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But I just had to ask. Why do coaches continually pull their best players out of the game due to foul trouble?

For some reason, there is an alarm that goes off in every coaches head as soon as one of his guys picks up two fouls. If you think about it, the way these coaches police their foul prooblems, it almost defeats the purpose of having a foul limit in the first place.

At least in theory, the strategy makes no sense. The goal of the coach is to get as many minutes out of his best players as possible, becaues that gives you the best chance to win. What's the difference between fouling out in the first five minutes, and playing two minutes in the first half and three in the second half?

Of course, coaches will tell you that they want their best players on the court at the end of games. But I'm telling you, a basket counts the same in the 40th minute as it does in the 17th minute!

It just strikes me as odd that nobody ever questions this seemingly senseless strategy. Time after time, you'll hear an announcer say, "When should they bring him back"? I'll tell you when to bring him back: Right now, and play him until he fouls out!

It all goes back to the "You don't want to have any bullets left in the gun at the end of the game" theory. Say Kemba Walker picks up two early fouls, sits out the following 15 minutes of the first half, then goes on to play the whole second half without picking up one foul. Now you've got the coach sitting there at the end of the game saying, "Wait..I just benched my best player for 15 minutes when I could have played him for 35".

When a kid picks up two early fouls, you take him out for a minute or two, talk to him, and then hold your breath that he doesn't pick up another three. If he does, so be it. The left coast is not going to fall into the Pacific any sooner because your best player fouled out with ten minutes to go. It's an odd fear that coaches have. Your team is going to be just as confused in the final five minutes without their best player as they will be during the final five minutes of the first half.

Too many times you'll see a game tied with ten minutes remaining in the first half, only to have that alarm go off in the coaches head due to a certain player picking up that second foul. Suddenly you're looking at a ten point halftime deficit and now you're in a hole to begin the second half.

I realize of course, that HOFCJC is one of the biggest offenders of this peeve of mine, but no coach is perfect, and on more than one occasion, this tendency to bench Caron Butler, or Emeka Okafor, or Kemba Walker to name a few, has cost us, or nearly cost us, some big games.

So I guess if there is one thing I wish could have been different during Calhoun's tenure here at UConn, it would be this.

Do I have a legit argument here or is this just another one of my incoherent rants?
 

UConnSwag11

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did you see what happened when sean miller put williams back in with 2 fouls... got his 3rd 30 seconds later in the first half
 

UConnSwag11

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imagine if okafor went back in got his 3rd against duke in the first, you think duke would not have gone at him? same thing with kemba vs wichita
 
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You can be more aggressive if a player has 3 fouls to give in a half. Similarly, the big you bring in can be more aggressive if your starter has 2 fouls in the first half.
 
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Emeka, Duke - Final Four. I will never question Coach Calhoun again after that. The refs were calling it ridiculously tight. Coach K left his big guys in and they virtually all fouled out. Emeka was fresh at the end of the game and I think he had 18 second half points and it helped that Duke's front line became depleted because of foul trouble. That move by Calhoun probably was why UConn beat Duke and went on to win the National Championship. College players are young and make mistakes. Calhoun is criticized for his 2 fouls in the first half rule, but honestly, I think it is another example of his basketball brilliance. It took a lot of guts to hold Emeka out until the second half, one of the ballsier moves I have seen. He would have been roasted if they lost. In fact many still disagreed, but the coach who lost that game left his players in too long and didn't recognize how the refs were calling the game.
 

UConnSwag11

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Emeka, Duke - Final Four. I will never question Coach Calhoun again after that. The refs were calling it ridiculously tight. Coach K left his big guys in and they virtually all fouled out. Emeka was fresh at the end of the game and I think he had 18 second half points and it helped that Duke's front line became depleted because of foul trouble. That move by Calhoun probably was why UConn beat Duke and went on to win the National Championship. College players are young and make mistakes. Calhoun is criticized for his 2 fouls in the first half rule, but honestly, I think it is another example of his basketball brilliance. It took a lot of guts to hold Emeka out until the second half, one of the ballsier moves I have seen. He would have been roasted if they lost. In fact many still disagreed, but the coach who lost that game left his players in too long and didn't recognize how the refs were calling the game.
yeah i remember jay bilas talking about it and i believe he supported calhoun... i have always felt calhoun is or is one of the best in game coaches
 
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I'm not sure if anyone has read the book Scorecasting by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim, but they talk about all different statistical phenomenons in sports. They describe and NBA example, that I think is worthy of noting in the college game as well. The authors look at research for the plus/minus, "a metric for determining a player's worth when he is on the floor." If Shabazz was +5, that would mean that UConn has scored five more points than the opponent when he was on the floor. The authors figured that in the NBA when you take out a player due to foul trouble and substitute them with a weaker player (same situation in college), the effect reduces the team's points by .17/min.

This is where it gets interesting..."Leave a player with five fouls in the game and what happens? The average player with five fouls in the game will pick up his sixth and foul out of the game only 21% of the time." They say that star players are also less likely to get their game ending foul called due the "whistle slowing" and refs trying not to effect the outcome of the game. They estimate that leaving a player in with five fouls instead of benching him improves the chances of winning by about 12%.

I know this is done for the NBA, but I thought it was interesting and can connect to the college games at some level. I highly recommend the book! It's a great read for any fan
 
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I'm not sure if anyone has read the book Scorecasting by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim, but they talk about all different statistical phenomenons in sports. They describe and NBA example, that I think is worthy of noting in the college game as well. The authors look at research for the plus/minus, "a metric for determining a player's worth when he is on the floor." If Shabazz was +5, that would mean that UConn has scored five more points than the opponent when he was on the floor. The authors figured that in the NBA when you take out a player due to foul trouble and substitute them with a weaker player (same situation in college), the effect reduces the team's points by .17/min.

This is where it gets interesting..."Leave a player with five fouls in the game and what happens? The average player with five fouls in the game will pick up his sixth and foul out of the game only 21% of the time." They say that star players are also less likely to get their game ending foul called due the "whistle slowing" and refs trying not to effect the outcome of the game. They estimate that leaving a player in with five fouls instead of benching him improves the chances of winning by about 12%.

I know this is done for the NBA, but I thought it was interesting and can connect to the college games at some level. I highly recommend the book! It's a great read for any fan
I heard about that book and it seems like a great read. i saw the author talking about this book on Francesas show last year and always wanted to read it but never got around too it. They talked about the situations why refs tend to "swallow" the whistles during the last few seconds of games and that reminds me of what happened during the Rutgers-St Johns game in the BET last season
 

UChusky916

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The only thing the OP was right about in his post... Yes, it is a dumb question.
 
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Apart from the risk of fouling out and not available at the end of the game, players tend to play passively worried they might pick up more fouls. If you instead bring them in with 20 to go with 2 fouls instead of 25, 35 or whatever, they play more agressively. If the opposing coach doesn't do likewise, like coach K did, you can end up with favorable match-ups at the end of the game due to players on the other team fouling out.
 
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did you see what happened when sean miller put williams back in with 2 fouls... got his 3rd 30 seconds later in the first half

I also noticed that as soon as Williams left the game UConn went on a run, eventually going up by seven at the half. They don't include +/- in the college boxscores, but I'd be willing to bet Williams was around a +10 in that game. The example you just pointed out actually helps my case, IMO, because clearly Arizona took a step back without him on the court. By the time he returned in the second half, they were down seven and could not reconver.
 
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imagine if okafor went back in got his 3rd against duke in the first, you think duke would not have gone at him? same thing with kemba vs wichita

I do think Duke would have went at him, and I believe that actually would have played into UConn's hands. If I'm Calhoun I tell Okafor to stay agressive. I would have wanted Duke driving the ball into Okafor, because that is the strength of UConn's defense. As I said, in theory, it makes the most logical sense to keep your best player in the game until he picks up his fifth foul. It doesn't matter if UConn is playing without Okafor in the first, or second half. All points count the same.

Say Okafor plays 25 minutes and then fouls out....or

He plays five minutes in the first half and twenty minutes in the second half.

What's the difference? Nothing, besides the fact that if you leave him in with the two fouls, there is a chance he plays the whole game without fouling out.
 
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You can be more aggressive if a player has 3 fouls to give in a half. Similarly, the big you bring in can be more aggressive if your starter has 2 fouls in the first half.

But wouldn't it make more sense to keep your star big in until he fouls out and then bring in the fresh big? As I said, just because you have two fouls doesn't mean you can't be agressive. You just need to play smart. If the ref makes a bad call, so be it. what's the difference between sitting out the first half and sitting out the second half?
 
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Emeka, Duke - Final Four. I will never question Coach Calhoun again after that. The refs were calling it ridiculously tight. Coach K left his big guys in and they virtually all fouled out. Emeka was fresh at the end of the game and I think he had 18 second half points and it helped that Duke's front line became depleted because of foul trouble. That move by Calhoun probably was why UConn beat Duke and went on to win the National Championship. College players are young and make mistakes. Calhoun is criticized for his 2 fouls in the first half rule, but honestly, I think it is another example of his basketball brilliance. It took a lot of guts to hold Emeka out until the second half, one of the ballsier moves I have seen. He would have been roasted if they lost. In fact many still disagreed, but the coach who lost that game left his players in too long and didn't recognize how the refs were calling the game.

The refs did call a tight game, but they called a tight game from the start to finish. Emeka did score 18 points in the second half, but he also could have scored 18 points in the first half and UConn would not have been down seven going into the break.

Some call this strategy brilliant, I call it a myth. Just my opinion of course, but I believe you are hurting your team to take out such a weapon as Emeka Okafor was. Duke's big men fouled out, yes. But by playing them in the first half, there was the chance that they would not foul the rest of the game and end up playing more minutes than Emeka, putting Duke at an advantage. As it turned out, Duke's big men played more than Emeka even while fouling out, simply because Calhoun yanked him in the first half. If Calhoun had rolled with Okafor, he may have fouled out with five minutes left in the second half, let's say. Do you think UConn is in a position where they need to comeback if that is the case? Obviously I have no crystal ball, but if Emeka played the whole first half I think UConn would have won by a comfortable margin, and controlled the game throughout.

IMO, Calhoun's taking out Emeka in this case, gave the inferior team (Duke) a chance to win that they would not have had if Emeka played the whole game.

How many minutes did Emeka play? Was it around 20? 25? If Calhoun had taken my approach, there are two realistic scenarios:

1. Emeka plays nearly the whole first half, fouls out with 5-10 minutes remaining in the second half. Total minutes: 30-35

2. Emeka picks up two early fouls, comes out for a couple of minutes to calm down, then goes on to play the rest of the game. Total minutes: 35-40

Or...you could take the Calhoun approach

3. Emeka picks up two fouls five minutes in, is benched for the last 15 minutes of the first half, and then goes on to play the whole second half. Total minutes: 20-25

It's simple, really. Do you want your best player playing more or less?
 
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I'm not sure if anyone has read the book Scorecasting by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim, but they talk about all different statistical phenomenons in sports. They describe and NBA example, that I think is worthy of noting in the college game as well. The authors look at research for the plus/minus, "a metric for determining a player's worth when he is on the floor." If Shabazz was +5, that would mean that UConn has scored five more points than the opponent when he was on the floor. The authors figured that in the NBA when you take out a player due to foul trouble and substitute them with a weaker player (same situation in college), the effect reduces the team's points by .17/min.

This is where it gets interesting..."Leave a player with five fouls in the game and what happens? The average player with five fouls in the game will pick up his sixth and foul out of the game only 21% of the time." They say that star players are also less likely to get their game ending foul called due the "whistle slowing" and refs trying not to effect the outcome of the game. They estimate that leaving a player in with five fouls instead of benching him improves the chances of winning by about 12%.

I know this is done for the NBA, but I thought it was interesting and can connect to the college games at some level. I highly recommend the book! It's a great read for any fan

Thanks for sharing...I'm glad to see that there is data to back up my way of thinking. You're definitely on to something with the whole "refs don't want to foul a star player out" thing.
 
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Appart from the risk of fouling out and not available at the end of the game, players tend to play passively worried they might pick up more fouls. If you instead bring them in with 20 to go with 2 fouls instead of 25, 35 or whatever, they play more agressively. If the opposing coach doesn't do likewise, like coach K did, you can end up with favorable match-ups at the end of the game due to players on the other team fouling out.

I think how agressively they play depends on the advice the coach gives them. The foul trouble might creep into the players mind, but if the player has the coaches "ok" to play agressively, I think that is what he will do.

You are right, in that UConn ended up with favorable matchups due to the Duke big men fouling out. You also have to consider the other side of the equation, however, in that the Duke big men had a mis-match in the first half with Okafor riding the pine.
 
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I think Calhoun is on the record saying that if he thought the game was getting out of hand, Okafor was going back in. I highly doubt if Duke stretched the lead to double digits Emeka would still be watching from the bench.
 
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By the time he returned in the second half, they were down seven and could not reconver.

Actually, I'm pretty sure we were down in the second half of that game. So they could recover, and did.

The bottom line is that every game has its own ebb and flow. If you leave your best player on the bench while the other team is taking over and going up 20, that's a bad idea. But if the game remains competitive then, referring back to your initial comment, if your best guy has foul trouble and can only play 5 minutes: it's far better to have him play 3 minutes at the start and 2 at the end than 5 minutes at the start and 0 at the end.
 

Dogbreath2U

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Appart from the risk of fouling out and not available at the end of the game, players tend to play passively worried they might pick up more fouls. If you instead bring them in with 20 to go with 2 fouls instead of 25, 35 or whatever, they play more agressively. If the opposing coach doesn't do likewise, like coach K did, you can end up with favorable match-ups at the end of the game due to players on the other team fouling out.

Yep, and it's one thing to talk about probabilities over the course of the season, but when you are in an elimination game, you're playing to win, not maximize your point production for the year. Holding a player out with two fouls in such a game is the conservative course and the way to make sure that you don't take away your chance to win by taking chances.
 
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Guys just don't play the same on either end and you're certainly a target on D for sure much like an injured cornerback. As stated above..........Emeka vs Duke Mational Semi's 2004 is all you need to know.................
 

UConnSwag11

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I don't understand wanting to risk a player getting 3 fouls in the first half when they're only allowed 5. If it was the nba then maybe but if he's your best player you want him going hard in the second half with 2 fouls not 3. If he's the best player why do you want him to foul out in 20-25 minutes when it's a 40 minute game possibly longer
 
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I think Calhoun is on the record saying that if he thought the game was getting out of hand, Okafor was going back in. I highly doubt if Duke stretched the lead to double digits Emeka would still be watching from the bench.

They did stretch the lead to double digits.
 
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A few assumptions are being made here.

1. The NBA is not officiated the same way college games are. I doubt the stats hold as much water in college games.

2. In a relation to #1, ask a college official how many fouls # whatever has. 99% of the time, he won't know without looking. In the NBA, the officials are conditioned to know the foul numbers on the stars.

3. The myth of the predestined play is also at hand in this argument. There is NO way to know that if a player plays 25 minutes, that the score and situation will work out the same with different breakdowns of the 25 minutes.
 
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Thanks for sharing...I'm glad to see that there is data to back up my way of thinking. You're definitely on to something with the whole "refs don't want to foul a star player out" thing.

But the refs did foul Sheldon Williams out - and he was one of Duke's star players.
 
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I think how agressively they play depends on the advice the coach gives them. The foul trouble might creep into the players mind, but if the player has the coaches "ok" to play agressively, I think that is what he will do.

You are right, in that UConn ended up with favorable matchups due to the Duke big men fouling out. You also have to consider the other side of the equation, however, in that the Duke big men had a mis-match in the first half with Okafor riding the pine.
I don't agree with that. Coaches tell players to play aggressively all the time, but they don't always respond. Regardless, a coach isn't going to tell his star player to play aggressively after picking up 2 fouls in the 1st half. Really! When have you ever heard that?

IMO, the math is simple. If a player picks up 3 fouls in the first half, he has just 2 to work with for the 20 minutes left in the 2nd. He's one foul away from having to play mistake free hoops. As pointed out by someone else, good coaches know how to get their players to induce that 3rd foul, especially against the bigs that are vulnerable since they play near the basket where the play often funnels in their direction. Just look at how close some of these charge/block calls often go. Some guards are very good at initiating contact that doesn't look like a charge.

You're also failing to see the difference between a player playing 25 minutes or even say 30 during the first 3/4ths of the game compared to some combination of the start and end of the game. One could argue that the player's replacement during the middle of the game is capable of holding his own (i.e. the team plays equally or slightly less productive w/ the replacement) and that even though you might get less minutes out of the starter by managing his minutes compared to throwing the dice and letting him play more minutes earlier in the game, there's a good chance you'll get more production from that player who is going to play more aggressively with 3 fouls to give over 20 minutes or 2 over 10 minutes. Add to that, this key player might end up where he can play aggressively and more productively against a player who's playing tentatively due to his foul trouble or even better, have a huge mismatch late in the game because the player or players that are more capable of defending them or scoring against them are disqualified and sitting on the bench, which was the case in that F-4 game against Dook.

As many have pointed out, each game is different. If the game gets away by a certain amount, you bring players back in with foul trouble. You sometimes see JC put a player in for an end of the first half offensive set or two, where the odds of picking up a foul are less.

I'm not sure if it was mentioned, but JC often sits a player for a while if they pick up #3 early in the 2nd half, which I alluded to above. To think that a coach is going to tell a player to be aggressive and/or a player to actually play that way with a lot of time on the clock who is just 1 to 2 fouls away from disqualification is naive. Based on watching hoops for many years, when players are put in this situation I see teams go hard after those players who either play matador defense or pick up #4 and 5 in a heart beat. There are some players who are better at managing foul trouble. Less tend to be bigs. You might take more chances during league play, but in a one-and-done game, it's best to play the percentages and hope your bench guys can hold down the fort for a late push at about the 7 to 10 minute mark of the second half.

How many times have we seen games where a team is up by as much as 10 or even a dozen points with say 5 minutes to go end up coming down to the last shot or two? That's the stretch where you want your best players on the floor. That's the time we call winning time, and UConn under JC has won more of those types of games more often than he has lost. I'll go with JC's way as far as this strategy is concerned.
 
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