By the time John Ezekowitz is done, conventional wisdom in college basketball may be changed.
Last week, the writer at Harvard Sports Analysis Collective wrote a post detailing why teams don’t need to foul opposing teams when leading by three. This week, he tackles late-game timeouts -it’s good news for those of us who hate all the late timeouts and bad for controlling coaches.
Here’s what Ezekowitz found:
In the case of teams with the ball when the score is tied, the data clearly show that it is more effective not to call timeout. In my 2009-2010 dataset, 452 teams fit the above criteria. 235 of those teams called timeout, 217 did not. Of the teams that called timeout, only 35.7 percent scored on the subsequent possession. Teams that did not call timeout scored 53.0 percent of the time … teams that did not call timeout were twice as likely to score as teams that did.
This clearly shows that teams that do not call timeout score more often, but do they score more points? To assess this aspect, I looked at a team’s points per possession when they held the ball and the score was tied. Teams that called timeout scored an average of 0.773 points per possession whereas teams that did not call timeout scored an average of 1.06 PPP.
Thus teams that do not call timeout not only score more often, but also score more points on their possessions than teams that do.
Some coaches already do this, but it’s usually when they 1) have a point guard they trust to make a smart decision or 2) often rely on a savvy senior who makes smart plays. If neither is available, that’s the true test of Ezekowitz’s post – and that’s a tough pill for a coach to swallow with the game on the line.