(4) Matthew Fisher-Davis Forgets the Score vs. Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament
In the introduction to this, I mentioned that most of the entries in the Baffling Decisions bracket would be coaching decisions, and player decisions would be subject to greater scrutiny because split-second decisions made in the fog of war (or at least a basketball game) would only be considered in egregious cases.
You probably had a pretty good guess what moment I was talking about there.
In hindsight, it took a spectacular effort just to get to this point. As late as February 11, 2017, Vanderbilt’s basketball team was 12-13, 5-7 in the SEC, and sucking wind on a 20-point loss to a Missouri team that would finish with an 8-24 record. (Bryce Drew: the signs this might not work were there in his first season.) But Vanderbilt closed out the regular season by winning five of six, and then made it to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament as a 9-seed, facing a Northwestern team that was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
And that game, you’ll remember, required a hell of an effort just to make it close. Vanderbilt briefly led 5-4 early in the first half, then didn’t lead again until the last two minutes of the game. The Commodores fell behind 49-34 with 13:42 left in the second half and it looked like it was going to be the Wildcats’ day — but then Vanderbilt went on a 12-0 run, keyed by a pair of three-pointers from Matthew Fisher-Davis, who finished the game with 22 points. A Riley LaChance three put Vanderbilt ahead 62-61 with 1:36 to go. The teams traded baskets for the next minute, with LaChance putting Vanderbilt up 66-65 with a layup with 18 seconds left.
And then it happened.
Had Vanderbilt been trailing at the time, this is a smart play. Put Northwestern at the foul line, make them hit their free throws, and get the ball back. Only... Vanderbilt was up by a point at the time.
With 15 seconds left.
With an NCAA Tournament game on the line.
Compounding the issue was the fact that the player Fisher-Davis chose to foul was Bryant McIntosh, who shot 87 percent at the foul line that season (and 85 percent for his entire career.) That’s as close to automatic as you can get in college basketball, and McIntosh predictably made both. Riley LaChance’s last-ditch effort missed with five seconds left, and just like that, the season was over.
Now, of course, Northwestern might have won the game anyway — after all, they had the ball down one with 18 seconds left and would have held for the final shot if not for the foul. But that would have been a 50-50 proposition at best. Instead, Northwestern had its best shooter at the line for two shots. It was the ultimate brain fart.
(5) August 28, 2014: Temple 37, Vanderbilt 7
Oh no, it’s the Hettening!!!
Yes, the game that has found its way into at least 4 entries in our WTF Bracket: The first game of the Derek Mason era. The game that, I dare say, continues to define the Derek Mason era. The game that ripped us from optimistic celebratory drinking to depressed gasoline drinking. The game that let us all know that the James “Old Bald Poach” Franklin era of Good Feelings was to be an outlier, rather than Vanderbilt’s new normal. And we learned it with the swiftness of a kick to the jimmies. And the person doing the kicking had the Murderleg of Carey Spear.
The game that launched the meter we use to determine the exact state of Vanderbilt sports—whether for how well, or how Lovecraftian horror story style terribly, our teams are currently performing. A “fan confidence meter” of sorts. The Het-o-Meter.
Well, by the end of this world-destroying season opener, the meter read as follows:
To fully appreciate just how WTF this game was, and the damage it has done to our collective psyches, ... see our collective Anchor of Gold writers’ preview and predictions for that 2014 season opener.
We were so damned optimistic. And justifiably so. Vanderbilt football had not known the success on the gridiron seen under The Old Bald Poach since Dan McGugin. Though the Poach left for Happy Valley’s State Penn, and took a sizable chunk of his last recruiting class with him, we still felt our football program would maintain at least a level of cromulence, and, I’ll say it, many of us thought we would improve! We hired a new Franklin, we all thought! We got Stanford’s Defensive Genius! We’re always going to go to bowl games, life will be nothing but beer and Skittles, and our children will all be apple cheeked and above average!
I mean, just look at our predictions for that game:
CDA’s Pick: Vanderbilt 33, Temple 20. Temple was good at losing close games in 2013, but Vandy - and Derek Mason - need to make a statement. It may not be the emphatic win that many fans are hoping for, but Temple may be overlooked in this one thanks to their emerging young quarterback.
VTPhD’s Pick: Vanderbilt 28, Temple 10. The new defense is able to cover the passing attack nicely. A 3-4 embiggens the smallest pass rush.
VandyImport’s Pick: Vanderbilt 37, Temple 13.
Beyond that, I was so confident, that instead of breaking down each team’s relative strengths and weaknesses, I put Nadia Harvin and #WetHet into the Vanderbilt lexicon:
Andrew VU ‘04: Derek Mason will attempt to drag the team coached by
Dr. Steve BruleTemple Head Football Coach Matt Rhuleumm... Administration Specialist, Head Football Coach Nadia Harvin, into “Deep Water,” thus getting their Het Wet. Temple’s been preparing for this all off-season, though, and have adopted #WetHet as their rallying cry. Will our deep water approach get their het wet? All but assuredly. Will we be ready for their wet het? We shall see.
Coach Harvin, apparently, is the first female Division I Head Football coach, and frankly, has done so with surprisingly little fanfare, which, while odd, is a positive development for female coaches working in men’s sports. Recently, when Greg Popovich named former WNBA star Becky Hammon as an assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs, sports news agencies were tripping over themselves to cover this story, peppering the airwaves with nonsense like, “Can a woman really command the attention of a team of grown men” and “When they have to banish her to the woods five days monthly, how will the team fare down a member of its coaching staff?” Supporters of Hammon openly wondered if there ever would be a day when a woman would be given a coaching opportunity in a men’s sport and the news would not revolve around her being a woman.
In Administration Specialist, Head Coach Nadia Harvin, they appear to have gotten their wish. Truly, this is a banner moment for proponents of equality in the workforce.
She’s certainly qualified, as her resume indicates she’s paid her dues, working under seven head coaches while at Temple:
“She has worked with seven head coaches, beginning with Bruce Arians.”
Further, despite being named Head Coach, this football lifer has decided to adopt a dual role as her own Administrative Specialist. As most head coaches are perfectionists, it’s surprising Harvin is the first to take the “If you want anything done, you have to do it yourself” mindset to the duties of an administrative specialist. I support it, and will be rooting for Harvin and her boys when they’re not playing Vanderbilt.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 17, Temple 3. Though P.J. Walker is certainly a perfectly cromulent quarterback, his het will get far too wet to function against Mason’s gritty 3-4 defense. Both touchdowns will be scored by the defense. As will both field goals.
Then Thursday happened, it rained, we got curb stomped by an Atlantic 10 school, and we realized that maybe, just maybe, Mason and staff were not exactly at the same level of Franklin et al. Oh, and all of our hets got freaking soaked.
You don’t need anymore, do you? This should have been a damned #1 seed in this tournament. Think about how you felt before, during, and after that Temple game.
Which moment advances?
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MFD Forgets the Score