One thing I noticed throughout the NCAA Tournament, and even recently in NBA games is the use of Zone Defense. Watching all this zone defense at both levels has really rubbed me the wrong way. I sort of get it in college just because there is no defensive 3 second violation, but I still advocate against Zone Defense unless you are playing AAU or any level lower. The Syracuse Vs. Duke game was what really put my strong opinions over the edge. Not only was Duke just throwing lobs over the top of Syracuse’s high 2-3 zone defense with zero resistance, but it made two exciting teams have to slow their games down. Both teams had zone defenses in place throughout most of the game and both proved to not work very well. The final score of the game was 69–65 with Duke pulling out the Win. Given how slowly paced the game was, this is a relatively high score proving that the zone defenses used by both teams were rendered ineffective.
Usually the key to beating a 2–3 zone defense is to make outside shots. However, the type of zone defense that was being played in this game, and throughout the tournament was a “high” 2–3. This means that the wings in the zone move up toward the 3 -point line to eliminate the opportunity for open outside shots. This leaves the whole baseline open for slashers to get wide open layups or even alley oops. Duke attempted to throw lobs over the Syracuse defense on several occasions and succeeded in doing so in most of those attempts.
Lob dunks are one of the most exciting things to watch don’t get me wrong. I like a good highlight dunk as much as the next guy. But if you’re Jim Boeheim and you see your zone defense get beat on the same types of play 5 separate times, don’t you think you should change something up? That added to my frustration because it seemed like in the case of Syracuse, they stayed in the zone because nobody can play Man-to-man on that team. They live and breathe that zone defense so once it gets decimated there is no plan B. In Duke’s case, they run man-to-man most of the time but change over to the occasional zone depending on game situation or opposing team personnel which is a lot more respectable than running a zone 100% of the time. Every basketball player knows that zone defense was created to disguise bad individual defenders. Hide the bad defenders in the zone and avoid them getting attacked on every possession by the opposing team.
I do understand the situations in when zone defense is justifiable, even in the pro ranks, but watching 2 teams play the same defense, and watching that defense prove ineffective played a major role in my opinion on the matter. Ultimately, zones make the game slower thus causing teams to score less points and providing a less than enjoyable watch for fans. Don’t even get me started on zone defense in video games…