Scary Article on Syracuse 2-3 Zone (Grantland)

Submitted by BlueNote on April 1st, 2013 at 12:15 PM








"Everybody's talking about the 2-3 zone," Thompson said. "That's not a 2-3 zone. The 2-3 zone has been with us since the dawn of time. It's the way it slides and moves out there, like a damn amoeba.

"The only time it's a 2-3 zone is when they're waiting for you to bring the ball to it. Then, it becomes something else."

It is as old-school as it gets — the defense that every Y league team puts in when its roster gets too old, or too fat, or too lazy to play man-to-man anymore. It's the first defense besides the man-to-man that young players ever see, or that they learn to play. In the hands of Syracuse, though, especially this Syracuse team, it is like seeing something you've become accustomed to grow deadly all at once. It's like walking into your front yard and discovering your garden hose has become a Gaboon viper.



April 1st, 2013 at 12:24 PM ^

It's susceptible to good outside shooting and responsible ball handling. I'm not exactly shaking in my boots, not that it's an easy game. We just match up well for this


April 1st, 2013 at 1:05 PM ^

Actually Syracuse does remarkably well at defending 3P%.  KenPom has forwarded the idea that teams actually can't control opponents' 3P%, they just control how many they put up.  That's because year to year, the vast majority of teams don't see any correlation between 3P%.  Syracuse, surprisingly for a 2-3 zone team, appears to.  They make you take a lot of 3's and they apparently do a great job contesting them.  Best guess? It's related to their height around the perimeter.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:25 PM ^

Do you know what's scary?

Thanks for posting, it was a good read. Syracuse's length does concern me. I think it was a big factor against Ohio State in Columbus. I just feel really good about our chances if we play with the confidence we played with against Florida. Especially that man whose picture I posted.

Darker Blue

April 1st, 2013 at 12:27 PM ^

I really believe the difference in this game will be Trey Burke. Nobody the Fighting Boeheims have beaten, have had a PG as good as Burke. I know 'Cuses length is a little bit scary, but I'm confident in our ability with Trey leading the way. 


April 1st, 2013 at 12:33 PM ^

I'm actually not so sure.  To beat a zone you need ball movement.  One of the first things Trey is going to have to do is make a move to get someone out of position then start a CHAIN of passes.  In other words, Trey won't be the main facilitator on many of these plays unless they pass it around and back to him.  I think Trey, THJr, and Stauskas are all going to need excellent movement with and without the ball.  The entire team needs good passing.  We can't have our bigs fumbling with the ball. 

It's easy to say outside shooting can break a zone, but what happens if we show up in Atlanta and the shots just aren't falling?  Plan A needs to be attacking the zone.  Plan B can be chucking it from deep not the other way around.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:27 PM ^

This article made me google the Gaboon Viper.  Wikipedia has information on everything.  Seriously, I'm glad we have a week to come up with a good game plan for Syracuse.  I'm confident Coach B will have the team ready.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

I mean, it's not like Syracuse was undefeated this year. They can be beat. I didn't like Marquette or Indiana's zone offense. I expect to like ours. Someone said above that ball movement is key. Well, good ball movement is necessary in any good offense, but honestly dribble penetration and top-line screens are more fundamental, in my opinion, to breaking down a good modern 2-3. All good 2-3's these days, especially Syracuse's, are excellent at stopping the short corner attack, which both indiana and Marquette tried. Dribble penetration is better, and we have the best point guard in the nation. We also have Mitch McGary whose high screens are, well, just ask VCU. As long as we don't play into Syracuse's hands and attack their zone the same way it's been attacked recently, I think we'll be all right. Cuse is still good, but we at least have a chance if we void the silly perimeter-passing, slow-down quagmire that killed IU and Marquette.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:29 PM ^

I'll admit I don't know a lot about basketball, but whatever I read "Syracuse has a unique and dangerous defense", I can't help but recall the same headlines about VCU from two weeks ago. 


April 1st, 2013 at 12:54 PM ^

Yes, the press every game predicts we are going to lose because:

- our D isn't good

- opposing team has some scary D

They are wrong. Our D has been scary good too - nobody is getting easy baskets against us. Withey was supposed to eat us alive and had 12 points.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:57 PM ^

They lost 9 times this year. The article makes it sound like they are infallible. Bottom line is we will need to do a ggod job getting to middle. It would seem Mcgary would be the man for the middle with GRIII under. Yes, tough game but at this point they all are with there own unique challenges. We present out own.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:34 PM ^

It'll be tough game for sure, but they aren't infalible by any means.  UF has a better defense according to KenPom, and Kansas is currently sitting at number 6 right behind Syracuse at number 5 (but I swear that Kansas was ahead of Syracuse previous to the update following this past weekend).  It will represent a different challange for sure.  Again, it'll come down to our defense; Syracuse is offensively limited, so if we limit TOs and play D, we can pull it out.


April 1st, 2013 at 2:37 PM ^

I wouldn't make too much of this one-sided highlight reel.  SU, after all, did build up a 16 point lead with 16 minutes left in that game.  Louisville had only 29 points after the first 24 minutes of play.

What followed was an amazing collapse in which SU ended up losing by 17.  Outside of those awful 16 minutes in the Big East championship game, SU has been playing at a very high level the past three weeks.

Moreover, this was Louisville's third game of the season against SU, and they play SU at least twice a season.  Like the other Big East teams, they have a lot more experience against this D.  It's not as easy to break down this D as the highlight reel makes it seem. 

That said.  Go Blue.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:37 PM ^

let us not forget that beilein used to play syracuse 2+ times per year when he was at west virigina. so, it ain't like it's the first time he's seen the zone. it also helps big time if you've got a guy in the high post who can catch the ball around the foul line and dribble drive or fake a few passes and hit the open guy. fake passes are key i think, because the zone needs to shift in anticipation.


April 1st, 2013 at 5:58 PM ^

Cody was the hub of the IU offense, flashing the high post and often receiving the ball easily.  The problem was that nothing came of those entries.  Cody didn't take the open 12 footers, and repeatedly tried and failed to challenge and go over the top of the Syracuse bigs.  And not-too-surprisingly, he didn't pass the ball from within the heart of the zone.

If someone can be more effective from that spot on the court **cough** Trey Burke **cough** THJ **cough**, we won't be impotent like IU was.


April 1st, 2013 at 6:52 PM ^

With Tom Crean as coaching mastermind while playing two 5'11 guards in Hulls/Ferrell and sharpshooter Oladipo as their outside threats. Color me not surprised that they couldn't attack the zone or shoot over the zone.

We should be fine on offense. Just need to keep up our defense that we played against FL


April 1st, 2013 at 12:40 PM ^

For as active as they are on defense, they are fairly lazy on offense. You've seen Michigan get so many points off of steals. Lazy inbounds. Lazy entry passes. Trey Burke's "Appling" move (lol). 

A lot of this intense love for Syracuse zone is just media over-hype. Also hard to be critical of a PG who's house just burned down yet still managed to get his team to the Final Four. Marquette was never a good shooting team, but shot lights out against Miami. Couldn't even make the few open shots against Syracuse and their PG Blue could not penetrate the zone to collapse. Indiana inexplicably decided to feed Zeller (Hulls shoulder injury might have had something to do with that) and failed. Ferrel also played like a freshman. 

I do think Syracuse's zone will be different because of how Stauskas shot. They'll be stretched towards him on the perimeter so he'll have opportunities to drive & dish/dunk. Give John Beilein a week to prepare an offensive gameplan against a team with a weak offense? Good luck with that!


April 1st, 2013 at 4:37 PM ^

does not make the hype legit. I dont see Butler getting this kind of love. Syracuse was a terribe matchup for IU like we were a terrible matchup for Florida. Cuse is a legit team but right now theyre getting way overhyped. I expect a dogfight depending on how Stauskas plays and if the Cuse pg can use his size advantage against Burke.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:50 PM ^


Also, the author, Charles P. Pierce, he's kind of a douchenoggle.  And he has a history of disliking michigan


Side note: I could kind of tell he didn't like Michigan by the Grantland article, so I googled Charles P. Pierce Michigan, and sure enough, link to this site.

Bonus side note: Check it, this other link to this blog when it was just a baby, in which Brian also says that Charles P. Pierce is also being, well, not smart.


April 1st, 2013 at 1:00 PM ^

"I guarantee you that at least a couple of Burke's teammates are looking at the scouting report and wondering what the big deal is with a team that only plays a 2-3 zone. Hell, everybody plays a 2-3 zone. And the Gaboon viper awaits, coiled on a hook in the garden."

He's capable of making guarantee's on what's being said inside the Michigan locker room? And a guarantee that makes Michigan look like a cocky team nonetheless. 

Seems like a very unbiased article (/s)


April 1st, 2013 at 1:05 PM ^

Also, Gaboon Vipers generally don't bite people unless you are sort of stomping/danicing around on them near their face.  And its a snake.  Kill it with a shovel.  Or a spade.  Or any other standard gardening tool.   I'd be more afraid of strange noises creeping out of my basement as my dryer cycles to "auto-fluff."


April 1st, 2013 at 1:13 PM ^

If I had enough points to up-vote, I would. I just read the wiki page on Gaboon Vipers, and they seem nice enough to bring to the states as a pet (/s of course). But yes, I agree. It would not be the snake of choice to be deathly afraid of if it were hanging around your garden. 

Now if he compared their zone to a Black Mamba, Cottonmouth, or King Cobra; then yes, I would be deathly afraid. 


April 1st, 2013 at 12:45 PM ^

but I wouldnt bet against a team as hot as we are. playing with the nation's best PG. Plus, said team is also playing a lot better defense right now than they're being given credit for.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:46 PM ^

The defense obviously has been pretty impressive throughout the tourney. But, as mentioned before if you can hit your shots then 'Cuse will have to change it up. Also, when they run that zone, they also have zone rebounding which is tough for them, and we have some guy named Mitch Mcgary who is a pretty good offense rebounder. If we play defense like we did yesterday, deflecting passes, jumping the ball to make plays and get into transition, then their zone will be useless.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

We match up well. To beat Syracuse you need one or two point guards with great vision and that can handle the ball. And you need " ... three things typically beat a zone defense: offensive rebounds, 3-point shots, and transition baskets. "

As long as we don't get frustrated it will be an incredible game.


April 1st, 2013 at 12:58 PM ^

McGary is an above average passer for a big man. He's also hit a couple of elbow jumpers. He and GRIII will have all kinds of space to either pass or shoot at the elbow and around the free throw line. Put Stauskas and Hardaway in either corner, and they'll get plenty of open looks. I think we match up very well with Syracuse. There's no way their coaches wanted to play Michigan based on matchups.