Stick­ing with dif­fer­ent de­fenses

It’s zone vs. man in game be­tween Orange, Badgers

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY JIM O’CON­NELL

BOS­TON | One plays zone all the time. The other goes man-to-man from start to fin­ish.

De­fense will be the key when topseeded Syra­cuse faces fourth-seeded Wis­con­sin in the East Re­gional semi­fi­nals Thurs­day night. It’s just go­ing to be which style will pre­vail.

The final 16 teams al­ways in­clude a num­ber that have got­ten there by play­ing de­fense. Wis­con­sin’s 52.9 points al­lowed is the low­est of the teams left in the tour­na­ment — and the low­est in Di­vi­sion I this sea­son — while Syra­cuse’s 60.5 is fifth-best.

The dif­fer­ence in the de­fenses is that Wis­con­sin wants to stop you by play­ing a man-to-man de­fense that has be­come well known in a con­fer­ence known for de­fense. The Badgers want to con­trol the ball and keep the game with a final score more suited to the days of can­vas sneak­ers and short shorts.

Syra­cuse, on the other hand, wants to pick up the pace through its de­fense. The Orange, de­spite play­ing a 2-3 zone, are third in the na­tion with 9.4 steals per game and when they do get a turnover they get out and run, av­er­ag­ing 74.5 points per game.

“The great thing about the game of bas­ket­ball is you can play and ap­proach it in a lot of dif­fer­ent ways and be suc­cess­ful. Coaches have done that over the years,” said Syra­cuse coach Jim Boe­heim, who’s been so suc­cess­ful in his 36 sea­sons that he is third all-time on the Di­vi­sion I wins list and is in the Nai­smith Me­mo­rial Hall of Fame. “There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent ways to coach a team and to play the game, and yet you can still be suc­cess­ful.”

Wis­con­sin coach Bo Ryan has seen a lot of zone de­fenses over his 28 sea­sons, the last 11 with the Badgers, and they all have been played by op­po­nents.

“I’ve never played a sec­ond of zone de­fense since I’ve been at Wis­con­sin,” se­nior guard Jor­dan Tay­lor said. “I’ve heard Coach say one time he played it one pos­ses­sion and he got scored on I think he said, so he won’t go back to it. I don’t think you’re go­ing to see that to­mor­row.”

Ryan grew up in the Philadel­phia area and saw a lot of fa­mous zones coached by the likes of Harry Litwack at Tem­ple, Jack Ram­say at St. Joseph’s and Jack Kraft at Vil­lanova.

“You go to the Palestra and you’re 10 years old, 11, 12 years old, and you’re watch­ing ball move­ment and body move­ment,” Ryan said. “Those guys were so good in how they taught and how they cut and how they used skip passes. So I’m for­tu­nate in that I’ve been around that a lot.”

This Syra­cuse zone is dif­fer­ent even though start­ing cen­ter Fab Melo was ruled in­el­i­gi­ble for the tour­na­ment by the school last week.

“They have a sys­tem, and when you have a sys­tem and it’s been taught for so long ... the ath­leti­cism and depth that they have, it re­ally to me doesn’t change how they play or the way they play,” Ryan said. “So we only pre­pare for who’s there, not for who isn’t. “

The 16 teams left stand­ing in the NCAA women’s tour­na­ment in­clude many of the usual sus­pects and a few sur­prises too.

Brit­tney Griner and her un­de­feated Bay­lor Lady Bears slammed their way through the first two rounds. So did Geno Auriemma’s Con­necti­cut Huskies, who ad­vanced to the sec­ond week­end for the 19th straight year.

Pat Sum­mitt’s Ten­nessee is still around, too. The Lady Vols se­niors are des­per­ately try­ing to make an­other Final Four run for their Hall of Fame coach, who an­nounced in early Au­gust that she has early-on­set de­men­tia. This Ten­nessee se­nior class is try­ing to avoid be­com­ing the first not to make it to the Final Four dur­ing its time at the school.

Notre Dame and Stan­ford are hop­ing for a re­turn trip to the Final Four. The Ir­ish are look­ing to avenge their loss last year in the na­tional cham­pi­onship game. Stan­ford is try­ing for a fifth-straight trip to the na­tional semi­fi­nals.

There are a few sur­prises and fresh faces left. Eleventh-seeded Gon­zaga and Kansas ad­vanced, mark­ing the first time two 11-seeds made it to the re­gional semi­fi­nals in the same sea­son. St. Bon­aven­ture, Ge­or­gia Tech and St. John’s all are mak­ing their first ap­pear­ance in the Sweet 16.

The Red Storm needed a last-sec­ond shot in the open­ing round and then had to beat Ok­la­homa on its home court to ad­vance, much to the joy of Pres­i­dent Obama, who picked St. John’s to reach the Final Four in his women’s bracket.

“I’m ex­cited to still be danc­ing,” St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arica said.

Like their male coun­ter­parts, 14 of the 16 teams still play­ing come from the power con­fer­ences. Only the Zags and Bon­nies are out­side the BCS. It may not be a huge shock that Gon­zaga is still play­ing, as the Zags made a run to the re­gional final last year

St. Bon­aven­ture coach Jim Crow­ley is mak­ing the most of his first trip to the NCAAS. The fifth-seeded Bon­nies had to sur­vive the mid-ma­jor pod by knock­ing off Florida Gulf Coast in over­time and Marist in the sec­ond round.

“We’re the new kids to the party,” Crow­ley said. “That’s pretty cool.”


C.J. Fair (left) and James Souther­land gang up on Kansas State’s Jor­dan Hen­riquez in Syra­cuse’s open­ing vic­tory. The Orange play Wis­con­sin at 7:15 p.m. Thurs­day.


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