Texas Tech’s loss to Kentucky was extremely frustrating to watch, especially given how obnoxious Kentucky fans were both before and after the game.It was an unfortunate end to an incredible game, and a heartbreaking result for the electric crowd that packed the United Supermarkets Arena. Those fans, along with other Tech fans watching at home were understandably upset, but the fact that one player in particular got singled out by many fans is harsh, and to some degree embarrassing for Red Raider fans.
The player that got singled out by Tech fans was Davide Moretti. Yes, the same Davide Moretti that hit arguably the two biggest shots in Texas Tech history last year. The same Moretti that became the first player in Big 12 history to shoot 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from the three point line, and 90 percent from the foul line in conference play. Oh, and he also carried our offense in the loss to West Virginia and has been easily the most reliable half court scorer on the team since conference play began.
Look, I was also frustrated with the loss. I have also made statements about flaws in certain players that could be conceived as overreactions. But some of the tweets and general conversation about Moro are irrational considering his importance on this team (a team that he still leads in PORPAGATU! and Offensive Win Shares.) Here is some of the slander I am talking about:
Why does Beard have so much faith in Moretti? He’s literally a detriment every single game this season.— Robby (@RobYarbrah) January 26, 2020
THANK YOU!!!— chris duncan (@mrcdunk) January 26, 2020
He BAD this year and stays in the game! Mean while Ramsey sits almost all of overtime!
Moretti choked ....twice.— Merganzer (@Merganszerinc) January 26, 2020
Now to be fair, these tweets vary in severity and in intention. There is little doubt that Moro had some bad plays in this game, but singling out him as the reason why Tech lost is absolutely bizarre, especially considering he played 44 minutes, had a nice assist that gave Tech the chance to take the lead, and was a crucial catalyst in the run that brought the Red Raiders back into the game.
The two main plays that fans will inevitably point to are the missed free throw in regulation and the turnover that would ultimately be the final nail in the coffin for Tech’s chances at winning.
The first play is something that I’ve been mentioning all year in my recaps- variance. Moretti still shot 86 percent from the foul line tonight, and is still shooting above 90 percent from the free-throw line this season. You cannot expect a player to make every free throw, it just doesn’t happen. Keenan Evans missed a go-ahead foul shot in the OT win over Texas. Damian Lillard is a 90 percent free throw shooter, yet as a Blazers fan I’ve seen him miss a significant amount of free throws in his career despite being labeled as a “clutch” player. The point is this: Moretti was bound to miss a free throw at some point. It’s cruel that it happened with the game on the line, but it is not unheard of. That’s statistical luck, not him being a choker. As has been the case for a long time, “the clutch” is nothing more than a timeframe of small sample size that very rarely has any correlation from year to year. It’s fun to call players clutch, but at the end of the day you cannot really take much away from individual stats in close games.
Also, Immanuel Quickley missed a free throw earlier in the night. Quickley was also a 91% free throw shooter heading into the night, and much like Moretti his shooting is a key piece of the offense for Kentucky. Getting mad at Moretti for missing a free throw is pretty absurd, especially considering he’s still far and away the most dependable free throw shooter on the team.
Ashton Hagans with the HUGE strip. pic.twitter.com/x2m5IP8l1S— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) January 26, 2020
The second play is arguably the biggest litmus test in seeing how much Tech fans know their team. Spotted up beyond the arch is Kevin McCullar, a 20 percent three point shooter on the season who has an 86 ORTG in Big 12 play. The other three players are essentially covered, and Moretti has a one-on-one opportunity with Ashton Hagans, who at that stage was out of position. Moro chooses to drive, and initially gets past Hagans. At that point the odds absolutely favor Tech. Moretti is a 60 percent finisher at the rim, Hagans is beat on the play, and Richards is late to rotate. Hagans makes an absolutely perfect play to strip the ball, which honestly was extremely risky in that situation. Hagans could’ve easily gotten Davide on the arm, at which point the best free throw shooter on the court is at the line to tie, or he could’ve completely whiffed on the play and let Moro stride to the rim with only Richards in sight. Hagans got the steal, which is ultimately a “tip your cap” moment, and there was nothing anyone could do.
At least a shot would have went up.— DH (@ddjhoff) January 26, 2020
The sheer fact that people believe that McCullar should have gotten the last shot is pretty indicative that the judgement of fans is clouded by the result of the given play. Literally any shot related outcome of Moretti’s drive would’ve been better than a McCullar three. If he gets fouled, the expected points per possession is around 1.82, while a shot at the rim has roughly a 1.2 PPP outcome. Even if the defense collapses towards Moretti, it still gives either Ramsey or Edwards a positive shot. McCullar shooting a three would have been arguably the worst possible shot, and sticking to the previously noted Lillard analogy would be equivalent to having Evan Turner shoot the last shot in the Oklahoma City series. The fact that Moro got stripped does not change that. Taking the result of a play as exclusive reasoning for why it should not happen is a fallacy, and that especially rings true when the result was basically the only potential negative outcome from the play.
There is no reason for the harsh criticism towards Moretti. All nine guys that played had good and bad plays, and making a generalized statement towards the most tenured player on the team is a bad look. Respect Davide Moretti, my friends. We will need him going forward in this gauntlet of a season.