Cal Men's Basketball: Is Mark Fox Quiet Quitting?
The Bears fall on the road to Colorado, and Mark Fox does very little to try to prevent it from happening.
“What would you say you do here?”
Following last weekend’s blowout loss to Stanford, Piotr asked a funny question:
A good laugh was had by all! But after Thursday’s 59-46 loss to Colorado, I find myself thinking about Piotr’s question in a different light.
With 3:07 left in the game, Lars Thiemann sealed his defender off, received a pass, turned quickly, and dunked the ball. It capped off a 7-0 run that suddenly gave Cal a glimmer of hope in a game that looked done just a few minutes earlier. Overcoming an 8 point deficit in 3 minutes is hard, but FAR from impossible. It happens every week in college basketball.
Better yet, Cal had committed only 6 team fouls in the game. Why does that matter? Because Colorado is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the nation. The Buffs have shot 67% on the year on freebies, good for 297th in the nation and last in the Pac-12.
To be fair, Colorado had their 5 best shooters on the floor, which mostly meant a few dudes in the low 70% range. Still, when you’re down 8 points, you are counting on good fortune to have a chance to come back, and one of the best ways to give yourself a chance is to prevent the other team from burning clock, and taking a spin on the roulette wheel that is the free throw line. There’s a 30% chance that your team will give up zero points and get the ball back with only a few seconds coming off the clock!
With 3:07 left, Cal elected NOT to foul. Thanks to an offensive rebound, Colorado ended up running off 51 seconds of clock before Cal could secure the defensive rebound.
With 2:16 left, Colorado got the ball back. Cal elected not to foul. Colorado ran off 24 seconds before Cal accidentally fouled. Colorado’s Julian Hammond missed the front end of the one-and-one. Boy, that would’ve been a great result if Cal hadn’t let Colorado run off 24 seconds first.
With 1:33 left, Colorado got the ball back. Cal elected not to foul. Colorado ran off 25 seconds before missing a shot, got an offensive rebound, then sank a three to increase the lead to 11 and end whatever tiny sliver of hope Cal had left.
Should this annoy me so much? Probably not. The reason Cal lost this game is because Mark Fox cannot coach offense. Cal scored an astoundingly low .72 points/possession thanks to 22 turnovers and 16-43 shooting. 19 second half points aren’t enough to win anywhere, let alone at altitude in Boulder. Bad end game strategy is not anywhere near the biggest problem of the Mark Fox era.
But here’s the thing: you’re coaching a team that hasn’t been competitive in Pac-12 play in six years. Your fans are not tuning in expecting a win. What CAN you give your fans? Effort. You can try.
Mark Fox didn’t try. In the final 3:07 of the game, Mark Fox let Colorado hold the ball for 2:26 seconds total. Because Colorado slowed the game down, and because Mark Fox LET them, Cal only received four total possessions for the rest of the game, two of which came AFTER the three that killed any chance of a comeback. I’m going to go ahead and suggest that when you trail by 8 points, letting the other team use a strategy that’s going to limit you to four more total possessions is going to take your win probability down from 2% to 0%.
A part of me gets it. Your season has gone disastrously, you’ve recently found out that the transfer recruit that was supposed to be your offensive leader and program savior is done for the season, and everybody assumes you’re getting fired in a month.
We all have busy lives, with so many choice of how to spend our time. If Mark Fox is done trying to win games as a Cal coach, I’m not sure why I should spend time writing about each game, and I’m not sure why Cal fans should try to tune in to watch.
Certainly, it was too much to ask to sweep anyone this season. Now I'm walking around thinking, "I believe you have my stapler."
Hopefully, Fox is not the only person that is fired. Knowlton needs to be fired also. If the school were to hire an AD that is as good as its academic reputation I believe that would give fans hope of turning this around. Too bad the basketball program is and has been pathetic the past few years and the football team has been average in its best years and downright embarrassing in its worst years during Wilcox's tenure. If this were not the case Cal would be joining UCLA and USC in the Big 10. I'd say the women's basketball coach should be fired also and Wilcox unless he has a winning season should not return for the 2024 season. Cal is too good of a University to be this pathetic in the two sports that matter most at the D1 level.