Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Did Coach K make right call on missed free throw?

Ever since the end of Duke's 61-59 NCAA title-clinching win over Butler on Monday night, people have been asking one question.

What if Gordon Hayward's halfcourt heave had gone in at the buzzer for Butler?

There are a few ways to answer this question. First of all, it would have relegated knocked former N.C. State player Lorenzo Charles from his perch as the player who's made the most memorable shot ever in the NCAA tournament. Charles dunked home Dereck Whittenburg's miss at the end of the 1983 championship game to give the Wolfpack a stunning, 54-52 win over heavily favored Houston. Hayward's shot would have been even more remarkable than Charles'.

Second, Hayward would have created one of the biggest NCAA title game upsets of all time. You'd have to go back to Texas Western's 72-65 win over Kentucky in 1966, which was chronicled in the movie "Glory Road," to find a similar situation where a team with a small national pedigree defeated a perennial favorite in the championship game.

Finally, Hayward would have ignited a huge debate over whether Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made the right decision when he had Brian Zoubek deliberately miss his second free throw with 3.6 seconds remaining and the Blue Devils ahead by two points.

The miss forced Butler to lose valuable time by chasing after the rebound. If Zoubek had made his second free throw, it would have been easier for the Bulldogs to set themselves up from out of bounds for a better final shot. But Duke would have been ahead by three points and assured at the very least of a chance to win in overtime. Instead, Duke could have lost at the buzzer on Hayward's shot.

Most people I've talked to have said they'd rather be up three points even if it meant the opponent might get a final shot. I've got to admit, I'd lean that way, too. I would have wanted Zoubek to make the free throw.

But although Hayward's shot came close - off the backboard, off the rim and out - Krzyzewski's strategy paid off. There's a reason he's won four NCAA titles and coached in 11 Final Fours.

None of the other people debating this topic have come close to doing that.

Ken Tysiac

20 comments:

Charles Brown said...

Well, I'm gonna have to disagree on that one.

3.6 seconds is a LONG time at the end of a close game. If you have the opportunity to score MORE points and go FURTHER ahead of your opponent, then why not? Coach K only had one person in the lane to challenge for a rebound other than Zoubek. Adding at least one more person could have made Butler waste precious time battling for the ball. Yes, you do have to be cautious and not foul but you're up by two and worst case scenario is that they go to the line at the end of the National Championship game for a possible tie (pressure?). Finally, Zoubek shouldn't have 'thrown' the ball at the rim. It made the ball kick out further and actually gave Butler a better chance at the final shot.

Four National Championships or not...this was a bad call.

Anonymous said...

They won, so he DID make the right call.

Though, I didn't agree w/ the call.

But what if he made it and it let Butler set up an inbounds play and Hayward got a better look and forced OT and Butler held on for the win?

Then you'd be asking the same question.

GO DUKE! THANK YOU K!!!

kerry said...

Interesting the assumption that Brian would have made it. And when someone is actually trying to miss a free throw it becomes slightly more difficult to determine where the ball hits the rim and what that bounce looks like. Brian's job was to miss and put a big body in the way thus taking some time to get around him. He wasn't there to rebound the ball and by missing you obviously catch the other team in a panic. Plus Butler probably had several out of bound plays designed for such a last second effort. Coach K certainly didn't get where he is by not thinking several steps ahead of his opponents. Glad we speak in hindsight, but give the Devils their due... National Champions once again.

Anonymous said...

I got a meaningless, hypothetical question for you: What if the Carolina Tarheels were not a joke of a team with a clown for a coach? Riddle me that one!

Wacky said...

Butler had no timeouts remaining which would have made it difficult to set a play and the most likely worst case is a tie. I disagree with the decision but Coach K has 4 national titles. He did a great job with that team. Duke deserved to win and really played like a team all year.

Anonymous said...

Intentionally missing makes more sense with a one point lead than a two point lead. A "make" beats you in any case. Study the statistics on made or missed free throws in that situation and I'll bet that K comes out looking pretty good. I agree with kerry that the miss should have been softer and to one side and make the guy dribble around a couple of obstacles.

joe said...

It was the right call, K had his defense spread to cut off the passing lanes, forcing the rebounder to dribble to a low percentage shot. If John Wall is on the floor, then K would have changed tactics. Zou should have put more loft on his shot so the rebound would have come down in the low post, other than that, statics played out.

Anonymous said...

During the live telecast, Clark Kellog commented that it would be better for butler if Zoubek made the shot so that they could have more time to get off a shot. It was a risky call by coach K and it might have cost them the game but it did not and he was not alone thinking an intentional miss could secure the win.

GK said...

In that situation, I'm sure Coach K remembered his game against Kentucky where Grant Hill threw the ball the length of the court to Laettner who tossed it home for the win.

While he would've certainly put a body on the person throwing the ball in, I'm sure he didn't want to give them the opportunity to set something up, as that is a play every team practices on a regular basis.

It was the right call, as it forced Hayward to improvise, and Zou rushing forward did slow him up enough to ensure that it was a longer shot. If Singler hadn't been hit with a moving screen, it wouldn't have been nearly as clear as it was, but the officials would've been drawn and quartered by the crowd had they made such a call in the closing seconds.

Anonymous said...

They won so it looks like the right call to me!!

Anonymous said...

This is another way to take away from the celebration which comes after a national championship. Drip, drip, drip and all the pro tarheel writers diminish the value of what Duke accomplished. What if UNC wasn't so jealous.

Anonymous said...

If he makes the shot then the question becomes how did the refs miss the leveling of Singler at half court? Honestly Duke should have won by 4 after we shoot 2 free throws for an intentional foul. So lets leave the what ifs to the chodes on UNC Message Boards and keep it out of our local sports section (oh wait they are practically one in the same).

Identity Management said...

As a Terp Grad, I liked the call for reasons not articulated thus far. Zoubek is not a good free throw shooter. Planning a miss is easy, and allows a possible rebound by Duke.

Controlling a ball after a missed foul shot, dribbling half court and having the poise to launch a quality shot - UNLIKELY.

Albeit, Butler almost did - but statistically this doesn't happen.

Rat face pulled it out - brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Boy you dookies have short memories... Carolina owned your asses for 4 years... I bet Carolina wins another one before dook does...

Anonymous said...

Hayward only gets the final shot off because Howard illegally threw a pick on Singler. He stepped into Singler, raised his forearms and drove his shoulder into Singler's chest. No foul called. Singler had kept Hayward in check all night.

Its over. Duke is the champion. Will raise another banner in '11.

Anonymous said...

Butler, Butler, Butler...that's all the media wants to talk about. Whatever. They didn't win the game.

BTW, yes, it was the right call. It made Butler waste valuable seconds bringing the ball up the floor.

704Champ said...

1. I am a State grad, and I agree that had Heyward made the shot, it would've surpassed Charles' dunk in 1983.

2. I disagree that it would've been the biggest upset since 1966 if thats what you're implying. While Butler isn't in a major conference, they were ranked in the preseason top 10. State's win over Houston in 83 and Villanova's win over Georgetown 2 years later were both bigger upsets when you look at the entire body of work.

3. If K's decision works, its the right decision. If it doesn't, its the wrong decision. Coaches have their own preferences. Why not have Zoubek make the shot and then immediately foul Butler? That way, Butler is down 3, and you force them to make the front end, miss the 2nd shot and try to get another shot. Or you get the rebound up 2 points and you get fouled, and get a 4 point lead. It varies from coach to coach, but when its all said and done, Duke won the game, therefore it was the right decision.

Anonymous said...

Actually its the hole fans that have short memories...I am 29, in my lifetime Duke has ruled and now order has been restored. Roy has gotten his last title...K has at least 2 more in him, not to mention most wins all time. Good to be KING

aka David said...

I don't believe Z was "told" to miss, given his FT %. Coach K just claimed credit for "the plan" after Haywards's last-second shot had barely missed, and otherwise would have denied all knowledge. >;-/

Anonymous said...

aka David, your argument might hold water if Zoubek didn't completely alter his shot on the second free throw attempt. It was clear that he was trying to miss.