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49 Days Until Kansas Basketball: Should Tyshawn Taylor Have Dunked at the End of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Game Against Purdue?

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The great debate rages on.

Eric Francis/Getty Images

The scene: Omaha, Nebraska. The stakes: 2012 NCAA tournament second round. Purdue jumped out to a 19-8 lead, and led by 10 early in the second half, while Kansas missed 15 of its first 17 shots. The Jayhawks came back, however, and took a one point lead on a layup by Elijah Johnson with 23 seconds left. After Purdue missed a 3 at the other end, Tyshawn Taylor scored a now somewhat infamous dunk with just 2.5 seconds left to put the Jayhawks up by 3. However, this allowed Purdue one final shot to tie it, and Robbie Hummell just missed sending it into overtime, leading to the great question of our lifetime: should Tyshawn Taylor have dunked the ball?

So we are all working from the same information, here is a GIF of the play:

Tyshawn Taylor dunks on Purdue in the 2012 NCAA Tournament

And here is a video of the entire final sequence:

Tyshawn vs Purdue

Tyshawn finishes his dunk with 3.1 seconds left, but a bit more time runs off to make it 2.5 seconds left.

Let's start with some strategic considerations: there are obvious benefits and downsides to each. The obvious benefit to dunking is you're up by 3 with 2.5 seconds left, and likely will be able to force a fairly tough look to tie the game. At the time of the game, Kansas ranked 4th in KenPom whereas Purdue ranked 28th, and when you add in a location bonus for Kansas being in Omaha, the Jayhawks were favorites to win in overtime, though not as big of favorites as you'd expect.

The downside is Purdue still has a chance to tie the game and then win in overtime, and there is a possible chance of Purdue winning in regulation either via a four point play, Kansas fouling Purdue when shooting and the Boilers getting a rebound on a missed free throw, or a very slight chance of Purdue being able to make a three, steal the inbounds pass, and score. People may note that Kansas could also foul up 3, but with so little time left you basically have to do it on the catch or else you risk a shooting foul.

Meanwhile, the benefits for being able to run out the clock are equally obvious: the game is ended without Purdue getting the ball back. The downsides, meanwhile, are Tyshawn gets fouled and misses two free throws and Purdue makes a shot to win, or he slips running to the corner and the ball goes out of bounds, and then Purdue makes a shot to win (although that obviously is a pretty infinitesimal chance).

Now, some math. A college basketball court is 50 feet wide, and Tyshawn makes it from the 3-point line to the basket (approximately 21 feet) in 1.5 seconds. Attempting to account for the fact that he decelerated in the air going for the dunk, we can approximate he could make it from the hoop to the corner in approximately 3.5 seconds, which would end the game. Case closed, right?

Not exactly. Obviously we have to determine whether or not he would have been caught and fouled. It is easy to dismiss Lewis Jackson, wearing number 23 at the top of the screen, as he lunged to foul Taylor at half court and missed him, taking himself mostly out of the play. So we concentrate on number 0 Terone Johnson. Johnson takes almost exactly a second to get from halfcourt to about 5 feet beyond the 3-point line, which is when Tyshawn takes off for his dunk and he slows up. That is about 22 feet. To get from there to the corner is about another 25 feet, which he should be able to cover in about 1.3 seconds assuming a constant speed.

However, from watching the gif and video it does appear that Johnson slows up even before Tyshawn dunks, which could add time to his ability to get to the corner. (The issue here is it probably requires Tyshawn to change his mind about dunking after noticing Johnson slowing up. However, I think this is a case of Johnson assuming Tyshawn is going to dunk moreso than actually seeing it, so I am sticking with the math. And yes I realize it is ridiculous to still be having this analysis). Even if we assume an extra .7 seconds, that gets him to the corner in 2 seconds. This leaves .5 seconds left on the clock by the time he gets to Tyshawn. Assuming the foul is called immediately, Purdue would have just .5 seconds to get off a shot to win or tie the game.

Now consider this: with .5 seconds left on the clock, Tyshawn could simply miss the 2nd free throw. Yes, Purdue still had a timeout, but it takes more than .2 seconds to get a rebound and call timeout, meaning Purdue would only have time left for a tip play off a long pass, essentially ending the game (although it is easier to do that only needing a 2 vs. needing a 3). Also consider Tyshawn could merely throw the ball in the air when someone gets to him in the corner, running the rest of the time off, and the answer becomes clear. A bit more has to go right for it to happen, but it would have undoubtedly been the better play for Tyshawn Taylor to NOT dunk at the end of the Purdue game.

Edit: Tyshawn himself has responded and this is now my favorite moment in RCT history: