• Orange are well known for stifling defense
The last “zone” to get this much interest around Oklahoma was something Rod Serling created for television.
Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense doesn’t go all the way back to the 1960s, but its acclaim in the college basketball world is equally renowned.
If a coach isn’t familiar with coaching zone defenses, he usually tries to find some video of the Orange. Or, perhaps, pick up a copy of “Jim Boeheim’s Complete Guide to the 2-3 Match-up Zone.”
“That’s how I learned it,” OU coach Jeff Capel said. “It said it shares some secrets.”
The Sooners (29-5) will find out how much the longtime Syracuse coach is willing to share for the sake of book and dvd sales when it faces the Orange (28-9) in NCAA Tournament’s South Region semifinal at 6:27 Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.
There’s no doubt Syracuse’s vaunted defense will have a huge impact on the game. It did the last time the teams squared off.
In 2003, OU faced Syracuse with a trip to the Final Four at stake. Those hopes were dashed after the Sooners fell 63-47 and looked befuddled on the offensive end, shooting 31 percent.
Anything similar will end another OU season.
The zone’s major objective is to take away the paint. Friday it will try to suffocate Blake Griffin like a python.
Nothing new there. Every team the Sooners have faced over the last two seasons has done something designed to limit Griffin. Some have worked, most haven’t.
“We want to get the ball to Blake. If that means we have to force it then we will,” Capel said. “He’ll get touches. He may get them at different spots on the floor.”
Look for Griffin to get the ball a lot in the high post early in the game. But OU’s at its best when the 6-foot-10 forward is getting the ball in the low block. The Orange has the size and the muscle with Arinze Onuaku (6-9, 258 pounds) and Rick Jackson (6-9, 235) to bang with Griffin.
Determination alone won’t get Griffin in a position to score. It will take some outside shots falling.
“That’s always got to be how you soften up a zone,” OU guard Willie Warren said. “You’ve got to hit outside shots to open up the penetration.”
OU has been feast or famine in that regard. It shot 35.6 percent from long distance this season, but dipped to 10-for-31 (32.2 percent) against Morgan State and Michigan in the NCAA Tournament’s first and second round.
It’s doubtful that will be good enough to loosen up the Orange.
The challenges the Sooners have are difficult, but not unknown. They’re going to have to loosen the grip the Orange likes to put on the post.
“We’ll do some things to help us adjust,” Capel said. “Hopefully, we’ll make some shots in Memphis Friday and be effective against their zone.”
If not, it will be the last zone OU faces this season.
• Orange are well known for stifling defense
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