Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pitarresi: SU zone deflates opponents

 

By now, it is obvious to everyone, or should be, as Andy Rautins sort of lectured me a couple of weeks ago, that this season’s Syracuse University’s basketball defense is the Orange’s best in a long time.

 

Coach Jim Boeheim has been criticized at times for his insistence on playing the 2-3 zone, which he does most of the time and this year all but exclusively. Hey, why shouldn’t he? It works! It is working especially well this season because the guards move very well, the big men are getting bodies on people and blocking shots, and the traps along the sidelines and in the corners are creating a lot of turnovers.

 

It also works because many of SU’s opponents seem to have no idea how to attack it. Sunday, Cincinnati got inside early against the Orange, then seemed to forget about that. The Bearcats did absolutely nothing to break down the zone, ran the shot clock down to the nub several times, and the last 10 minutes of the game settled for long jump shot after long jump shot, which they didn’t make.

 

  Cinci did noting to make the SU zone move, especially to get the big men to defend aggressively, which is a big key. If you are going to just pass the ball around the outside with a man standing still at the high post, you have to snap the ball. The Bearcats kind of threw the ball around half-heartedly and seemed to hope that some SU player or other would forget to face up.

 

It’s amazing. Maybe teams can’t play against zones because they don’t see them often or because it forces them into a style they are uncomfortable with, but, geez, you have to be prepared. Maybe that’s why long-time Big East teams like Connecticut, Villanova, and Pittsburgh do a better job of attacking the defense. They’ve seen it often. Louisville, too, probably because Rick Pitino has been around a long time, and is a former Boeheim assistant.

 

Watch those teams against the zone. Win or lose, I guarantee you they will be creative and won’t settle for jump shots the way Cincinnati and so many other teams have.

 

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