The College Hoops Gazette

Jill Reston

"From Way Downtown"

January 22, 2008 - To Zone or Not to Zone

I don't believe the sky is falling. One loss shouldn't be cause for throwing out what has worked for 18 games. (Nor should the loss lead to the kind of tears being shed in the student section at the end of the game, ahem.) But the way we lost, and the way we nearly lost against Clemson and Ga. Tech, is worth evaluating. Which brings me to the zone.

I know Roy hates the zone. I know it goes against his entire philosophy and this team's greatest strengths. And I know it's late in the season to teach and implement it. Never mind that at this point using a zone might be interpreted as a sign of weakness or surrender. So he probably won't go to it. But there are good arguments for trying it.

Carolina is susceptible to being taken off the dribble and being backed down in the paint. And our Help D is spotty. I understand the response that we should simply work harder on this and it'll resolve itself. That's one answer, and the great potential benefit of it is that it leaves in place the benefits of our quickness on the transition breaks.

But at what cost? Tyler has been exposed and teams are coming at him down low. My theory on his bend-don't-break D is that he's under orders -- don't foul out, whatever points we lose down low will come at a cost for the other team, and will be made up for with your offense and drawing of fouls on that end. This is probably a sound strategy, so long as the opponent doesn't have big bodies (or thugs) to take Tyler from bending to full out breaking. But as we've seen, there aren't that many N.C. States left on our schedule, and there sure won't be any come NCAA time.

Also consider that the zone might give our guys a chance to intimidate in the paint (or at least play reasonably tough) and perhaps make opposing big men think any trip down low, even against man-to-man, will be difficult.

Speaking of psychology, there's also the element of surprise. Throwing in zone occasionally will, if nothing else, give opponents a new problem to solve.

Of course, it can be argued that bad D is bad D, and if we aren't helping now, why would things change in the zone? We're not much of a shot-blocking team, either, and so the advantages of the zone might be limited. And finally, we'd be susceptible to the three-pointers raining down on us. Especially against a Duke-type wing team. I can't refute these points, but I don't think they are reason enough not to go for the advantages that would come with the occasional use of a 2-3 zone. I won't be holding my breath, however. Just hoping that more Thompson and Stepheson, surely Roy's answer, will also work.

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