By now, it should be clear that I, along with many others in the Nation, absolutely LOVE that we play style of game based on defense, toughness, rebounding, fundamentals, and smart shot selection. As a Showtime Fan, however, I also believe smart shot selection and offensive efficiency can be used by all kinds of winning teams, slow-grind or fast-break. It’s all a matter of playing to the strengths of your personnel, and taking away the strengths of your opponents’ personnel -- and no way under heaven you do that without DEFENSE.
Unless, of course, your strength actually is, I don't know, DEFENSE. Then this seems to pose a problem.
We’ve heard a LOT about officiating for, oh, MONTHS. Everyone has known that, one way or another, one game after another, we’ve had to deal with bad calls and no-calls, ticky-tack calls and over-the-back non-calls. There are countless good reasons as to why "SPTR" is a well-accepted moniker around here.
Nevertheless, has anyone noticed that it seems like in every single one of the past 4 years, as we’ve flamed out by double-digits against our very final opponent, foul trouble has been an issue EVERY TIME???
Take a look:
2009: Villanova, 2nd round.
UCLA PF: 21
Opp. PF: 22
Players with 5 fouls: DG
Players with 4 fouls: ND, JS
(Also: PAA with 3 fouls, 2 of them early.)
2008: Memphis, Final 4
UCLA PF: 17
Opp. PF: 14
Players with 5 fouls: DC
Players with 4 fouls: RW
2007: Florida, Final 4
UCLA PF: 26
Opp. PF: 17
Players with 5 fouls: LMR, LMRAM, AA (including 2 early ones)
Players with 4 fouls: AA2
2006: Florida, Championship Game
UCLA PF: 22
Opp. PF: 13
Players with 5 fouls: None
Players with 4 fouls: LMRAM
Everyone knows we play an aggressive man-to-man style of D. That’s our calling card. That’s our CORE, our backbone — and it has worked far, far, FAR more often than not while CBH has been here. We would be nowhere without solid D.
But there's a saying in, of all things, a James Bond novel -- Goldfinger to be specific: "Once is coincidence; twice is happenstance; three times is enemy action."
Why have we been eliminated from the Tournament by double-digits for four straight years? Why is foul trouble an issue for us in each of our biggest losses?
(1) Is the issue with the refs, singling out UCLA who believe Pac-10 teams are purely finesse squads who don't know how to play rough D without fouling?
(2) Is the issue with our players, not learning enough to play defense with their FEET, and avoid the same-old reach-in fouls that our guys get caught on in big games year after year after year?
(3) Is it our defensive philosophy, as teams that beat us spread the floor and hit threes early, forcing us to scramble and over-reach, thereby drawing more fouls?
(4) Is it our departing players, who leave voids in terms of size and defensive skills that take us 2 years to recover from?
This post is not meant to assign or impose blame, believe it or not. Rather, it is to ask the last question:
HOW DOES OUR TEAM PREVENT A FIFTH STRAIGHT DOUBLE-DIGIT WHISTLE-STOP LOSS IN THE TOURNEY?
Have at it, folks.