On foul outs and auto-bench


By the way, there has been only one team to avoid a disqualification this season. The last time a Michigan player fouled out was February 17th of last season when the human box-score line-break, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman fouled out against Michigan State. My stance on when to sit players in foul trouble is somewhere between “ignore foul trouble completely” and “always sit guys in the first half that have two fouls”. It’s a very tough problem to study. But it seems to me that if you do subscribe to the latter approach, the fact that none of your players are fouling out is an indication your instincts for loss aversion are too strong.

I think Beilein would argue that he has his players in the game in the final minutes. But you may be right. It is indeed a fascinating issue, but my instinct would be to look at the player–not that many of our guys are very foul-prone, which could be an argument to keep a critical player in. Maybe a big like Donnal you’d often have to sit?

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I don’t buy auto-bench. Points at the end of the game are worth just as much as they are at any other time. Auto-benching essentially fouls out your player by your choice.


Any answer that starts with “It depends on who/when/opponent/context” is by definition not “Auto”. I’m in the same camp that the literal autobench is destructive, or at a minimum deserves to be pressed/tested to the point where we feel like the cost of not benching at 2 fouls can be understood and appropriately weighed.

BTW, similar “Don’t be so rigid” feelings (that can also be measured) on not fouling obviously bad FT shooters in situations where the M-defense is giving away easy baskets (probably 100 examples, but most notably coming to mind is the Arizona game/Aaron Gordon), and not fouling when up 3 on defense in the final possession (Wisc 13).

There’s a great deal to this, and although points are literally the same whenever scored, if you can prevent them being scored through the maneuver or score more of them through it, then that needs to be taken into account. I’m playing the devil’s advocate because I am not a fan of the autojerk policy. But I would concede that a kid playing nervously throughout the rest of the first half may not be the same as a kid who comes in with two and plays his heart out for the whole second half (not sure we will ever be able to measure this). There may also be something to the way a coach sees fouls being called in the game, or against a certain player, too. If Ricky Doyle is going to be a foul magnet for some annoying ref, get called every time he looks at their star guard, you want to take note of that. I’m sure I’m not seeing many other nuances here, but these look to me like reasons not to be categorically on one side or another.

One additional thing to consider is that players might defend differently knowing that there’s an autobench policy. It’s easy to say, oh, Zak wouldn’t have fouled out if some game that he was autobenched in because he ended up with only 3 fouls. But players want to play and if they are aware of the autobench they might be defending differently throughout the game. You may argue it’s a bad thing, but picking out some particular game and criticizing the autobench in one instance is missing the forest for the trees. As kenpom says, this one seems hard to quantify, and while it’s frustrating at times, in the end, seeing how many minutes JB plays his starters indicates that the autobench isn’t significantly negatively impacting his ability to play his best players extensively.

Some would argue that our guys don’t foul very much because of the perspective the head coach has on the auto benching.

Absolutely HATE autobenching! I want my best players to play the most minutes. Period. I wonder how many times an autobencher has even ended up with four fouls? There have been too many times an autobench has put us behind the eight ball and at a distinct 10-12 minute disadvantage. HATE IT!

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I think the statement originally that if your policy is to autobench people and you haven’t (EDIT) fouled out (/EDIT) anyone in a season, then you are overly averse to it is pretty accurate.

This begs a larger question: whether you approve generally of our policy of not fouling. Because the two are connected. And at least in some sense sending other teams to the line so little may mean fewer points for them. I’d like to understand why we don’t foul sometimes at the end of fairly close games, but clearly there is something going on here too.

What I’m saying is that Beilein has a wider philosophy about fouls.

Beilein played Dawkins for the last couple of minutes of the first half with two fouls against PSU, and put in Donnal and Robinson, each with two fouls, for the last possession. Maybe (hopefully) Beilein is starting to relax his policy a bit?

It’s one thing to bench to bench a starter with 2 fouls, but what really annoys me is when Beilein benches a backup with 2 fouls. What are you saving him for - he’s only going to play 5 minutes in the second half anyways. The example that comes to mind immediately is the Big Ten Championship a couple of years ago when Beifeldt had to play major minutes in the first half, after barely playing the entire year.

Having shotblockers could help. Less pressure to hand-check on the perimeter if you have 1 or 2 fouls already.