Should Anthony Grant Have Called a Timeout in the Middle of Mason’s Decisive 20-4 Run?
Last night I would’ve said “absolutely,” but the more I think about it, the more I don’t think it would’ve mattered. Louis Birdsong picked up his fourth foul and Jim Larranaga responded by going to a four guard lineup. Brilliant or fortituitous? Whatever the case VCU was unable to solve/respond.
And Mason rolled. Slowing momentum had little to do with it; the four guard combination was the perfect mix and the result was inevitable. It came mostly on the defensive end.
The difference was the guards–especially the size of Folarin Campbell–who thwarted VCUs drive-and-dish offense. Eric Maynor kept hitting bodies, and Joey Rodriguez was too small to be effective in the paint. The result was a flurry of standstill jumpers, which is never a good strategy. Coaches always Nuke LaLoosh you with “good offense starts with good defense.” Last night was the poster child for this cliche.
Compounding matters was that Mason had four ballhandlers on the floor. The Patriots resisted the urge, mostly, to hurry. Mason repeatedly sprinted into the front court and backed off. A staple of VCUs defense–get the ball into the hands of a player who isn’t comfy with the ball in the open court–was ineffective because those players weren’t on the floor.
Think of it this way: how many times did Will Thomas stand at the three-point line with the ball in his hands and watch players move around while the shot clock winnowed away? He knew if he tried anything other than “get the ball to somebody who can do something with it” he was in trouble. So he basically stood still. That, my friends, is brilliance. Thomas knew by NOT making a play he was making a play. He reversed the norm: by playing passively, he solved VCUs pressure.
Side note: I realize Thomas was anything but passive when he got the ball in the post (and on defense). I think the key to this game was (1) Thomas played his usual game and didn’t try to do more; (2) Birdsong couldn’t impact the game with the basketball because he was on the pine.
I also think that barring something extraordinary occurring in the second half of the season, Will Thomas locked up CAA Player of the year. Too many people with votes saw that phenomenal performance.
You know who really hated to see how that game went last night? Pat Kennedy.
Later today: predictions and two-bid scenarios.