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Kentucky Wildcats
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I was looking over the data from UK/Tennessee, and thinking about the coaching staff's decision to sit PJ Washington for a large part of the first half with 2 fouls. I believe they made the right decision based on the information available to them, and wanted to share my thoughts. I figured this would be a better format than Twitter, so bear with me as I lay out the case.

Why I Think Coach Calipari Made The Right Call

As a ground rule, I don't want to judge the decision on hindsight. The UK coaches obviously wouldn't expect their team to post an effective FG% of 17% without PJ. The offensive collapse in the first half was stunning in its scope, as UK had nothing go right; that's not reflective of the ability of the Wildcats, even missing PJ and Reid. The coaches certainly couldn't have predicted PJ Washington would not pick up another foul. When considering whether the coaching staff made the right call, I think a few facts are significant:

1) Tennessee is excellent at drawing fouls, especially on frontcourt players
Grant Williams draws over 7 fouls per 40 minutes, the 10th most of any player in the country. Each of Tennessee's last 2 opponents had 1 frontcourt player foul out, and another finish with 4 fouls. In fact, Tennessee drew 6 fouls after Washington sat, and 5 of them were on UK's frontcourt players (Richards or Montgomery). It was reasonable to think that Tennessee had a good chance to draw a 3rd foul on Washington in the first half.

2) PJ Washington has been foul prone this season
Pj Washington commits 3.5 fouls per 40 minutes, the highest rate of any of UK's starters. He has 9 games this season where he collected 4 or more fouls, and 11 last season (including UK's home game against Tennessee). It was reasonable to think that Washington would have a reasonable chance of picking up more fouls, or would become passive on defense to avoid picking up fouls. 

3) The last time UK benched PJ with foul trouble in the first half, UK played great
PJ Washington played only 9 minutes of the first half against Texas A&M on January 8th after picking up 2 fouls. During the time he sat, UK outscored A&M by 14 points in 21 possessions. The Wildcats put up a staggering 75% eFG% with the offense humming. Although UK did have Reid Travis that game, his contribution to that run was 2 points and 1 assist. Even in the Arkansas game this week, UK's offense held up fine when Washington sat for a limited time with an eFG% of 60%. While UK put up a -4 when Washington sat against Arkansas in the first half, that was due to Arkansas getting hot shooting with an eFG% of 61% and committing zero turnovers in 8 possessions. It was reasonable for UK's coaches to think the team could stay fairly close while Washington sat, even if they were outscored by a handful of points. 

Hindsight is always 20/20, and it seems as though UK's coaches doomed their team by gluing Washington to the bench with 2 fouls. While the results were very bad, the information UK's coaches had at the time would have led them to believe that Washington had a good chance of picking up another foul, and that the team should be able to stay within fighting distance without PJ. Instead, UK fell into a deep hole, and Washington ended the game with the same two fouls as he had when he was benched. That doesn;t make the decision wrong, or dumb.

I'm not certain that even Washington playing more in the first half would have changed the result. The worst lineup for UK was Hagans/Quickley/Herro/Washington/Richards, with a -10 in 5 possessions. UK's shooting did improve in the 2nd half with Washington (53% eFG% vs 27% in the first half), but UK was still turnover prone (29% turnover rate in 2nd half) and was outscored by -6 points in 31 2nd half possessions with Washington playing the whole time. I would have expected UK to play at their best to mount a comeback, similar to the Florida game, but that didn't happen today. Regardless, UK's coaches made what I believe was a sensible decision to bench Washington, but it didn't work out the way they hoped. The team still lives to fight another day, when maybe the shots will be falling a bit more.
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