If you know anything about college basketball, you know that the Syracuse Orange and Jim Boeheim have been masters of the 2-3 zone defense nearly forever. However, as the North Carolina Tar Heels prepare to face the Orange for a third time this season, they know that a full court press look could be in play for their ACC rivals.
Boeheim is one of the best defensive coaches in all of college basketball and when he joined the College Basketball Talk podcast on Friday, he talked about how he has coached more than 200 clinics over his 30-plus year career.
“You know, it’s pretty much standard. Like this is Jim Boeheim, this is all he knows, so we’re going to have him talk about the 2-3 zone,” Boeheim said of the clinics. “I tried one clinic to start with something else. There were 400 coaches there. They started getting restless. I knew right away, okay, we’ll talk about it.”
However, Boeheim decided to change things up in when his team was faced with adversity in the form of Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen and Virginia in the Elite Eight. He switched to a full court press, which ended up being a big advantage for them as the Orange moved on to win both games and get to the Final Four.
Boeheim went on to talk about that how the full court press was nothing new to his team, but that the team right now isn’t properly equipped to play it long term.
“We used to press all the time. We had better personnel for it. Our personnel is not suited for it right now,” Boeheim said. “It was good for four minutes against Virginia and two minutes against Gonzaga. I wouldn’t trust it too much longer than that. I didn’t.
“We took it off when we took the lead with five minutes to go in the Virginia game because I didn’t think it was that good, even though we got a couple steals. Virginia shot themselves in the foot. They missed a layup. They walked. They made a bad turnover. They did the right things, they were in the right position, but they didn’t execute.”
If the Orange do decide to switch into a press look, the Tar Heels are not worried. A few players said they feel prepared to take on the challenge.
“I feel like most of us have never seen Syracuse play any type of defense other than that 2-3 zone,” North Carolina point guard Nate Britt said. “So it was a bit of a surprise. But obviously it worked. We did prepare for that and we expect them to go to that if they need to.”
“They were falling into that methodical Virginia style early in that game,” Tar Heel guard Marcus Paige said of Syracuse’s recent press. “If you don’t do anything about [Virginia’s slow pace], it can be the death of you in basketball terms. For them to speed them up like that, a team that never really gets sped up, is pretty impressive. They’re very aggressive at it.”
Whatever happens today, it certainly seems like Syracuse and North Carolina are both prepared to do whatever necessary to get to the national championship game. The two meet up at approximately 8:50 p.m. EST on TBS.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports