The loss tonight to USC in overtime, it wasn’t the Trojans beating us, it was their adversaries, the Greeks who did us in. In Greek tragedy, of course, it is hubris and one fatal flaw coming back to haunt you that ultimately dooms the protagonist. That’s what just happened to Stanford.
Hubris: where was the timeout on Trent Johnson’s part, when USC started its run at 52-41? It was a clear time to take a timeout; that’s Coaching 101. No, Trent Johnson let it slide. It didn’t turn out as poorly as it could have, but there’s no doubt it was a poor decision.
Speaking of poor decisions, why was Taj Finger guarding Nick Young on the final possession of the game? I like Taj as much as the next guy, but there’s no question
he’s poorly equipped to deal with him. Now, Taj played good defense and forced him into a midrange fadeway with a hand in his face—that’s a victory for the defense. The ball went in; that happens. Nevertheless, despite that, why not put your best defender (Fred Washington) on their best offensive player? When a guy shuts down Chase Budinger and Arron Affalo, I’m pretty sure he’s well equipped to shut down Nick Young too.
Fatal Flaw: free throw shooting. Anthony Goods pulling one-half a Nick Anderson and missing two free throws that would have given Stanford a nice advantage (potentially a four point lead with 30 seconds left) was the long-awaited manifestation of our tragic flaw: poor free throw shooting. We’ve always shot poorly, but it hasn’t been that much, that visible a problem until now, when it bit us in the ass.
It’s a human tendency to exaggerate the importance of certain events in recounting the reasons for failure. Whether it’s giving Nader a disproportionate amount of blame for Gore’s loss in 2000, focusing on a decline of values and community for economic trouble, or whatever, we tend to fixate on certain small events and build them up to be the end-all be-all of reasons. Obviously there was more to the game than these two things—there was Lawrence Hill having a horrible, horrible game at the worst time, for example—but the importance of these two factors cannot be underestimated. These two things lost us the game. These two things might well keep us from the Tournament this year, and, if we make it, cut short any run. They might very well cap our potential in the Tournament next year. I don’t think I’m exaggerating the importance of these two factors.