View Full Version : 5 seconds left, up by 3, do you foul or let them shoot the 3?

04-08-2008, 01:01 PM
Seems coaches have different philosophies. But a guy on ESPN just asked a great question, Why is this a philosophy and not a more calculated risk? We have stats on everything, we should be able to put together the stats on this as well.

I take the foul in that situation. I don't have any stats to back it up but I've seen that three made so many times I've lost count. On the other hand, I have rarely seen the first three throw made, second free throw missed, offensive rebound and put-back for the tie.

What would you guys do?

P.S. Mark Few stated earlier this year that he does not foul in that situation.

04-08-2008, 01:06 PM
Well Doug Gottlieb says you foul. He's always right.
I say foul.

04-08-2008, 01:07 PM
Well I would have started with a timeout. Part of the reason Chalmers got that look was they were on the break.

04-08-2008, 01:10 PM
Foul. Foul. Foul.

And was KU even in double bonus at that point? If not, there would even be a chance of missing the first.

This debate has gone on a lot in the Seattle area because Chicken is one of the "don't foul" coaches and it has bit him in the arse (which Uber thinks is just fine when it happens to him). The only argument for don't foul is that the foul may come on a shot and give the guy 3 FTs. But really this can be coached....don't wait until the player is in position or close enough where he might pull up for a shot.

It seems that "don't foul" crowd have some type of old school, macho, "we can play 'em heads up" attitude. Almost like it's a sissy way out to take the foul there. Hey, all Uber knows is that Self had no problem fouling Memphis for the last 2 minutes of the game. Attitudes may change. Uber remembers a day when managers would never walk a batter with first occupied---now you see it pretty often.

04-08-2008, 01:26 PM
Without a question..............FOUL!!!!!!!

04-08-2008, 01:31 PM
First I put in a zone press and then I foul as soon as possible.

04-08-2008, 01:46 PM
Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't it the Michigan State game in Hawaii where GU allowed the Spartans to get a 3 point shot off and send the game into OT?

I know Few doesn't like to foul in these situations. I think it's a no brainer, you foul. I'd rather make a team go to the line, HAVE to make the first free throw, miss the second, get the rebound, and stick it back in.

04-08-2008, 01:49 PM
There is a level of machismo involved with this strategy, but it's tempered with common sense. There are too many added variables when you put a team on the line. If you left 4 seconds on the clock, they might hit both and foul you with 3 to go. Now you have to hit 2 free throws to avoid being in a situation where a desperation shot beats you. But first, you have to get it inbounds. You might get a 5 count or turn it over with a bad pass or they might just steal the inbound. If they do miss the second, with that much time, the ball can be kicked out or back-tapped for a 3 to beat you. You might have a player commit a foul on the rebound, putting them on the line to tie the game.

By playing for a stop, you eliminate all those things, and just leave overtime in play. I posted this on another board - fouling in that situation sends a message to your players, and not a good one. You are basically saying "We can't get a stop when we KNOW they are shooting a 3" and "We can't win in overtime".

If I were Coach Calipari last night, I would have called time out and said "the worst we can do is overtime. Play tough d, switch off ball screens, double on ball screens and contest the heck out of the 3 point line. If they throw in a desperation 3, we kick their butts in overtime. But most importantly, DO NOT FOUL".

Speaking specifically to last nights play, Rose WAS trying to foul, but didn't get the call. What he got was off balance and out of position. By the time he got to Chalmers, Chalmers was already in the act of shooting. Rose made it look like a contested shot, but it wasn't. Had Rose simply defended his man all the way to the hand off, and switched like they were taught, Chalmers would never have had a look at the hoop. Or, if they did it like I do it, the would have trapped Chalmers when he caught the handoff, forcing him into a back dribble.

I'd love to see some statistical analysis on this strategy against playing straight up. My guess is that the numbers would prove that neither is truly better than the other. It comes down to coaching preference, and my preference is to NOT give the other team points when I have the lead.

04-08-2008, 02:02 PM
The problem with fouling is it stops the clock.

I think it is a judgment call, but last night it was not smart for Memphis to foul. Instead they should have just played better D.

Kansas was hitting shots and on a roll at that point. Odds are that even the best shooters miss more 3s than they make. And that shot Chalmers made was for the national title. Getting to a point where you are up 3 with less than five seconds left defending is a good point to be in. No need to foul. Make the opponent make the shot while time continues to click away. Worst case scenario, the guy makes the shot of his life and you go to overtime where you live to fight another day.

Fouling for Memphis in retrospect seems obvious now, but who knows. Let's say they foul with 8 ticks left, early in that possession. Kansas hits 'em both. What is to say Kansas doesn't get another steal on the inbounds? Even if they don't, they send Memphis to the line immediately with say 4 or five seconds, where Memphis at that point was putting up brick after brick. Then Kansas gets the rock back with five seconds left and a chance not ony to tie it but to win it. Now you cannot foul...where does that leave you?

Better to nut up and defend knowing your opponent needs a 3 pointer with the title on the line than to stop the clock. Chalmers hit a ridiculous clutch shot. More often than not that shot does not drop and Memphis is the champion.

All of this is moot anyway if Memphis just inbounds the ball and avoids that turnover earlier where Kansas then hit a 3. That is the play that cost Memphis the game. Not missing FTs. Not failing to foul when up 3.

04-08-2008, 02:07 PM
Just to clarify, my post has nothing to do with last's night game other than the situation came up again. I'm wondering what teams will do in the future.

04-08-2008, 02:19 PM
Here's the way I think about it. If my team were on offense, down by three with a few seconds left, I would much rather have a 3-point attempt than two free throws. So therefore, on defense I would foul under five seconds.

04-08-2008, 02:43 PM
It is an interesting question, but I say no foul. Let a team down by three make a tough shot to send it into overtime. If you put them on the line (presumably shooting two) you run the risk of losing the game in regulation: make 1 free throw, miss the second, get the rebound, kick it out for three...Game Over!

04-08-2008, 02:53 PM
I say you gotta foul the guy, prime example was last night. Memphis could be national champions if they just fouled, one of the problems though is that refs seem more reluctant to blow the whistle in that situation.

It is a tough call either way, but if I was Calipari last night I would have fouled Collins as soon as he got over halfcourt.

04-08-2008, 02:59 PM
Since I was screaming foul as the ball was crossing centre last night, I would have fouled. KU was not in the double bonus yet, so it would have been 1 and 1. If they made both you now have the ball with about 5 seconds to go. If executed correctly they should be able to get at least 2 seconds off the clock and shooting 2. No matter the outcome they have to go full court in 3 seconds and hit a shot to beat you.

04-08-2008, 03:40 PM
Decourcy at TSN is an ardent believer in fouling:


Coaches like to say they order their teams to simply play hard defense to prevent the tying three. But the nature of those final seconds most often prevents a typical defensive effort. Because if players aren't told to foul purposefully as a tactic, they try desperately to avoid committing a foul against a shooter that will result in three free throws or, at worst, a game-winning 4-point play. Defensive players in this situation are ruled by two elements: instinct and fear. They drop down to protect the lane as though a 2-point basket would matter. They keep their guards just a smidge back to prevent what everyone will see as a bonehead play.

One of Mike's comments:

If you want to see why "playing good defense" doesn't make sense in that situation, check out the positioning of Memphis' defenders as Chalmers dribbles left into that shot. Douglas-Roberts is near the FT line. Robert Dozier is near the goal. Taggart is somewhere around the lane. Not one could affect Chalmers' shot. They were ruled by instinct. It's what happens, and that's why coaches have to break habits in that situation -- just like the trailing coach breaks habits by ORDERING his guys to foul and force the leading team to make FTs.

04-08-2008, 05:06 PM
You gotta ask yourself, do you feel lucky punk?
Put it all on red and let it ride or put it all on black and let it ride?

04-08-2008, 05:23 PM
I don't foul. you're just extending the game and giving the other team guaranteed opportunities to score if you foul. There is no guarantees they score if you D it up. 40% chance max, probably less under that kind of pressure.

maybe it's just a situation you have to practice more to prevent those instincts from taking over...

04-08-2008, 05:53 PM
Well Doug Gottlieb says you foul. He's always right.
I say foul.


04-08-2008, 05:53 PM
What's interesting is why coaches who believe in not fouling almost always do not call a timeout after their team shoots their free throws to set up their defense. And the few times I've seen coaches call a timeout, they failed to employ any sort of defense where the 3 point line is being defended like it should be when a 2 point basket doesn't matter, and the opponent is only getting one crack at making the shot. If you elect not to foul, all 5 of your players - probably ones with the longest wingspans - need to form an arc around that 3 point line. Leave the paint completely empty. If the opponent rebounds the miss and puts up a 2 point shot, let them score. With the amount of time that is on the clock in most of these game situations, the odds of the opponent rebounding the ball and kicking it out to heavily guarded perimeter shooters for another attempt is extremely low.

04-08-2008, 05:57 PM
I foul 'em and make d*** sure it is on the floor. I agree with Decourcy in this instance. Telling the players to make sure they do not foul is basically telling them to not play defense.

Tell them to stick to shooters like glue, do not let good shooters get the ball and if the clock is down to a few seconds, foul the other team on the floor rather than risk getting it into the hands of a Chalmers.

The Tigers not fouling there at the end drove me crazy. It seemed obvious to me the moment KU was bringing the ball down the court.

04-08-2008, 06:01 PM
Great question. We had this discussion at work today, and analyzing it strictly using business principles, the least risk aversion with 5 seconds left is to clearly FOUL.

04-08-2008, 06:59 PM
How can you fault coaches or players for the referees blowing the call? Obviously the strategy is to foul. Obviously you don't want an intentional foul. The referees need to understand the situation and call it.

Zags encountered this a couple times this season. The worst being when the refs refused to see the Zag intent on using a strategic foul at St. Marys.

Zags were hacking away and looking at the refs in dismay as the refs just let it happen.