A lot of chatter online after this incredible play by Virginia to force overtime and eventually beat Purdue to go to the Final Four. With 5.9 seconds to go, and having the possession arrow in their favor, I tweeted that Purdue should violate the lane, so as not to allow Virginia to miss the free throw. Purdue obviously didn’t, and Virginia made an incredible play and is now on to Minnesota. A number of people have reached out to me with questions about the intentional violation:

  • Yes, you need to have the possession arrow. A double-violation – one called on both teams – goes to the possession arrow. So if Purdue were to violate the lane first, and then Ty Jerome were to miss the rim entirely on the free throw (also a violation), they would go to the possession arrow. So if you don’t have the arrow, you are risking your opponent getting a possession to tie the game if they violate as well.
  • A lot of people have said that Ty Jerome wasn’t trying to miss that free throw on purpose. It doesn’t matter whether he wants to miss it or make it. What matters is whether or not missing it would give his team the best chance to win. If missing a free throw on purpose gives your opponent the best chance the win, it makes sense to violate the lane. If it goes in, so what? Nothing happens. Get it in bounds and make your free throw. If he misses it, violation, and he has to shoot it again. Eventually he’s going to make it, probably after 1 or 2 tries, or he’s going to miss the rim entirely. It’s hard to miss a free throw on purpose.
  • If you ask 10 different officials what they would do in this situation, you are likely to get 10 different responses. Many people have claimed the officials would call a technical foul. Some say eventually they would have to do something. Mike Stephens, a Final Four official, has told me you can’t call a technical foul there. There is a penalty for a violation, and they get to shoot it over again. I also brought this scenario up to JD Collins at our America East league meetings 2 years ago, and he said he’d never seen or considered that scenario. He said he could see some officials saying that they could call a technical, but he didn’t think it was the appropriate call to do so.
  • To me, here is the key to that: Before I ever did it in a game, I asked officials I knew what they would do. Most of them were very intrigued by it and didn’t really know. But I asked them IF they were going to consider a technical, would they at least come over and give me a warning beforehand. And everyone of them said of course they would. So that made me comfortable using it as a strategy, knowing that they wouldn’t just give us a technical without warning.
  • The first time I ever did it in a game is described here – The Murray Center Miracle – still the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of.
  • When we first violated on purpose, we made it obvious. Just before the official was to give the ball to the shooter, one of my guards would clearly step into the lane and then step out. Making it obvious to everyone we were violating on purpose. After doing it 3 times in that game the official came over to me and said if we did it again he was going to give us a technical foul. I said , “For what?” And he said “The game is never going to end.” To which I replied, “Tell him to make the free throw, the game will end.” Of course after he refused to let us violate again, they got the rebound off the missed free throw and tied the game to send it to overtime.
  • So after that game we changed the way we violate. We still make sure we go in early (we call it “early” actually), but we don’t do it until the shooter is getting ready to release the ball. This does two things 1) It makes it look like we aren’t doing it on purpose 2) It gets us in the lane earlier than our opponent should the officials not call the violation and we need to get the rebound. Now if it happens multiple times and the officials have an issue with it, I just say look we are trying to get the rebound, it’s the biggest rebound of the game. So our guys are just trying to get position.
  • I’ve probably used this strategy 5 or 6 times in games over my career. We won 3 games this way in my 4 years at Maine. You will be amazed at how quickly your opponent will make the free throw by accident. Only once has the opponent actually shot the free throw more than a second time – in that one game against Keene State when I was at RIC.
  • This all comes from the idea that it is hard to miss shots on purpose – especially when you have to hit the rim, and you are hoping for the right kind of rebound. Have your team try it in practice, I’ll guarantee you they make the free throw (or miss the rim entirely) more often than you think.
  • It just makes sense. The rule is that on a free throw violation, your opponent gets to shoot the ball again. If you are in a position where your opponent needs to miss a free throw on purpose to beat you, you shouldn’t let them do it.

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