I don’t disagree with this, but let’s not blame Syracuse for the problems of all of college basketball.
“Syracuse’s zone exposes why college basketball is an inferior product compared to the NBA. Nobody can shoot. Coaches are too married to their precious offenses. The players are not given enough creative freedom. So, against a zone, teams invariably resort to whipping the ball around the perimeter for 25 seconds until they’re forced to jack up a contested jumper late in the shot clock.”
I compared Syracuse to Kentucky on Twitter over the weekend, not because Syracuse has a ton of top-level NBA talent, in fact that don’t and rarely ever do. But the genius of Calipari was recognizing that the best way to be competitive with the one and done rule was to go out and recruit a whole bunch of top kids every single year, and accepting that they’d leave a year later. He didn’t try to coach them beyond that, or make wholesale changes to their games, he just recruited more talent and let it play. It doesn’t always work, but they are much better than most NCAA teams.
Syracuse, and Jim Boeheim, also recognized the situation and took advantage, just in a different way. They recognized how college basketball was getting worse and worse at fundamental basketball. They can’t recruit with the Kentuckys, Dukes, Kansas, but they can compete by forcing teams to shoot well and move the ball. Most can’t do it. Most have played one on one matchups and have no idea how to attack a zone this good in an actual game.
I’m a Syracuse fan. I’m under no illusion that this is anything more than a mediocre team. But, the 2-3 zone they play forces teams to shoot and play good basketball to beat them. That has them in yet another Sweet 16 despite being a very mediocre team.
A lot of more talented teams are at home.
So yeah, Syracuse is playing ugly, ugly basketball. The fact that it works is why they do it. Don’t blame them for playing to their strengths, it’s what good coaches do.