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Old 01-19-2020, 01:20 AM
UltraVires is offline
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College Basketball, Foul Trouble, and Sitting a Player


I've seen it many times and don't understand it. I am not a basketball coach, so there must be some reason for it.

You have a good player. Sometimes even a star player. He picks up two fouls in the first five minutes. So the coach sits him for the remainder of the half.

He comes back at the start of the second half and picks up another foul. So he sits for 10 minutes. Then he comes back for the last 7 or 8 minutes of the game and plays very cautiously.

It seems to me that by benching the player for 25 of the 40 minutes in the game, the coach has effectively done what would have happened had the player fouled out. Even if he fouls out by halftime, you have still gotten more playing time from him than by doing this strategy.

Are there stats on this and why is this the accepted coaching method?
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Old 01-19-2020, 03:39 AM
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I'm not sure it matters whether they sit him or leave him in. He'll theoretically have the same impact on the game. Leave him in and he could help build a lead which the team can sustain after he fouls out in the first half, or sit him and he could help overcome a late deficit which his absence presumably caused. Either way, he is probably playing the same minutes and will have the same impact on the game. Of course he'll play more cautiously with more fouls, but that's true early or late. It's an intuitive choice, use him up early and hopefully gain a lead which the rest of the team can sustain, or preserve him for an expected late deficit. If the player gets two fouls in the first five minutes, I doubt the coach would bench him for 15 minutes, and I doubt he'd be benched for 10 minutes after the early second half foul. Those numbers seem sensational. You said there is no difference between leaving him in or taking him out. I think the best coaching option would be to have him available late instead of hopefully gaining a lead while leaving him in (and fouling out) that the rest of the team would carry, and not have him available late.

Last edited by Harrington; 01-19-2020 at 03:43 AM.
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Old 01-19-2020, 04:07 AM
UltraVires is offline
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Originally Posted by Harrington View Post
I'm not sure it matters whether they sit him or leave him in. He'll theoretically have the same impact on the game. Leave him in and he could help build a lead which the team can sustain after he fouls out in the first half, or sit him and he could help overcome a late deficit which his absence presumably caused. Either way, he is probably playing the same minutes and will have the same impact on the game. Of course he'll play more cautiously with more fouls, but that's true early or late. It's an intuitive choice, use him up early and hopefully gain a lead which the rest of the team can sustain, or preserve him for an expected late deficit. If the player gets two fouls in the first five minutes, I doubt the coach would bench him for 15 minutes, and I doubt he'd be benched for 10 minutes after the early second half foul. Those numbers seem sensational. You said there is no difference between leaving him in or taking him out. I think the best coaching option would be to have him available late instead of hopefully gaining a lead while leaving him in (and fouling out) that the rest of the team would carry, and not have him available late.
My point was that the coach is presuming that he will pick up fouls 3, 4, and 5 in short order and be out of the game. The two fouls in five minutes could very likely have been an anomaly which will even back out over the course of the game. He could play the rest of the first half with no more fouls.

By taking him out, the coach has effectively acted as if he has or will foul out.
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Old 01-19-2020, 09:40 AM
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depends on the player, and a guard is less likely to foul than a center or forward. A guard may stay in the game longer with 3 or 4 fouls.
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Old 01-19-2020, 10:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UltraVires View Post
It seems to me that by benching the player for 25 of the 40 minutes in the game, the coach has effectively done what would have happened had the player fouled out. Even if he fouls out by halftime, you have still gotten more playing time from him than by doing this strategy.
The thinking is that "all minutes are not created equal". The player whose coach sits him may only play 15 minutes, but they include the most important, intense minutes of the game--namely, the final minutes. During those minutes, it's especially important to have your best players on the floor--players who are used to playing together as a unit and succeeding under pressure with the game on the line.

That's the thinking, anyway. I'm not sure I agree with it. I've often had the same thoughts that you do. I keep waiting for some new-age analytics coach to start ignoring "foul trouble". If any coach has done so, however, it has escaped my (admittedly incomplete) attention.
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Old 01-20-2020, 03:59 PM
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Freddy the Pig, said it best, not all minutes are equal. The most crucial minutes are at the end if the game is tight. You don't know if the game will end up being tight, so you want to preserve your option of having that player available if that were to happen.
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Old 01-20-2020, 04:05 PM
Boozahol Squid, P.I. is offline
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While theoretically, the points scored ten minutes into a game are worth the same as the ones scored in the dying moments, practically it doesn't work out that way. As anyone who routinely watches basketball games will tell you, in almost every game played between teams of roughly equal strength, the game is almost always going to be within 10 points either way leading up to the last 5 minutes. In those last five minutes, the points scored per minute tend to be much higher than at any other point of the game for both sides.
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Old 01-20-2020, 04:18 PM
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"Not all minutes are equal" may be the common wisdom, but sports common wisdom has a lot of just plain superstition built in. Sure, you don't know if the game will be close at the end, but if you bench your best player, you're more likely to turn a game where you have a big lead into a close one, or a close one into a game where you're trailing by a lot.

However, there is one reason why it does make sense to sit a player who's fouling a lot, because ejection of the player isn't the only consequence to a foul. Fouls also hand points to the other team. If one player makes two fouls in the first five minutes, he's already handed up to four points to the other team. Maybe he's just in a really bad mood today, and if you leave him in, he's going to give the other team six more points before he's removed. If, instead, you remove him now, then you're not giving away those additional points. And even if you end up putting him back in at the end, maybe the time on the bench will let him calm down and realize that he needs to be more disciplined.
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Old 01-20-2020, 11:50 PM
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maybe the time on the bench will let him calm down and realize that he needs to be more disciplined.
I would argue this is the better reason. The long wait gives the player time to cool down and think about what's happening - is he/she being baited into obvious fouls by a canny opponent, or just doing dumb stuff? That realization can be very helpful once the player enters the game again. Another possibility is that an opponent has gotten under the player's skin - see Beverly v. Durant, 2019. The situation can easily escalate until your player leaves the game in a matter of seconds.
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Old 01-21-2020, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by UltraVires View Post
It seems to me that by benching the player for 25 of the 40 minutes in the game, the coach has effectively done what would have happened had the player fouled out. Even if he fouls out by halftime, you have still gotten more playing time from him than by doing this strategy.
Well, yeah, Freddy was right; not all minutes are created equal.

The thing is, the coach is also making sure he can determine what kind of minutes he gets. If you're Nick Nurse, coach of the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors, and one of your players - let's say Kyle Lowry, point guard - gets in early foul trouble, it's true he could keep running Lowry out there and get as many minutes out of him as he can.

But suppose Lowry does foul out midway through the third quarter. Okay, you're gotten 25-30 good minutes out of your best player. But Nurse doesn't knopw what will happen the rest of the game, and now his strategic options are more limited; he has lost his starting point guard, so he is forced to move everyone else accordingly. He now has fewer matchup options available to him. Rather than sitting Lowry when it is strategically useful to instead use Terence Davis, he is forced to use Davis all the time (or HIS backup, Pat McCaw.) By reserving Lowry's minutes, he has more cards to play in the fourth quarter - not all minutes are created equal, and Nurse can to some extent decide what kind of minutes they are if he has all his players.

There is also a lot of wisdom to the (again, already stated) notion that a guy who picks up 2-3 fouls that quickly just isn't playing his best basketball and needs to sit. Of course, coaches aren't stupid; if Nick Nurse sees that Kyle Lowry's fouls were bad calls he may not pull him. But if a guy is just playing poor basketball - and excessive fouls are much more often a product of bad play than being overaggressive - maybe he needs to sit his ass down. Giving away foul shots is a huge problem. It's easily made points, and fouls early gets your team closer to the penalty, which will cost you more points.
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