Thursday, January 29

Two Case Studies in ACC End-of-Game Management

Unless you had other things going on last night or do not enjoy college basketball, you missed some great finishes in ACC country. The games of Duke-Wake and UNC-Florida St. came down to the wire after all four teams battled hard, but as is seen so often come tournament time, a team has to be solid during crunch time if they want to win and advance. Although these games were not elimination games and merely affected conference standings and nonessential national rankings, it is a good reflection of how calling the right play, execution, and knowing your opponents strengths and weaknesses can win the game...or lose it.

Case in point, let us look at the final plays in both games. First we have the Carolina-FSU match-up. Florida State has been known to knock off highly ranked teams at home before. The Seminoles trailed in the game by 13 but battled back and had the ball with the game tied at 77 and 16.3 seconds left. There was a shot clock issue so they could not hold for the final shot. But they ended up having Tony Douglas launch a 3 trying to lean into Tyler Hansbrough for a foul as their final shot. Douglas is a guy whom you want taking that final shot, but no penetration and leaning into Tyler, you really think the refs are going to give you that call? The far worse error committed by the Noles came on the subsequent play in my opinion. Watch the video and look how far back the defense is off Ty Lawson. The FSU guards are practically at halfcourt. They allow Lawson to catch the ball and turn with no resistance and then do nothing to slow him down has he gets from one end of the court to their three-point line in 3.2 seconds. The shot was not a high percentage floater but there was no valid challange on Lawson or the shot. Tyus Edney had more defense played on him than Lawson did on the final drive. It should be no surprise that Ty Lawson is one of the fastest player if not the fastest with the ball. Bad execution at both ends by Florida State, and they lose their chance at an upset.

Next we have Duke and Wake Forest. The video provided via TBL shows the final two minutes but let's focus on the final inbounds play (3:26 on the video). Wake head coach Dino Gaudio drew up an amazing final play. Gaudio went the best match-up, his big players against Duke's inferior big men. With Duke playing man to man, Wake emptied out the middle of the floor and had James Johnson roll of his screen to the basket. The Duke defender was playing on the opposite side of the basket from Johnson because most likely he was going to try to help on Jeff Teague, who everyone thought surely would get the ball. Johnson ended up being wide open for the winning lay-up. Duke battled back from being down 13 but 4-24 from behind the arc is not going to get it done.

The bottom line is, coaches need their players prepared for these situations and make sure they know all possible scenarios in practice and after they come out of timeouts. Coaches only get 20 hours of actual court practice time during the week so it has to be maximized and end of game situations needs to be part of that preparation.

Recap of last night's action. [Deadspin]

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