Leonard Hamilton Shows It’s Not Just Players Who Don’t Think Clearly Under NCAA Tournament Pressure
A couple of days ago, I did a thin recap of the many late-game errors that were committed by players last weekend during the NCAA Tournament.
College players make stupid plays all the time — Florida’s guards made one each in the form of horribly rushed shots at the end of regulation and overtime today — but it was the heavy concentration of stupidity over those two consecutive days that caught my attention.
Yet, Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton showed Friday night that coaches aren’t immune from brain freezes during pressure-filled moments either.
His Seminoles could have defeated VCU, could have survived and advanced to the Elite Eight. But in his team’s final possession of regulation and overtime, Hamilton thought he would be better off letting his anemic offense create on its own instead of taking a much-needed timeout.
His first questionable decision came after a huge block gave the Seminoles possession with about 17 seconds to play in the second half and the score tied at 65. With two timeouts left, you’d think Hamilton would be wise to use one, slow the game down and set up a play. Florida State ranked in the lower half of the Atlantic Coast Conference in points per game and field goal percentage during the season. Its star player, Chris Singleton, had missed 10-of-15 shots on the night thus far. The team averaged just 64 points in its past seven games. And again, Hamilton had TWO timeouts in his pocket. Why leave both of them to waste?
I guess Hamilton really wanted to save them for the impending overtime period.
As the seconds ticked away, Derwin Kitchen couldn’t find any room to drive, so he spun and hoisted up a prayer that wouldn’t have counted anyway because the game clock had already hit double zeroes in the middle of his panic.
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And the history lesson came just a few minutes later for Hamilton.
After VCU went ahead on a pretty inbounds pass that led to a layup, FSU had seven seconds left to get something done. The Seminoles trailed by one point. They also had a one timeout.
But who needs a timeout when your squad is shooting a white-hot 37.1 percent from the field? Let ‘er fly, baby!
Again, painfully, Kitchen rushed down the court. This time, he drove along the baseline and passed the ball out to Singleton, who was planted just inside the free-throw line. And while game recaps state that Singleton’s jumper was missed or blocked, both terms are incorrect. Closer examination shows that attempt wouldn’t have counted as well. The time taken by Kitchen to make that pass was too much. The official clock expired and the backboard’s red outline lit up with the ball still on Singleton’s fingertips.
Florida State would have had a better chance if it went by TBS’ game clock, which was a full second off at the start of VCU’s game-winning play and routinely stayed about 0.3 seconds behind the action. Not that 0.3 seconds ever made a difference in a basketball game, right?
Two plays to win the game. Two instances with timeouts to design your game-winning play. Zero reasons as to why Leonard Hamilton refused such an opportunity twice. One long plane flight back to Tallahassee.