Danger zone: Syracuse prepares to attack Miami’s stout 1-2-2 zone in rematch

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Jim Larranaga sees what works and the Miami head coach is doing everything he can to embrace the zone defense.Syracuse provides the template for the defense whose popularity is soaring — all but four Atlantic Coast Conference teams are using it more this season — so Larranaga went right to the source.Earlier this season, the Hurricanes’ head coach crossed paths with former SU assistant coach Bernie Fine at a luncheon. He told him that his staff was working on using the zone defense more and trying to improve its zone offense.Fine came by his office at 10 a.m. one day. They spent two hours together watching film and then Larranaga took Fine out to lunch.“It’s just nice to have a discussion with someone with so much familiarity,” Larranaga said during the Atlantic Coast Conference coaches’ teleconference Monday. “It’s not like there are any secrets in basketball.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIt was a simple meeting, but has helped Miami (Fla.) put together the fourth best defense in the conference while using the zone 54 percent of the time going into Wednesday — up 51 percent from last season. The Hurricanes (10-7, 2-3 ACC) nearly upset the Orange (18-0, 5-0) on Jan. 4 and will get a second shot at taking down the No. 2 team in the country when they host Syracuse on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Coral Gables, Fla.Miami’s first shot at the Orange came in SU’s first ACC game, but the clash between the one-time Big East rivals felt more fit for the conference of old. Neither team cracked 50 points and the Hurricanes held Syracuse to just 36.2-percent shooting.“Their matchup is very good,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said after the Orange’s win against the Hurricanes. “Matchup defense is probably the hardest to play against, especially when you have a lot of length through the whole lineup like they do. It’s very hard to play against.”The entire league has taken on a decidedly Big East feel. With Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame joining Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech as former Big East teams in the ACC, the entire league has slowed its paced and upped its defensive intensity.Four of the nation’s top 10 teams in terms of scoring defense reside in the ACC, and seven teams use a zone on at least 10 percent of opposing possessions. Last season, only Virginia was one of the top 10 teams in terms of scoring defense and Virginia Tech was the only team to run a zone on at least 10 percent of opposing possessions.Whether it’s a coincidence or not, the changes have directly coincided with the Orange’s arrival to the conference. Syracuse rode its signature 2-3 zone to the Final Four last season and ranked 20th in scoring defense.“I think everybody knows what the opponent is doing,” Larranaga said. “If you watch them on tape and you scout them thoroughly enough, you can see what they do. The difference is who they have doing it and how well they do it. “In Syracuse’s regard, they do it the best in the country.”The Hurricanes follow some of SU’s principles and it has landed them as one of the top 10 defensive teams in the nation. They use some 2-3, but also a 1-2-2 while slowing pace to keep them competitive in every game. Only two of their seven losses have come by more than 10 points.“You have to pick your spots a little bit more,” Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis said after the first game against Miami. “It took a while to get going in the second half and we are just happy that we pulled it out.”Perhaps the best performance of the season for the Hurricanes came on that day inside the Carrier Dome.For most of the game, their simple methods worked to perfection. They played tight defense and stopped the Orange from getting out and running. There are no solutions to speeding up a game — “It’s impossible to do,” Boeheim said. So as long as Miami continues its strong defense, it can give SU another scare.“I think we made a great job,” Hurricane guard Manu Lecomte said. “We played great for 35 minutes and for the last five minutes they took over. “We stay positive. We know we can beat this team.” Comments Published on January 23, 2014 at 12:26 am Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2last_img

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