Back up to full speed next week, and that is a promise. We’ve made significant progress on two multi-part summer features, and paying work is cranking along. We all needed the break anyway.

However I continue to read good stuff, and I have two items to pass along for your weekend amusement.

First, a quick and informative article about the tournament field expanding to 68 teams.

Some interesting between-the-lines overanalysis on my part: there are three proposals currently being evaluated to establish the eight teams in the play-in round–the bottom eight teams, the last eight teams selected as at large, and a hybrid of both.

Kent State athletic director Laing Kennedy and NEC commissioner Noreen Morris both speak out about the stigma of the lower RPI conferences annually being one of the last eight seeds and in the play-in round.

Meanwhile, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero (the committee chairman) and Ohio State AD Gene Smith are both “sensitive” to that issue. In fact, Smith has your money quote:

“Being stigmatized … is probably not the best thing for the tournament or those conferences.”

I’ll leave you to pick out the comedy.

(Side note: you’re reading this here thanks to John Gasaway, via Twitter, linking to an AP report on ESPN.com. Yes, the way we consume information is different.)

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Eamonn Brennan is a must-read because he’s one of the best at mixing humor, news, commentary, and analysis. If we could only get an ESPN editor to let him do what he does best–freaking write–he’d be back to the 98-mph fastball he had at Yahoo. Those videos and chats are a waste of his talent. But I digress…

Brennan wrote this yesterday (via The Leisure of the Theory Class) about coaches sitting star players because of theoretical foul trouble. We love smart around here, and this is smart.

I’ve long bemoaned My Coach sitting a star when he gets his second foul in the first half. Benching your 20-point, eight-rebound guy with 12 minutes to go in the first half–FOR THE REST OF THE HALF–has always been the dumbest thing I’ve ever second-guessed. (See what I did there?)

Finally, smart people have written what has always made me squirm: you know your star player is going to score zero points if he’s sitting next to you. Brennan also picks out the key finding, put in a smart guy’s way:

To make it as stark as possible, observe that the coach is voluntarily imposing the penalty that he is trying to avoid, namely his player being taken out of the game!

Here’s my practical belief, based on what coaches have told me over the years. Every single coach has said the most critical part of a game is when you are up or down eight points. Why? Because what happens next is critical to whether or not the rest of the game–and thus concepts like foul trouble–have any meaning or value.

Let’s say you are leading 23-15 at the under 12 media timeout, and your star player has just picked up foul #2. Sit him to protect him from foul trouble?

Leave him in and perhaps the trend and momentum continue…the eight-point game may become a 15-point game, and suddenly you have the luxury of wiggle room to sit/rest your star.

Or, you can put him on the bench and risk the eight-point lead being whittled to 37-36 at the half, and you’re in a dogfight.

Take the other side: you are down eight. Star player can be on the floor and put the team on his back and carve that deficit to 37-36. Or, sit him, trail 43-28 at the half, and get your walk-on excited for possible playing time. Star Player foul trouble is way down the list of worries.

Now, I admit that specific scenarios can be debated and must factor in: home/road, propensity to pick up the third foul, bench strength, etc. But my point is this: I’ll take the imminent foul trouble risk with the reward of star player production to keep me in the game over the imminent risk of a game getting away from me with the reward of having the star player on the floor late.

I know it matters now. It might not matter later.

Put another way: who else thought Paul Westhead was genius/gutsy for playing Bo Kimble in the first half with three, then four fouls? Kimble wasn’t helping anybody with his sweats on.

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