boeheim

College basketball’s use of zone defenses up six percent from last season

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With the changes in the way that contact is being called, college basketball has seen an increase in the number of fouls called and the number of free throws attempted in 2013-14. This has been one reason why scoring’s increased after being historically low last season; added opportunities to score by way of an “unchallenged” shot will have this kind of effect.

But have the changes also led to an increase in the use of zone defenses? That looks to be the case.

In a story written by Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal, a look at Synergy Sports Technology data has revealed that teams have played some kind of zone defense on 21.6% of possessions this season. According to the numbers that’s an increase of six percentage points from last season. And while a coach like Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim has used the zone for years and experienced a great deal of success, some diehard “man-to-man” proponents have even dabbled with a different defensive look in 2013-14.

The argument for the increased use of zone defense is that teams won’t foul as much, with this becoming more of a concern due to the increased number of foul calls. But according to Boeheim, the assumption that playing zone = your team won’t commit fouls is a misguided one.

Boeheim’s zone is back in demand partly because of the new emphasis in college basketball on curtailing defensive contact, which makes it more difficult to defend on the perimeter without racking up fouls. Boeheim, though, rejects the idea that Syracuse benefits by being fluent in zone already.

“It’s just not true,” he said. “Playing zone doesn’t mean you don’t foul. That’s ridiculous. People who say that don’t understand zone defense.”

The zone defenses being played by most college basketball teams aren’t your standard, run-of-the-mill recreational league zones, in which (generally speaking) weekend warriors stand in an area with the primary goal being to conserve energy in order to hoist shots on the other end. A lot of these defenses are highly active, and some even mix in some man-to-man principles (matchup zones) as well. And then there are your “junk” defenses, like the box-and-1 and triangle-and-2, that some coaches (UTEP’s Tim Floyd immediately comes to mind) have put to good use.

More teams employing zone looks was one assumption made when the new legislation was announced during the summer, and based on the numbers that has been the case. But just as there are questions regarding how strict officials will be when conference play begins, it also remains to be seen if teams continue to play more zone once faced with more “familiar” opponents.

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

King Rice
AP
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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.