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Link – Syracuse’s 2-3 zone works but it makes college basketball unwatachable

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.

Syracuse's 2-3 zone works but it makes college basketball unwatachable

UCONN is Boring But So Be It

DSC_0264First off, let me just get this out of the way. I don’t generally follow women’s basketball. It’s not because I’m sexist either, it’s because I really only have so much time to dedicate to following sports, and I don’t follow any basketball very much. Oh sure, I pay attention to the NCAA tournament, and I have a vague idea of what is happening in the NBA, but basketball just isn’t a sport I’m going to to sit and watch more than a couple of times a year.

That being said, like any good fan of the NCAA tournament, I was paying attention to college basketball in March, and thanks to a couple of programs that I specifically have interest in, I was aware of what was happening in that tourney.

I grew up a Syracuse fan, rooting for guys like Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman, etc. That rooting interest, of course, included wishing the other sports well also.

My wife works for, and we live just down the road from, Oregon State. Corvallis is Oregon State. This is the quintessential college town. It would barely exist if not for the university being located here.

With both of those programs advancing to the Women’s Final Four, of course I paid some attention, even if that didn’t include watching much of the games. And while I could make some excuses about being on the road and not having an easy time watching the games, the reality is I didn’t watch because there was zero doubt as to what was going to happen. Both schools got creamed by the Huskies. No one doubted that would happen, and sure enough, it did. As I said after they bet Syracuse on Twitter, this is the state of women’s college basketball.

So look, all the credit in the world to Connecticut. They’re amazing, but it doesn’t make for a compelling sport right now.

That being said, both Oregon State and Syracuse had historic seasons and they should be celebrated. They both made the Final Four for the first time ever, and are really good basketball teams. They just aren’t UCONN. Maybe for right now the best you can hope for is to know your season went as long as it could, before you had to play the Huskies. That’s success. I fear, however, that as well as those ladies played, and as much history as they made, no one will remember anything from the last 4 years aside from UCONN, and that’s a shame.

Let’s hope someone can build a team that might challenge them eventually and make this more interesting. Right now, it’s not even that they win all the time, it’s that the games aren’t even close. If you want to watch one truly great team, UCONN can give that to you. If you want to see compelling stories and competition, not so much.

Syracuse in the Final Four – Didn’t See That Coming

DSC_0264When Syracuse was selected to the NCAA Tournament, even someone who can trace his fandom to his teen years and the Pearl Washington era was feeling pretty doubtful about whether they even deserved it.

Yeah, that would be me.

Now after a ridiculous run to close out Virginia, the Orange are headed to the Final Four and I must bow down to the coaching genius of Jim Boeheim. Seriously, I have no idea how this team is in the Final Four. There’s nothing beyond the famous Syracuse zone defense that stands out about them. You could look at the first three opponents and make the case that they hadn’t seen the zone and weren’t prepared for it, but Virginia plays in the same conference. They’ve seen it, and dealt with it somewhat successfully for three quarters of the game, until they totally didn’t handle the Orange full court press. Go figure.

Maybe getting selected and having to listen to everyone talk about how they didn’t deserve it was the thing that finally got this team to reach deep down and play with everything they have. Maybe they just play better angry. Maybe Jim was hanging on to that full court press all year just waiting for the Tournament to truly turn it up. Maybe freshman Malachi Richardson simply had the college game click into place over the last couple of weeks. Honestly, I don’t know.

But as a fan, I’m sure as heck enjoying it!

Go Orange!

Link – Ex-Michigan coach Brady Hoke new defensive coordinator at Oregon

An interesting choice given that it was Michigan’s defense that was the stronger unit in Hoke’s years at Michigan. Just don’t let him near the offense, though.

Maybe Hoke is just one of those guys who’s better as an assistant than a head coach. The Ducks are surely counting on that. Will he be successful going back, a la Lane Kiffin, or will the failure as a head coach carry on as an assistant, a la Greg Robinson after Syracuse?

Then again, can Oregon’s defense get that much worse?

Ex-Michigan coach Brady Hoke new defensive coordinator at Oregon