Passivity Bites

Is there anything worse for a sports fan than seeing your team take the passive, play-not-to-lose role in a game?  Well, yeah, if you’re team really sucks and doesn’t play hard…

But if you’re team is basically good, competitive, and tough to beat in most situations, it’s exceptionally frustrating to watch said team adopt a passive approach.  Ten men behind the ball in soccer, the prevent defense or 3rd-and-long draw play in football, the milk-the-clock stall ball in hoops…  Last night it was a last second loss by the Illini to Penn State:  a game the orange-and-blue should have won.  Illinois was the superior team for about 2/3 of the game, but with about five minutes left to go and an eight point lead, Coach decided it was time to run the stall ball.  PSU went on a 12-3 run during that time and won on a last second shot.  Sure, a few more free throws would’ve iced it, or a little better D at the end, but you could tell by watching — the Nittany Lions had the momentum, the Illini suddenly looked unhinged, and the motion stalled.  Again.

By my reckoning, that’s four losses you attribute to end-of-game passivity and too much emphasis on the shot clock.  Count them:  vs. Clemson, at Michigan, at Michigan State, and this last game at Penn State.  So what’s the answer?  Adjust your strategy, Coach! If you’re team is playing well by taking a good look when it comes, getting out in transition, not worrying about running 20 seconds of clock before looking at the basket, let them play. Just let them play.

Truth is, Illinois really started to back it off with about 7 or 8 minutes left.  And that’s way, way, too early.  Sure, if you get inside of 3 minutes and you have a 7-10 lead, run the clock.  But not 5 minutes.  Certainly not 7-8 minutes.  Not with the three point shot and the momentum swings you see in college hoops.  And not with this team that only has one legitimate dribble-drive threat.

I told a co-worker today it was the college hoops equivalent of the Chicago Bears.  He immediately concurred.

The local sportswriters were apologetic for the team in their assessments today.  Remember, they wrote, no one thought this was a 20-win team, let alone a tourney team.  OK, true enough.  But please, for the love of the Chief, let’s not go down whimpering at the end of the year.    If you’re going to lose, go out fighting.  Don’t wuss around on the perimeter waiting for the shot clock to expire and let the other team take it you.

For once, Illinois has a team that could actually benefit from the typical stingy officiating in the post-season.  So make the adjustment, Coach, and let them play.  Go to it, boys.  Play hard and carpe the damned diem.

5 thoughts on “Passivity Bites

  1. Read Tupp’s column. I disagree. They failed to make plays because they screwed around on the perimeter, milking the clock, and when they did get the shots they rushed them. They actually started stalling without about 7-8 minutes to go.

  2. Here was my assessment, it pretty much echo’s Mr. Beemsville.
    I looked it up and we put up 50 Shots in the first 35 minutes. If you take out Kellers Offensive rebound we put up 5 in the last 5 minutes. What does that tell you…Let me pontificate here.

    If you take the time of 35 minutes thats 2100 seconds. We’ll say we had the ball half that time or 1050 seconds. 50 shots in 1050 seconds is 1 shot every 21 seconds. Now conversely if we look at the last 5 minutes that’s 300 seconds or 150 for half. 5 shots in 150 seconds is a shot every 30 seconds.

    Once again,

    First 35 minutes a shot every 21 seconds.

    Last 5 minutes a shot every 30 seconds.

    So your saying to yourself now. That’s only 9 seconds that’s not that bad. It adds up to just under 5 more possessions in the last five minutes, who would have liked to have 5 more cracks at a basket last night??!!?!?! Remember back to your playing days. We didn’t have shot clocks so it really only happened 4 times per game that there would be a last second shot. One at the end of each quarter. How many of those do you remember making. This game is difficult enough when your just playing. Add in the pressure of knowing that you have to get a shot off, coupled with the fact that your coach is telling you to slow it down and the rim gets smaller. This is the same theory that cost our ’05 team an undefeated regular season that year. We got a lead then held on to the ball until the end of the shot clock the last 4 minutes while tOSU was nailing threes and playing to win! We had much better athletes and shooters on that team not to mention the fact that we had about 4 different guys that could create their own shot better than anyone on this years team. Why would we think that could work now?!?!?

  3. WOW…. The shots taken were in the flow of the offense. They were not forced (except for maybe 1). If guys are jacking up shots with 15 on the clock I would wager Both SCOTT and the RUBE would both be pissed (unless of course they went in).

    FTs and rebounding cost us that game. Davis didn’t get any touches (effort) and we also didn’t board real hard. This has been the theme all year long. I don’t like it but those are teaching points and this team has the ability to be really good next year. Lets hope for a couple of wins in the BT tourney and hopefully 2 in the NCAA.. at least we know they are going to the NCAA and have a reason to watch…….

  4. Pingback: Pentagram: Illini Hoops Off-Season « Beemsville

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