This season, it appears the University of Washington is doing to disqualifications what Barry Bonds did to intentional walks in 2004. Through a combination of a high-possession style, a young roster with an aggressive defense and an offense that crashes the glass, the Huskies have given officials frequent opportunities to blow their whistles in a season where physical contact is being called more than ever. And perhaps, given Washington’s nine-man rotation, Lorenzo Romar is not terribly concerned about sitting guys in foul trouble.
Both Andrew Andrews and Dejounte Murray picked up five fouls in Saturday’s loss to USC, bringing the Huskies’ total to 36 for the season and Murray became the eighth different UW player to foul out this season. Where does Washington stand among the national leaders?
Here are the top five teams in terms of disqualifications this season:
1. Washington 36 2. Bradley 23 3. E. Michigan 21 4. W. Carolina 19 4. Manhattan 19
What’s the record for a single season? Well, short of someone gifting me all the box scores in the history of college basketball (I’ll give you a free subscription…), there’s no way to know for sure. Siena put together 45 DQ’s two seasons ago so that’s a good start considering that was another season in recent memory where fouls were called more often all across the country. It helped that the Saints played 38 games, too.
The record-holder for fouls in a season is the 1987 Providence team. The Friars had 50 disqualifications that season. I doubt that’s the record either since the relationship between total fouls and disqualifications isn’t as predictable as one might think. Siena actually does have the most fouls in a season since 2002, but the runner-up is Kansas State in 2010 and that team produced just 14 foul-outs. But for our purposes, ‘87 Providence will have to do.
The Huskies have averaged a prodigious 1.7 DQ’s per game. That’s a pace that would produce 15 more over their last nine regular season games for a total of 51. But teams on an unprecedented pace in something tend to not maintain that pace going forward, so it’s unlikely Washington will crack 50 in the regular season. The Huskies will adjust to some extent and officials will call slightly fewer fouls the rest of the way so it will be an uphill battle.
The key for Siena and Providence was maximizing their chances in the postseason. But adding to its total in the post-season is going to be a problem for Washington, particularly this season. For one thing if the Huskies sneak into the NCAA tournament, an extended run seems unlikely. Given that there’s another postseason tournament on the schedule this season, it’s all but certain that Washington will play somewhere if they so choose.
However, the non-NCAA tournaments will be experimenting with a six-foul limit for players. So even a deep run in the NIT, CBI, or Vegas 16 won’t give them much opportunity to add to their total. While Washington has had an amazing run in the DQ department so far, it seems like the Huskies will struggle to achieve immortality.
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.