- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
ST. LOUIS The game clock is under 15 seconds. The game is either tied or you trail by one. You have the ball. What do you do?
Do you call timeout? Let your players play out the possession? Who would be your go-to guy Final Four weekend?
We know this will happen. It almost has to. It just happened a few times last weekend during the most glorious Elite Eight in recent memory.
But what will these elite coaches, three likely Hall of Fame coaches and one having the season of a lifetime, do in this late-game situation?
"If your guys are trained enough in practice, then the best thing is to teach them how to play and let them play," said Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser, who watched his star point guard, Chris Paul, create his own shot and finish off NC State with a runner in the regular-season finale in Raleigh.
But it doesn't always work out that way.
At the end of the first overtime of the Kentucky-Michigan State game Sunday in Austin, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith called a timeout. He didn't feel good about the freelance situation about to unfold. But then the Wildcats didn't even get to attempt a shot before the buzzer.
"You've got to have a gut feeling and teach them how to play in that situation, so you know what they'll do," Prosser said.
Earlier this season, North Carolina called a timeout late at Duke. The play was for McCants. But during the timeout, Duke's J.J. Redick guessed the play and covered McCants perfectly. Felton couldn't make the pass and didn't create on his own, and it ultimately led to a turnover. No shot. No chance. Game over.
"Duke knew exactly what Carolina was going to do and Felton didn't make a play," Miami coach Frank Haith said. "You've got to be ready to improvise, because the defense is going to try and take away the play [if a timeout is called]."
The other example that haunts this Final Four, at least from an Arizona fan's perspective, occurred Saturday in Chicago.
The postmortem is still being conducted on Hassan Adams' failed fade-away 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime with the Wildcats down one to the Illini.
For the preliminary diagnosis, we offer the ever-quotable and always honest Arizona associate head coach, Jim Rosborough.
First, he'd like you to get your copy of the Arizona-at-Stanford game tape from 2001 at Maples Pavilion. Rosborough contends the Wildcats were trying to do the same thing to Illinois they did to Stanford, with a high-post entry pass that can result in dribble penetration and then a pass for a dunk.
"In that game, we threw it in to Loren Woods, who dribbled down and passed to Michael Wright for a dunk over the Collins twins to win the game," Rosborough said.
So, the intent was for Jawann McClellan to inbound the ball to Mustafa Shakur, and then he would make a pass to Adams in the high post. The plan was for Adams to then face up his defender and take him to the hoop or drop down a pass to Channing Frye for a dunk.
"They would have had to foul him or he would have scored," Rosborough said.
That didn't happen. Williams defended Adams closely, forcing him to heave up an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer. Rosborough contends that if Adams got the ball two seconds earlier he might have made his move.
"When Hassan faced up, Williams was right there," Rosborough said. "There's no set philosophy on calling a timeout. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. That particular time we felt comfortable in taking a timeout. It's one of those decisions you make, and it will be debated."
Why didn't the Wildcats go to Salim Stoudamire, the same player who beat Oklahoma State two nights earlier on a dribble-drive jumper? Stoudamire also hit game-winning shots in the regular season to beat UCLA and Arizona State.
Rosborough said Stoudamire had his shot at the end of regulation twice but didn't make the play. And he was 2-of-13 on the night.
Stoudamire was the one who dribbled out to midcourt and then called timeout with 11 seconds left to set up the Adams shot.
So, given the high stakes this weekend, who would be the most-feared player with the game on the line?
The consensus answer is the Illini's Williams.
"He's about as tough a gamer as I've seen," Rosborough said. "He's the guy that makes them go."
"That guy is money," Haith added.
McCants appears to be the pick for Carolina, while Garcia is the choice for Louisville. As for Michigan State, well, there really isn't one choice.
"It's hard to pick one guy," Haith said. "Tom Izzo does it by committee, and in a tight game he'll go with the guy who has played the best."
That's what Arizona wanted to do, choosing Adams (21 points) over Stoudamire (nine) as the top choice. It didn't work, but that's the gamble of a late-game situation.
The way this season has gone, you know we'll get another one to debate next week, too. You just know it.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.