Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Matter of Defense

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, because I’ve written plenty on Syracuse’s defense. And the Orange's defense does not require the defense of a random know-nothing blogger. Not at 26 and 2. But after reading Jeff Goodman’s latest article at Fox Sports, I can’t help myself.* The title is “Danger Zone.” One of those not so subtle plays on the 2-3 zone and it’s common sense Achilles’ heel, the trifecta. The Providence Friars shot 14 for 33 from 3-point range the other night against Syracuse and held the lead at halftime. Ultimately, the Friars folded and Syracuse won by 14. Still, the troubles from 3-point land led Goodman to conjecture that a team like Utah State could spell trouble for the Orange in the tourney. I’m not buying.

Don’t get me wrong; there is plenty to fear from a team like Utah State. Behind the arc, they’re shooting the ball at 43%. That can give a defense fits. Any defense. Jim Boeheim’s club, however, is no more susceptible to the danger than the next team. Yes, the 2-3 zone is traditionally weak against the 3 point shot. But, in case you haven’t been watching, this isn’t a traditional 2-3 zone. Syracuse’s guards have done a tremendous job of closing on the ball all year long. They’ve held opposing offenses to 31% percent 3 point shooting on the season, 3% lower than the national average. The low percentage of made 3s on the Orange isn’t a result of no one testing them. In fact, in their last win over Georgetown, the Hoyas took 20 3-point shots, but only made 5 of them.

Focusing on the 14 made 3s is also a bit of a smoke a mirrors act. It distorts the fact that Syracuse won handily. In most cases, if you can get a team to fall in love with the 3, you’ve already won. No matter how good a team is from 3-point range, it is a low percentage shot compared to possessions that end in the paint. If the majority of the opposing team's shots are coming from 20 ft or farther, you typically have an advantage. Conversely, if your opponent believes they have an advantage from behind the arc, all the better. If they’re hot, they’re hot. But then any defense is at a disadvantage, not just the zone.

No comments:

Post a Comment