Sunday, March 15, 2009

When Is a Basketball Lead Safe?

See Here.

I have never personally seen a game in which a team lost after having a safe lead. In February 1994, LSU led Kentucky by 31 with 15:30 left to play, only to see Kentucky rally for a 99-95 victory. That was impressive, but a 31-point lead without the ball is safe for 12:36. The lead was 81 percent safe. And then this year, LSU blew a 15-point lead to Villanova with 2:59 to go—which, again, is close but no kewpie doll. With 179 seconds to play you need a 13.5-point margin, which means a 16-point lead with the ball or 17 without. The curse of Dale Brown. Actually, I would guess Dale was cursing up a storm when that happened.

My editor, doing his due diligence, found one game in which a team lost after holding a safe lead. On March 2, 1974, North Carolina trailed Duke, 86-78, with 17 seconds to play—a safe lead for Duke. Duke had repeated misadventures in in-bounding the basketball and wound up losing the game in overtime. That was before the human typo was hired to coach Duke, but ... does anybody know where I could get a tape of that game?

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