Down four points with 11 seconds remaining in their Elite Eight game against Michigan, the Florida State Seminoles elected not to foul and keep their season alive. It was a little bizarre! Michigan struggles at the line, and finished the contest having only made 16 of its 24 attempts. But rather than dare the Wolverines to make a few more, Florida State let Michigan dribble out the clock and win, 58-54.
Though it would have taken a small miracle for Florida State to come back, you’d think they would’ve exhausted all their options. Deadspin notes that FSU came back from an eight-point deficit with 1:29 to go in 2012 against Virginia Tech, with coach Leonard Hamilton explaining, “You’ve got to go and take games. People are not going to give them to you.”
Six years later, with a chance to go to the Final Four, Hamilton’s philosophy was … different. In a post-game interview with Dana Jacobson, Hamilton responded to her questions about the Seminoles’ late-game non-fouling with a question of his own: “What are you talking about?” He later added, “The game was over.” Uh …
Hamilton probably would’ve preferred to be talking to Jacobson under better circumstances, such as in the afterglow of a miracle comeback win. However, in order for that hypothetical scenario to have taken place, Florida State would’ve had to foul Michigan. Why didn’t they do that, again?
What makes FSU’s “strategy” here so confusing is that the Seminoles had cut the Wolverines’ lead from eight to two in the closing minutes by fouling Michigan a bunch of times. Is it possible that Hamilton didn’t know his team was losing by only four points? Almost as an aside, he asks Jacobson, “What were we down?” Twitter users have also highlighted footage that shows Hamilton walking to shake hands with Michigan coach John Beilein with eight seconds remaining.
To Hamilton’s credit, once he moved past the fouling fiasco with Jacobson he gave a thoughtful and gracious interview. Looking on the bright side, his surly answer to that question won’t even register as his biggest regret of the night. That would be not fouling, of course.