Coach K is the best ever. I’m not really sure there is much of an argument, but even if you hate him or Duke or whatever, he’s in the conversation. He’s won over 1,100 games (chalk me up as # 1,050 on his resume’) and been to 12 Final Fours. I’m not trying to be critical of Coach K.

But I still don’t like the way he played the final minute of regulation in their Syracuse game tonight. After Zion Williamson missed a free throw with the game tied, Syracuse had a chance to hold for the last shot. Duke had two fouls to give – they only had 4 team fouls. The announcers talked about it right away, and Duke committed a foul with just over 10 seconds left. You could then, on the telecast, hear Coach K telling his team “we have one more foul to give.” After Syracuse entered the ball, Duke waited a little bit and then fouled again, committing their 6th foul with 5.7 seconds to play.

This is common practice in college basketball, to use all of your fouls to give to break the rhythm of the offense. But I don’t get it. I always want to save one foul to give so that we can play aggressive defense on the last possession and if we get called for a common foul, it doesn’t hurt us. If you use your 6th foul on purpose, now you have to be careful not to foul on the last possession or you put the opponent on the line.

What is the value of committing that last foul? Syracuse had to take the ball out of bounds at the 28-foot mark, and they didn’t have time to run a set play. But with almost 6 seconds left they still had plenty of time to get the ball to the right guy and give him room to make a play. I don’t see a huge advantage to forcing your opponent to take the ball out of bounds with 5.7 on the clock.

Syracuse got the ball to Tyus Battle, their best player, and he got a decent look at a 3 which he missed. On that side, if they just fouled twice to put us in the bonus, I definitely want to drive the basketball and put some pressure on the officials to call or foul, or take advantage of a defense that is afraid to foul and plays to avoid contact. Great teams get to the rim.

I would much rather have one foul to give when I’m guarding on the last possession than make my opponent take it out one more time. I don’t think there’s a huge difference in the quality of shot they are going to get against a set difference. But I do think it makes a significant difference to be able to play aggressive defense knowing you have a foul to give, especially in a scenario where officials don’t want to call a common foul.

It always surprises me how many coaches use that 6th foul when they have a foul to give. I don’t think it’s the right play.

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