Geno Auriemma of UConn had a dilemma with under 10 seconds remaining in the first overtime of Monday night's UConn-Notre dame game: Should he foul or not foul?
He chose not to and Notre Dame broke an 0-for-10 streak as Junior Kayla McBride hit a 3-pointer to send the game into a second overtime. McBride at the time was a .283 3-point shooter for the season. Auriemma focused on making certain that the Irish's first team All-American Sklyar Diggins did not get a touch. He won that battle. Notre Dame won in triple overtime 96-87.
The dilemma faced by Auriemma is one faced by college and NBA coaches at least once a season.
Most coaches have set philosophies. They are almost universally against committing the foul. Arizona men's basketball coach Sean Miller is in the minority: He commits the foul.
Coaches apparently feel that it shows defensive weakness to not just defend the play and some statistical analysis bears them out.
Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective did a study in 2009-10 and found 441 instances in men's college basketball in which the leading team with 10 or fewer seconds had a 3 point lead. Of those instances, 391 did not foul and their win rate was 91.56 percent. 52 chose to foul and they won at the rate of 88.46 percent.'
Our take is that the 52 instances is too small of a study and that the women's game is different from the men's game. The ball is smaller and many women's teams have higher 3-point shooting percentages than men's teams.
Also, the possibility of a foul occurring and a player making the first, intentionally missing the second, getting the rebound and putting in a layup or perhaps getting fouled again is less likely in the women's game. There are not many 6-8 female power forwards positioned in the lane with an opponent in their way who can reach over, grab the rebound and have the pure strength to accomplish a task which few NBA power forwards can and have accomplished.
Professor Mark Kanowski of DePauw University has studied the issue and feels firmly that the foul needs to take place within the last 5 and not the last 10 seconds - as a lot of bad things can take place in a full 10 seconds.
Maybe it is just the writer, but in most college games this season in which the issue has presented itself, coaches - like Auriemma - have chosen not to foul and have gotten burned.
The average 3-point percentage in the college game is in the 35 percent range. Under pressure in the final 10 seconds, it's reasonable to assume it dips under 30 percent. But that is still a lofty number and one worth trying to take away from the team which is behind.