It's topical, so I thought I'd dust this one off:
From observation and conversation, K predictably slows the pace if we're up by more than twice as many points as minutes left in the game, and if we're tired or in foul trouble he may push it a bit. He's been doing it for decades. We've been stressing and obsessing over it for decades, too. (OK, when we have an absolutely dominant team - i.e., '99 - he hasn't slowed as often, he generally won't slow until the last 10 minutes, etc. This post is for the more common end-game situations.)
The math, as best I can figure it:
Before the other team begins immediate fouling, we can burn about 30 seconds in each stalled possession. In the other direction, we try to force the other team to use at least 15 seconds per possession with a soft, low-risk full-court press and solid half-court D. That gives us a 45-second exchange of possessions, on average.
If we limit them to netting (pun intended) less than 1.5 points per 45-second exchange, we'll win.
If we average just over half a point per possession and hold them to average just under 2 points per possession, the math works. We should be able to average half a point per possession, even if we occasionally (or even three times in a row) get no shot off. On the other hand, it takes an extraordinary performance for a team to average 2 points per possession over multiple possessions. If we hold them to under 1.5 points per possession and 45 second exchanges then we don't even have to score to hold on. We need to value the ball, make occasional shots, and play smart defense. No turnovers. No fouls. (I'm looking at both of you, Butler and Pitt!)
If the other team does start immediate fouling so that we go to exchanges every 15 seconds instead of 45, we need to hit 75% free-throws (shooting 2; 1-and-1 won't last long) to get 1.5 points per possession while still holding them just under 2 points per possession. We must inbound and pass to the best free throw shooters, and make sure everyone can shoot adequately (sorry, Mason).
Is it perfect? Of course not. Effective? Usually. Induce ulcers? Always.
Some people deem slowing the game to be giving up the initiative. I don't. Whether you like stall ball or not, when we use it we dictate the pace of the game. The opponent must react to us. They can play straight up defense or start fouling - and when they start fouling, they admit to desperation.
I won't dispute stalling does change the nature of the game considerably. However, an opponent capable of averaging 2 points or more per possession over a long stretch could also beat us without K slowing the game down.
I'll trust K. And the math.
If only a game played out that way.
-- we lose the initiative on offense, and end up with a bad shot.
-- other team pushes, gets a lay-up or a three point play. Crowd reacts.
-- they press, we turn the ball over. Crowd gets louder.
-- other team scores again. Crowd erupts.
-- we walk it up, come away empty on a long outside shot.
-- they come down and score on the run-out. K calls time out because momentum has clearly shifted.
Suddenly, the 12 point lead with 5 minutes to go is now a 5 point lead with 3 to go. Back to a two-possession game.
And, all that took was two empty trips and a turn-over.
The math is all fine and good. I used a simpler method to come to the same conclusion: I watched the games and tracked what happened when we went to "stall ball." I did this for an entire season.
At the end of this experiment, I was satisfied that "stall ball" was effective, if sometimes nerve-wracking.
Failure is always an option.
Thanks for the explanation, very solid post. Is there any chance you could put that in a graph for us visual learners?
Also, as many others have noted in other threads, the stall has helped us win far more frequently than it has played a part in losses. In fact, last year the stall was employed to brilliant effect in almost every win. It is obviously a debatable point, but i think the execution of the players has more to do with whether or not stall ball is successful than the actual strategy. The final five minutes against Michigan represented such poor execution that it rivaled the final five minutes against VaTech for worst stretch in the season. Luckily we were up 13 when the poor play started. With better execution on both ends, no one would have even remembered that we started to take the air out of the ball with 5 minutes left.
I guess what I would like to see is a statistic on offensive efficiency when running our non-stall offense versus when we stall. Because my sense is that we are basically allowing the other side to cut the margin and betting that time runs out before the margin shrinks to zero. If so, all stall ball does is bring losing into the equation by giving us less margin.
If what we've been running has jumped us out to a big lead, why go away from it (absent foul problems)?
Especially when the other team is in a zone, so we cannot run our foul-line-extended spread?
Coach K said in the postgame presser that we were NOT in a designed delay against Michigan. He seemed to suggest it was our guards' lack of experience against the 1-3-1. He also suggested that this was exacerbated by Kyrie having only 3 practices.
Scheyer's composure and free throw prowess made him an assassin in last yearís tourney. Iíd take my chances that Irving or Nolan will be as effective.
"Thatís one of the reasons why you come to dukeóto win big games in front of the best fans in the country." ~ Rasheed Sulaimon
This was a prime example of the "stall" almost blowing the game. Duke had 3 plays in the last minute that if any of them had gone the other way they could have lost (the offensive rebound of Dre's missed 3, Kyrie's floater and Morris' missed shot in the lane).
But here is the thing about the Michigan game, we were up against a unique style of play both on the defensive side of the ball and on offense. It was almost like the perfect storm scenario where we were befuddled when we had the ball by the 1-3-1 zone and were unsure of where the attack points were, and they put 4 three point shooters on the court with a guy that could get in the lane… I don’t care who you are, that is hard to defend when the shots are dropping.
I don't like the stall ball, but I have learned to accept it. You can't argue with 900 wins.
The flip side to stall ball is to continue to run your normal offense. But that can backfire as well. When UNC is struggling in a game, I have often commented to my wife that they should burn some clock. They most often do not, and at times it has let teams get back in a game so I bet you could go over to IC and they would be complaining about not stalling!
So, on the whole I guess stall ball is the right way to go, again you have a hard time arguing against the math and the number of games we have won doing it.
Just be you. You is enough. - K, 4/5/10, 0:13.8 to play, 60-59 Duke.
You're all jealous hypocrites. - Titus on Laettner
You see those guys? Animals. They're animals. - SIU Coach Chris Lowery, on Duke
I think the discussion is better if we don't apply it to any one game, but look at it over time and measure the results. Any one game can be pointed to and argued either for or against the stall ball strategy, but then once again you get into the what if's. Look at the record, 900 wins and counting. Speaking for myself, I just do not feel that I am in a position to question the tactics deployed by the soon to be winningest coach in the history of the NCAA...