The postgame interview with Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton has gotten a lot of attention because of the way Hamilton treated reporter Dana Jaccobsen for asking why his team hadn’t fouled, down four, in the final seconds.
It was a worthwhile question, one broadcasters and fans were asking themselves as the final seconds melted away, and with them any hope of a miraculous Seminoles comeback.
But what isn’t being mentioned as much was the situation about 40 seconds earlier, when Florida State was down by three and did foul. Michigan made one of two foul shots, creating a two-possession spread that otherwise may not have existed.
So, obviously, there is a chance Michigan scores two or three, instead of one, on that possession. But look at the time situation. Michigan got a rebound with 58 seconds left and called timeout with 50 seconds left in the game and 22 left on the shot clock. Assuming Michigan uses the whole shot clock, misses, and Florida State gets the rebound, the Seminoles would have had the ball, down three, with about 25 seconds left — enough for all sorts of wild things to happen.
Instead, the Seminoles elected to foul Zavier Simpson, who until that moment was 3-for-6 from the line during that game, and a 51 percent foul shooter on the year. If you’re going to foul somebody, he’s the guy to foul, but it remains that odds were in favor of Simpson making a free throw and putting Michigan up by four, which he did.
With the Wolverines shooting 38 percent from the field and 24 percent from the 3-point line, odds were they would miss whatever shot they took.
This isn’t to say you should always play the numbers like that. They are among a whole bunch of considerations Hamilton had to juggle while making these decisions quickly in real time. I do understand the thinking behind it: It preserved clock, it put a lot of pressure on a bad free-throw shooter, and the end result — being down four with 40 seconds left — wasn’t a disaster. If P.J. Savoy makes his three-pointer on the other end, suddenly it’s a one-point game with 29 seconds left, and Michigan is going back to the line for two more pressure foul shots.
But that didn’t work out, and Hamilton’s response to Jacobsen after the game makes you wonder if he didn’t get things a little scrambled up in his mind during the game’s final minute.
Hamilton was asked about this situation after the game. Here is the exchange, as transcribed by ASAP Sports.
Q. With about a minute to go, you guys were down 55-52, and you let like half the shot clock go before you fouled. Is that what you wanted? Did you want them to foul right away?
LEONARD HAMILTON: Well, I believe it was about — I don’t remember exactly, but I want to say that it was a four-point game. The situation was that if they missed that shot, we would have had an opportunity to come down —
Q. That’s the one I’m talking about. They missed the front end of a one and one, you were down three, and you went down and a kid took what looked like a rushed three.
LEONARD HAMILTON: Yeah, we didn’t have any more timeouts left. We had used all our timeouts. The only thing we could do was foul.
Q. Did you want them to foul right away, though?
LEONARD HAMILTON: What we wanted — I don’t remember exactly what the situation was to be very honest with you. But there was one situation where we thought it was best not to foul because we thought that we could get the ball back and still have an opportunity to score because it seemed like there were like 15 seconds difference in the shot clock, if we could just hold them. It might have been a one- or two-point game at that point. Maybe a two-point game. And we thought if we stopped them, we’d have an opportunity to come down and score.
But I think that’s what happened in that one particular situation that I have in my mind. If we got a stop, we still would have an opportunity to score. If we fouled them, they’d be up four and we’d come down and we still would not be able to win the game.
Am I out of my mind, here? Would you have fouled Michigan, down three, with almost a minute left? Am I the confused one?