Timeout, Game Tied, 15 seconds Left, What's The Play, Who Takes The Shot?!?
The pressure is on us, we are the higher ranked team, far more talented, playing in Rupp, projected Final Four, in everybody's Championship conversation. Louisville just lost last night, over-ranked, a veteran team of good-but-not-great players pushed by a once great coach desperate to reclaim some weak glimmer of his former glory. Favored Kentucky should win by 12 - 16 points, imo.
But this is a rivalry game, a game of such intensity and history many sports books aren't even offering a line on the contest - at least not yet. Whose favored means almost nothing. In fact, if history has taught us anything, in a world where even the most important events in our lives elicit personal reactions suffused by only a few aspects of love, happiness, fear, anger or sadness, ... every year THIS GAME, over its 40-minutes - provides an opportunity to experience the most incredible range of intense emotions of any single event of our entire lives - Joy, Alarm, Calm, Shock, Thrill, Dread, Awe, Panic, Inspiration, Anxiety, Exaltation, Worry, Pride, Rage, Devotion, Torment, Serenity, Hostility, Satisfaction, Fury, Passion, Terror, Adoration, Outrage, Enthrallment, Disgust, Blissfulness, Grief, Optimism, Anger, Disappointment and Relief - again, all in one 40 minute contest! Win or lose, many times, we are totally drained emotionally by the end of play. And, in a statistically improbable number of instances, this game has capped its full spectrum emotional maelstrom by allowing the entire game to come down to one last second 'Sparks/Siva' shot.
So, ... when it comes right down to it, for this team ... who takes that shot? Lamb? Miller? Teague? Davis? Jones? Kid-Gilchrist? ... Wiltjer? Let's face it, all these guys are good but Cal has a tough decision, it's not so clear a choice. Taking a devil's advocate perspective, most of these players do not promote a lot of confidence for channeling Patrick Sparks in the final seconds of a college basketball game.
Jones? Not the first outside shooter that might come to mind in a situation like this and he has the injured left pinky, but he is shooting 47.1% from three and, guarded by a big man, he is more likely to be open on the perimeter than, say ... Lamb or Miller. Alternatively, Cal might want him for a low block option or for a potential putback. But Jone's been injured and been in a funk for the last 3 games that he's played. At least right now, I don't have a good feeling about Terrence, instead of being our best player, he looks like maybe the 5th best player on the team. I was criticized for suggesting that the apparent issues that manifested themselves at Indiana might well extent into follow-on games. But, in fact, they did seem to.
Terrence holds the ball low as he explodes to the basket. Indiana, to their credit, picked up on that fact and, imo, Jone's poor play was an emotional response to being hacked every time without the foul being called. The same thing was happening during the 10-minutes of the Tenn-Chattanooga game at Rupp he played before the injury and last night against Lamar. However, this type of media hyped game is just the opportunity Jones needs to break through his bad humor and let his play provide support for his nomination as a College Basketball Player of the Year Candidate and projected top-5 NBA Draft pick. I'm pulling for him.
Miller? Last night, Darius' outside shot was on, 4-6 from three, but, unlike last season, it has been very inconsistent, only 31.3%. In addition, I'm not so sure I want Miller's outside shot to be dropping against Louisville. [You say, "What, are you crazy?!?" - Maybe, but not just for entertaining this particular idea. I have others. ';-) ] Like last night against Lamar, every time his outside shot is dropping, Darius seems to totally
forget/abandon any thought of defense and offensive rebounding; his turnovers drop and overall game improves drastically when his 3's aren't falling. Cal was so frustrated with Miller last night, despite the 4 threes, you could hear him screaming at him during every timeout. If the choice is one or the other - of getting a few outside shots to fall or a steady senior contributing lockdown defense, dropping dimes for his teammates and making putbacks - what's your choice?
Teague? Despite shooting 33.3% (better than Miller) from the arc, many fans are disappointed with Marquis so far this season and some have expressed the opinion they want Lamb to be running the team in tight game situations. As a 65% freethrow shooter, Teague is the second worst starter at the line. Cal defended him to the media last night despite his having six turnovers against Lamar but how much harder is it likely to be handling against Louisville's pressure? Should he have a similar performance Saturday, I'm not sure Cal will even have him in the game at the end.
Davis? Certainly, I could really see Cal calling a play to free Davis for a pass to the low block. Though he's the starter with the worst freethrow shooting and has missed all 4 of his 3 attempts, honestly, he's a much better outside and midrange shooter than he's shown so far. He will assuredly be in the game during any final seconds situation, but I don't think he'll be taking any outside shot as a primary option.
Wiltjer? Now this is intriguing. Kyle has a pretty shot and has been more effective lately. And, we saw in the Lamar game that Wiltjer is especially effective as the trailing big man coming down the floor catching the ball in rhythm and nailing the 3. Kyle is also the best freethrow shooter on the team. However, Wiltjer has had a lot of trouble with his ability to function on the block and be strong with the ball; the reality is Kyle has the lowest shooting percentage of any player getting meaningful minutes except Teague.
Kid-Gilchrist? I have no doubt MKG will make the most of any opportunity if the ball can make it into him down low. Of anybody, Kidd-Gilchrist is the absolute competitive killer on the team, the guy who has no other thought than WIN. But Michael has a tendency to play out of control driving in any given possession and, especially if the refs are expected to be calling fouls in such a last second play situation, Cal might not choose to give him the ball over another player. Rather, Cal might rely on him to set the hard screen to free up another shooter or enable the inlet pass.
Lamb? This is the easy answer, our best outside shooter, an excellent aggressive ball handler able to drive left or right, vastly improved passer and, running off a screen, able to get a little separation for a deep three, a midrange jumper or use his dribble to get into the paint and shoot that beautiful teardrop floater ... and the quality decision making mindset to choose between them. Hoping the refs swallow their whistles, Louisville, no fools, will virtually tackle the guy to keep him from getting a shot.
Cal's got a tough tough decision. Do you go with Doron or do you use him to decoy the defense and go with a different option?