially the same thing as giving up a layup that extends the game. You don’t want to foul when there are less than two seconds because, again, you run the risk of giving up three free throws and the odds of actually being able to get a good look at the rim are fairly miniscule.
But when there’s enough time on the clock to get a good look at the rim?
So much has to happen in order for the game to go to overtime. The other team has to: a) make the first free throw, which is harder that you’d think in a pressure-packed situation like that; b) intentionally miss a free throw, which is something that basketball players simply are not wired to do; and c) get an offensive rebound off of that miss and find a way to score with just a couple of ticks left on the game clock.
Frankly, I’ll trust my players to box out on an intentionally-missed free throw instead of hoping that the best shooter on the other team misses a three.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.