ATB: Florida’s Decison to Foul, Dezmine Wells’ Hops, & the Putridity of Utah Basketball…Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011
Tonight’s Lede. On the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it’s only fitting that tonight’s slate of games was filled with the element of surprise. Astonishment at the ending of regulation in Florida versus Arizona; marvel at Vandy’s big man returning to the floor several weeks early; shock at just how far Utah basketball has fallen since its run to the finals in 1998; wonder that Badger fans didn’t pack the place tonight. There’s plenty to discuss on a busy Wednesday night in college basketball, so let’s jump to it.
Your Watercooler Moment. Florida’s Decision to Foul Arizona.
Clearly Florida’s plan with five seconds to go and leading Arizona by three was to quickly foul the Wildcats to send them to the line. We’ve discussed the merits (and demerits) of this strategy in this space and on Twitter many times before, but it always creates an additional element of intrigue when a coach chooses to employ it. According to HSAC, teams only chose this strategy 12% of the time in 2009-10, and there was no discernible advantage in terms of the final outcome of the game (meaning teams won and lost at a statistically equal rates regardless of strategy). In tonight’s game, Florida’s decision for Casey Prather to immediately reach in and foul Solomon Hill on the inbounds play with five seconds remaining backfired in that the nearby referee rewarded Hill for throwing his arms into a shooting motion immediately after the catch. Three foul shot makes and a missed Florida prayer later, the game was headed to overtime. Florida ended up winning in the extra period, 78-72, but Donovan’s decision to have his player foul in that situation shows exactly why it terrifies coaches to employ the strategy. Even if it were statistically sound (and that’s not yet been proven, as far as we know), no coach wants to hear all the second-guessing that comes with such a decision when it backfires, as it very nearly did for the Gators tonight. More on the Arizona-Florida game below.
Dunkdafied. When Xavier’s Dezmine Wells dunks the ball, he shoots it down the rim like it’s a nerf ball coming out of his hand. As for Illinois’ Brandon Paul, he just takes everyone within a five-foot radius with him.
Tonight’s Quick Hits...
- Return of Festus Ezeli. Vanderbilt’s star center came back from injury just in time to save his team from perhaps another early loss in a closely-fought game tonight at Davidson. In only 21 minutes of action, he had 15 points, six boards and two blocks coming off the bench. Furthermore, his four offensive rebounds led to five Vanderbilt points, a rather important amount in a game where the final margin was four (87-83) in favor of the Commodores. If Vandy hopes to reach its lofty goals for this season, they absolutely need to have their big man healthy and in the lineup — tonight is a great example of why that is true.
- Brandon Paul’s Finish. We’ve been waiting for more than two years for something like this out of Brandon Paul. In the midst of a low-scoring defensive battle against St. Bonaventure, the talented but enigmatic junior was suffering through another poor shooting, mostly ineffective night. Yet with four minutes to go, he drove baseline and threw down a nasty dunk (see above) which served to ignite himself and the Illini the rest of the way. He scored nine more of his 17 points the rest of the way, but more importantly, he looked like a leader in doing so.
- Dayton Versus Power Conferences. The Flyers might be a Top 25 team if they only played power conference teams. So far this season, Dayton has beaten Wake Forest, Minnesota, and now Alabama, 74-62. Not a murderer’s row, but when you also consider that UD has lost to Miami (OH), Buffalo, and Murray State this season, you start to wonder if they only bring it when the jerseys across from them are a little shinier. Alabama was due for a bit of a defensive letdown this year, and it came tonight — Dayton hit 61% from the field and knocked down 10 threes to lead comfortably over the Tide for most of the game.
- BYU’s D Against Damian Lillard. Weber State’s Lillard came into Provo with the nation’s leading scoring average (28.2 PPG), but Dave Rose’s team held him to 15 points on 5-12 shooting tonight by utilizing a defense by committee approach whenever he touched the ball. The B team last season certainly got plenty of practice in guarding an elite scorer, but we’re still not sure about the long-term prospects of this year’s Cougar team. Weber State is now 0-19 in the Marriott Center.
… and Misses.
- Wow, Utah. Everyone knows that the Utes are terrible this season, but the putridity of this team is beyond belief after Utah lost at home by 31 points to Cal State Fullerton tonight. Not only was it Utah’s worst home loss in over 40 seasons, but… Cal State Fullerton? No offense to the Titans, but CSF isn’t Duke or even Stanford. The way this is headed, the rest of the Pac-12 may want to kick Utah back to the Mountain West to avoid the RPI hit that a road trip to Salt Lake will cause. Up next: bitter rival BYU, who may just set a new record.
- Florida’s Guards. Get the ball to Patric Young. Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton shot a combined 5-27 from the field and 2-16 from beyond the arc. They also turned the ball over six times. If you want to get technical, that amounts to 28 wasted possessions in a 71-possession game (39.4%). Young, on the other hand, shot 12-15 from the floor and committed zero turnovers. Billy Donovan was hopping mad about this very thing after the game, but my goodness, how many years does it take for his guards to get the point? For Florida to be a legitimate Final Four contender… Get the ball to Patric Young.
- Butlerized. For fear of stating the obvious, Butler is really far from ready for prime time. We were interested to see how they’d handle a nationally-televised game against one of the biggest mid-major competitors, and except for a brief second half run to cut Xavier’s lead from 18 to four, they were generally non-competitive. Even with the Bulldog defense holding Tu Holloway to only seven shots (he made one), Brad Stevens’ team couldn’t get anything going on the other end. Butler bricked its way to a 2-21 evening from behind the arc, and only one of ten players who saw action made at least 50% of his shots (Roosevelt Jones was 4-8). Last year at this time, the Bulldogs were 4-4 with losses to Xavier, Duke, Louisville and Evansville, but this year’s team even at a similar 4-5 appears to have so much further to go.
- Wisconsin Fans. You lose one game to an in-state rival and suddenly the team isn’t interesting anymore, eh? We’re being facetious here, but the streak of 143 straight sellouts at the Kohl Center ended tonight in the Badgers’ easy victory against Wisconsin-Green Bay. Bo Ryan had better watch himself — those 99% capacity games won’t get it done in Madison. Meanwhile, Florida played a marquee game against Arizona in the O’Connell Center with a two-time national championship coach on the sidelines and large swaths of the upper arena empty. Right, that’s because the football team is so goo… er… ?
- NPOY – Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt. Taylor put up a career-high 30 points on a great 12-17 shooting night at Davidson, which included four rebounds and two blocks in the hard-fought road win.
- Patric Young, Florida. Young was dominant against the slighter Arizona front line, going for 25/10 in the Gators’ overtime win, but the corps of Florida guards need to get the big man more shots (12-15 FGs)!
- Deonte Burton, Nevada. Burton led his team to its second straight win over a power conference team with 28/4/3 assts/4 stls — even on the road, he made more FTs (13) than the entire Arizona State squad (11).
- Scott Machado, Iona. Sure, he had seven turnovers, but his 21/7/6 assts/2 stls was instrumental in the Gaels getting a very difficult victory at Denver in overtime tonight — it was his pass to Randy Dezouvre with a couple of seconds remaining that led to the game-winning shot.
- Gorgui Dieng, Louisville. The sophomore center had his best game in a Cardinal uniform going for 18/12 and failing to miss a single shot from the field all night (8-8 FGs).
- LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State. The precocious freshman dropped 19/8 off the bench to help the Cowboys come back from a second half deficit in a tough road game at Missouri State.
- Mason Plumlee, Duke. An all-around game for the Duke big man, with 14/10/4 stls/5 blks as the Blue Devils crushed visiting Colorado State.
- Ian Hummer, Princeton. The Tiger forward hit the game-winning layup with three seconds left en route to a 21/8/5 assts/2 blk night in Princeton’s two-point victory over intrastate rival Rutgers.
- Corey Petros, Oakland. We don’t like to note big numbers in losing efforts, but Petros put up 23/16 on 10-12 shooting in a narrow two-point loss to Ohio tonight.
- Nick Barbour, High Point. Ditto for Barbour in a close loss to Wake Forest, as he hit seven threes on his way to 35/5 on 12-18 FGs.
Tweet of the Night. Salt Lake Tribune‘s Bill Oram provided some levity during Utah’s destruction at the hands of a bad Big West team tonight.