Monday, December 5, 2011

Beware of Shifting Expectations

Wheaton 71, Calvin 66 (box score)

I’ve had a couple of days to reflect on this game, and here’s my conclusion: I’m upset that I’m upset about it. Had you told me before the game that Calvin would lose by five I’d have taken it (or, at least, nearly done so). A five point loss was a pretty big over-performance with respect to my initial outlook on the game (I had expected a double-digit loss). So, from that standpoint I’m very happy with this game. The Knights went toe-to-toe with Wheaton, who looks to be one of the top two teams in a very strong league. It seems, though that the 13 point lead with six minutes to play changes things.

Was the final score a result of an epic Calvin collapse or did Wheaton seize the moment? I’m not sure. Perhaps it was a bit of both, but I’d personally say that Wheaton came out and won it more than Calvin lost it. In order for a 13 point lead to evaporate over the game’s final five or six minutes three things need to all happen: (1) the team that’s ahead misses all of their shots, (2) the team that’s behind makes all of their shots, (3) and the team that’s behind gets all the calls.

That’s pretty much what happened in this game. Calvin had the ball with 5:30 on the clock and a 13 point lead. It was right around this point that I did some mental math to calculate how many more points Calvin would need to score to be ‘safe’ from a Wheaton comeback. I figured scoring two-points per minute would be about average for a team like Wheaton, so I guessed that I should expect them to score about 11 more points. A few more if the game got stretched out do to late fouling. To me, it appeared that Calvin would only need to score a few more points in order to have a reasonable shot at winning.

From this point (5:30) until the end of the game, they were 2-11 from the field. Both of the makes occurred in the game’s final 30 seconds, and both occurred with Calvin trailing by two possessions. They were also 1-2 from the free throw line during that stretch. They were able to tally only six points. DeBoer’s jump hook stopped falling, Tommy couldn’t hit a bunny, and the turnover bug bit down hard.

Wheaton on the other hand, went 6-8 from the field and 10-11 from the free throw line for a total of 24 points. They ended up with points on eight of their nine possessions (not including the fouling at the end). That’s a heckuva run. From 5:30 to about 0:43, Wheaton went on an 18-0 run to turn the 13 point Calvin lead into their own five point lead.

Unfortunately for Calvin, they weren’t helped out by the men in the striped shirts. From the 9:00 mark to the 1:00 mark (before the intentional fouls began), Wheaton shot nine free throws, but weren’t whistled for a single foul themselves. The end result was that Wheaton was in the double bonus already when Calvin had to begin fouling, but Calvin never even got into the bonus.

I hate the “the refs lost it for us” sentiment, because there’s usually several things a team did poorly that aided in the loss, and that was certainly the case here with the ‘easy’ misses and turnovers, but it would be impossible to say that the officiating wasn’t a factor.

If Calvin shoots like they had up until the final few minutes, they win. If Wheaton can’t pull off a 200 offensive efficiency rating over those nine minutes, Calvin probably wins. If the fouls stay even, Calvin probably wins. None of those things happened though, and so they lost.

I’m over it all now. I’m choosing to look at the game as a positive. They outplayed a ranked team for 34 minutes, they played very well defensively – it was perhaps their best defensive game of the year, and they proved to us that they do have the ability to hang with the top-tier teams.

Stats-and-more from the weekend to come.

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