Dougherty: Syracuse-Virginia will be a rare clash of brand-name defenses

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 26, 2016 at 8:16 pm More often than not, notable college basketball programs are known for some combination of their current big-name players and, if suitable, their offense. But the Orange (22-13, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) and Cavaliers (29-7, 13-5), which will clash at 6:09 p.m. in the United Center on Sunday, don’t fit that generalization. Instead you can define these two ACC teams with a simple word-association exercise.Syracuse: Zone.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textVirginia: Pack line.Now each of those strategies, which have turned into buzzwords with time, hold the weight of these teams’ Final Four chances. And while so much of modern college basketball calls for constant head shaking — the AAU circuit, the one-and-done debate, the blurred lines between amateurism and athletic departments — a battle of two trademarked defenses could give the basketball traditionalist a reason to smile.“Our zone’s been incredible, everybody knows it, that’s the brand,” SU assistant coach Mike Hopkins said on Saturday. “And it’s the same thing with them. It’ll definitely be a battle of those, but it will also be a matter of who makes the most shots obviously. That’s the most simplified version, you try to make them take tough shots.”All defenses try and specialize in forcing tough shots, but not all excel at it. How these Syracuse and Virginia teams do so so well can be attributed to history: Jim Boeheim’s insistence of staying in and adjusting the zone for all these years, Tony Bennett being mentored by the coach (his father, Dick) most frequently credited developing the pack line man-to-man. And personnel: Boeheim’s characteristically long team, Bennett’s roster being chock full of defensive stoppers like All-American Malcolm Brogdon, point guard London Perrantes, off-the-bench guard Marial Shayok and so on.So yes, how to solve the opposing defense has been at the front of each team’s agenda in the last 24 or so hours. Because both Syracuse and Virginia mostly know what they’re going to do on defense Sunday, at least until any breakdowns occur and mid-game adjustments become imminent.The Orange’s wings will patrol the perimeter and paint, the guards will look to deny penetration and disrupt passing lanes to the interior, an over-arching goal will be to limit the damage once the ball gets into the high post. Virginia will pressure the ball with unrelenting intensity, use help defenders to discourage one-on-one penetration and close out hard but controlled on all shooters.But those are really just a few of the footnotes, the start of a long list of layers and complications for each defense. That’s why they’re both so hard to solve, and also probably why all of us asking questions this weekend are so enamored with what each team is doing to figure the other defense out.But the answers have remained simple across the board. Move the ball well. Don’t settle. Insert offensive cliche here. Insert another offensive cliche there.Because really it’s still just basketball, even if both teams are known for keeping the ball out of the net.“Whatever hype their zone is getting is totally warranted,” UVA forward Isaiah Wilkins said. “You think Syracuse and you think zone. And I think we’re getting there too with the pack-line, if we’re not there already. It’s going to be a fun defensive game.”And if you think that “fun defensive game” is an oxymoron, and you wouldn’t be alone, both Syracuse and Virginia would contend that lasting this long in the NCAA Tournament has its perks.Jesse Dougherty is a Senior Staff Writer at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] or @dougherty_jesse. Commentscenter_img CHICAGO — If you took all the questions and answers about Syracuse’s 2-3 zone and Virginia’s pack-line man-to-man from the last few days, you could probably start a novel. You may even have a full chapter. Or two, even if they’d only be interesting to the biggest of basketball nerds.I’m far from innocent here. I walked through the bowels of the United Center Saturday afternoon, poking my head into the one-player press conference rooms lining the halls, to inquire about the two defenses. To see if I could find an uncovered wrinkle. To see, more than anything, if painting a pregame narrative around these two defenses was anything close to the narrative being hashed out in the teams’ film sessions and media rooms.MORE COVERAGESyracuse basketball predictions for Elite Eight matchup with Virginia10 fun facts about VirginiaSyracuse basketball opponent preview: What to know about No. 1 seed VirginiaSyracuse gets 2nd chance to slow down Virginia’s Malcolm BrogdonTyler Lydon showing growth defensively in NCAA TournamentDougherty: The ACC, with half the Elite 8, was an especially important proving ground for Syracuse3 things Tony Bennett said: Michael Gbinije, Malachi Richardson and owning the zonelast_img

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