Category Archives: hoops

The case for ending the foul-out

ccny

Disqualifying players for committing too many fouls is a really old practice, but not quite as old as basketball itself.

The idea of removing players from the game after they commit their fourth or fifth or sixth personal foul has been in place for over 100 years. Indeed, disqualification of individual players is today, rather incredibly, the primary and virtually unchallenged method for penalizing fouls all over the world and at all levels of basketball. Yet you and I will likely never learn the name of the person or persons that first came up with the idea.

This is curious. After all, the shot clock had Danny Biasone and Leo Farris, and even the rather more murky-at-the-creation three-point line has multiple named aspirants for Founder status. But who will come forward and claim parenthood for, by far, the oldest feature of them all, the foul-out?

We do know the name in question wasn’t Naismith. In the good doctor’s 13 original rules, a player picking up their second foul was removed from the game, but only until the next basket was scored. That was actually more punitive than it sounds (scoring was infrequent at the dawn of “basket ball”), but the essential point is a player could still come back into the game after he or she had served their penalty.

That idea turned out to be surprisingly short-lived. By 1910, at the latest, officials in some college games were disqualifying players for committing too many fouls. The foul limit has been tweaked over the ensuing 100-plus years, and, when the upstart NBA rolled out in 1946, player disqualifications were part of that league’s original equipment.

The foul-out has been with us ever since. Continue reading

A very brief history of the Big East’s 1990s-era experiment with six fouls

mourning

Those were the days. Sort of.

Every time my colleague Dick Vitale sees Zion Williamson take a seat on the bench after picking up two first-half fouls, he launches into an impassioned and loquacious plea (it’s true!) for increasing the number of personal fouls allowed per player to six.

And every time that happens, Twitter reacts to Dickie V with arch and snarky dismissiveness (it’s true!) and says it would never work.

Young turks on social media say, hey, great, just what we need, more fouls. Old geezers say, hey, I remember the old six-foul Big East from the 1990s, and it was awful.

Well, score one for the old geezers. Six fouls is not the answer, at least not now, and the Big East proved it between 1990 and 1992. (For the record, the Trans America Athletic Conference, the forerunner of today’s Atlantic Sun, joined the Big East in taking the six-foul rule out for a spin at that same time.) Continue reading

All coaches are interim

iu

(AP)

The last push notification of 2018 told me Steve Alford had been let go by UCLA, and it got me to thinking about just how unique his career has been. The ex-Bruin head coach has been nothing if not innovative in his comings and goings.

If you’re looking at college basketball fixtures that have been as famous for as long as Alford, you’re working from a really short list. Jim Boeheim, of course. Plus Mike Krzyzewski, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, and Danny Manning, certainly, but not too many others. Relative newcomers like Roy Williams and Bill Self, for example, were still anonymous assistants at North Carolina and Oklahoma State, respectively, when Alford won a national title as a player at Indiana.

What’s interesting about Alford in stark contrast to other hoary holdovers from the ’80s is that, to an extent that’s unusual and that far outstrips mere maturation, he seemed to change before our eyes. Continue reading

History says one of these 12 teams will win it all

Heelnew

National title? It’s a possibility. (Jeffrey A. Camarati)

Every year since 2004, the eventual national champion has been ranked no lower than No. 12 in that season’s week six AP poll. Naturally, the eventual national champion tends to be highly ranked in any given week, but the week six poll in particular has, over the last 14 years, proven to be better than the rest all the way to Selection Sunday.

This bears mentioning because the 2018-19 week six AP poll was just released today. Here are its top 12 teams:

1.  Kansas
2.  Duke
3.  Tennessee
4.  Gonzaga
5.  Michigan
6.  Virginia
7.  Nevada
8.  Auburn
9.  Michigan State
10. Florida State
11. Texas Tech
12. North Carolina

Coaches love to say that rankings don’t matter, and, strictly speaking, they’re right. Teams don’t win games in the NCAA tournament just because they earned a nice ranking in week six.

Instead, it tends to be the case that AP pollsters have learned a good deal by week six but aren’t yet too caught up in regular-season noise.  Their rankings of eventual champions therefore tend to be a bit more accurate by this point than they are in the preseason. Continue reading

Seeking the next extreme scoring event

MSU

Michigan State rang up 1.33 points per trip against Iowa. Highly impressive, but not quite “extreme.” (MSU Athletics)

With major-conference play having already tipped off in the Big Ten, this is a good time to revisit the record book. The first thing to be said of the book is that it’s pretty big. Starting with the 2006 season and running up through last night, there have been 8,355 major-conference games played.

Out of all that basketball, there have been just 49 instances where a team scored 1.45 points per trip or better. And, in what surely ranks as the all-time upset, two of those instances actually happened in the same game. It’s tough to lose when you score 1.46 points per possession, but that’s exactly what happened to Buzz Williams on February 18, 2017. Hoops. Go figure.

When something occurs 49 times out of 8,355 chances, that gives us roughly a one-in-170 shot at seeing the amazing episode in question at any given game. Put rather more positively, we’ll expect to see three or four extreme scoring events this coming season in major-conference play. An extreme scoring event is one where a team scores at least 1.45 points per trip. Continue reading

Never overthink a train wreck

osu

They’re No. 1.

The reaction yesterday to the first NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings for 2018-19 was so negative that there was a tendency in some quarters to see three-dimensional chess being played here by the powers that be in Indianapolis. Surely this is all a brilliant promotional strategy, a way to get otherwise preoccupied fans talking about college basketball in November.

By this reading, otherwise preoccupied fans could never have been induced to talk about college basketball in November by the release of rankings that were not the analytic equivalent of a drunken stevedore plummeting face-first down a manhole. Surely, the “needless ratiocinative mishap” aspect of the release was itself the very warp and woof of the next-level strategy at work.

Conversely, the release of sound rankings for all 353 teams all at once from a new system that will be used to actually select and seed the field for the 2019 NCAA tournament could never, by itself, furnish a coverage-worthy news peg. Got it. Continue reading

Forecasting the near futures of the nation’s two best defenses

UMHoops

(UMHoops)

To the casual fan it must seem that, on or about November 10, 2017, John Beilein was abducted from his home while he slept and was replaced by a cunning cyborg body double running the software package branded as “Deluxe Tony Bennett 2.0 Except for the NCAA Tournament.”

That’s one possibility. Another is that Beilein hired something of a defensive mastermind the previous summer in the form of assistant coach Luke Yaklich.

As has been well documented, Michigan’s defense has been on a tear since Yaklich arrived in Ann Arbor. Indeed, this marks the assistant coach’s third consecutive season of incredible D.

The first took place when Yaklich was still on Dan Muller’s staff at Illinois State, and one of the most remarkable aspects of the assistant’s personal streak is surely that it started after he lost the nation’s No. 1 shot-blocker. Only when Reggie Lynch transferred out of Normal and embarked on his ill-fated journey to Minnesota did the ISU defense achieve escape velocity. Yaklich plainly knows his stuff. Continue reading