In the Zone
My posts have unleashed a torrent of facts about my writing, but I think the biggest consistency you can find are bad puns and this title could not escape. The Syracuse Orange weren’t supposed to be where they are. Who would’ve expected a team which was playing so inconsistently during the end of the regulation could come together at the perfect time and storm into the Final Four? Thanks to the best defense the NCAA tournament has ever seen, The Orangemen steamrolled Indiana and Marquette en route to the goal of many teams when the season commenced in November. Quite the way to send off a Hall of Fame coach, eh?
I question if there is a bigger opponent to the 2-3 zone defense than I. Too many weaknesses, right? Space the floor, have a man ready to weak side rebound, and find the guy in the high post…easy, right? Well, that may have been true of any other 2-3 Zone, but the Syracuse Orange (and coach Jim Boeheim) have redefined the zone and created the bane of offenses everywhere. I picked Indiana to beat Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen (stupid, stupid, stupid), but looking at the match-up, how was 5’11” Yogi Ferrell supposed to handle 6’4″ Brandon Triche? How was 6’0″ Jordan Hulls supposed to hang with 6’6″ Michael Carter-Williams? The length of the Orange forced the Hoosiers into 19 turnovers (4 for Ferrell) and the zone did its other job perfectly. It baited Indiana into taking quick 3-pointers out of rhythm and Indy ended shooting only 3-15 (.200%). Jordan Hulls, one of Indiana’s best 3pt shooters by percentage, went an astounding 0-6…further proving rhythm is just as important as ability for making threes. Perhaps the biggest surprise when it comes to Syracuse’s 2-3 is that it is a static factor. You know exactly what they’re going to do. There is no discerning who on your team has an advantage against the man guarding him. There is no need to work off ball too much because you aren’t going to lose the man guarding you. There is no forcing switches to gain advantages…there is just working against the zone. It’s why the zone nearly became extinct. It’s why man-to-man is ran at every big program except for Syracuse. Running the zone effectively is harder than playing against the zone, but Jim Boeheim is the mastermind behind this zone. Jim Boeheim doesn’t recruit big time scorers. He doesn’t recruit guys who can nail the 3pt jumper or dominate in the post. All Jim Boeheim wants is long, lanky guys who wreak havoc on opposing ball players in his 2-3 zone. Anything a prospect brings in addition to fueling the nightmarish defense is whipped cream to Boeheim. So, prepare yourself (insert team name here) for the challenge awaiting you in the Final Four. It’s just a 2-3 zone. Just space the floor, have a man ready to weak side rebound, and find the guy in the high post and everything will be fine…..just ask Indiana.