Yesterday’s loss to Seton Hall brought a wave emotions across me. When the Pirates took the three point lead in the closing seconds, I prepared myself for the worst. Knowing that the chances of making a shot were slim. We all know what happened next in what will go down as one of the more improbable shots in recent Kentucky history.
That brought us to overtime. Seton Hall hit, another, three pointer to take the one point lead in the closing seconds of the game. John Calipari decided to not use one of his two timeouts and instead play through with a play that was supposedly drawn up earlier.
Obviously, it didn’t work and in the now infamous words of Shannon Dawson, “if it would have worked, you would have loved it.”
This isn’t the first time that Calipari has decided against using a timeout in late game situations. In fact, in a lot of ways, he is against the principle altogether. I definitely disagree, but then again there is a reason I am sitting on my couch typing instead of on the sidelines coaching.
All of this led me to look into Cal’s theory of taking timeouts in late game situations. During his time at Kentucky, his teams have been in 26 situations where they could have taken the lead or tied the game in regulation or in overtime. He has called a timeout in 11 of them.
In fact, here is an entire chart I put together that shows just that.
|Date||Game||Timeout?||Player Who Took Shot||Did He Make It?||Result|
|November 16, 2009||Miami Ohio||No||John Wall||Yes||Win|
|December 6, 2009||North Carolina||No||John Wall||Yes (FTs)||Win|
|January 19, 2011||Alabama||Yes||Terrance Jones||No||Loss|
|February 2, 2011||Ole Miss||Yes||Doron Lamb||No||Loss|
|February 6, 2011||Florida||No||Brandon Knight||No||Loss|
|February 23, 2011||Arkansas||No||Brandon Knight||No||Overtime|
|February 23, 2011||Arkansas||Yes||Brandon Knight||No||Loss|
|March 17, 2011||Princeton||Yes||Brandon Knight||Yes||Win|
|March 25, 2011||Ohio State||No||Brandon Knight||Yes||Win|
|March 9, 2013||Robert Morris||No||Kyle Wiltjer||No||Loss|
|January 14, 2014||Arkansas||No||Andrew Harrison||Yes||Overtime|
|January 14, 2014||Arkansas||No||N/A (Turnover)||N/A||Loss|
|February 22, 2014||LSU||No||Julius Randle||Yes||Win|
|February 27, 2014||Arkansas||No||Andrew Harrison||No||Overtime|
|March 18, 2014||Florida||Yes||No Shot||N/A||Loss|
|March 30, 2014||Michigan||Yes||Aaron Harrison||Yes||Win|
|April 6, 2014||Wisconsin||No||Aaron Harrison||Yes||Win|
|January 10, 2015||Texas A&M||Yes||Aaron Harrison||No||Overtime|
|March 13, 2016||Texas A&M||Yes||Tyler Ulis||No||Overtime|
|January 31, 2018||Vanderbilt||Yes||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||Yes (FTs)||Overtime|
|January 31, 2018||Vanderbilt||No||Quade Green||Yes||Win|
|February 6, 2018||Tennessee||No||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||No||Loss|
|March 23, 2018||Kansas State||No||Quade Green||No||Loss|
|March 23, 2018||Kansas State||Yes||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||No||Loss|
|December 8, 2018||Seton Hall||Yes||Keldon Johnson||Yes||Overtime|
|December 8, 2018||Seton Hall||No||Keldon Johnson||No||Loss|
As you can see, in the 11 situations where Cal has called a timeout, his players have only made the shot 4 times.
In the 15 situations that he hasn’t called a timeout, a player has made the shot 7 times.
What does all of this mean? Well, it shows that Cal’s theory on letting players go does at least have some stats to back it up. In most of these situations, I was probably, like many people, yelling at him to call the timeout and in some instances I was proven wrong.
The common thread that I see though, is that during almost all of the seven times where Cal’s theory was proven, he had an elite college player to take the shot. Whether it was John Wall, Brandon Knight, Julius Randle or even the Harrison twins, that is the common point that I see. It is hard to tell whether this team has that or not.