Orange Fizz


The Sweet 16 Run in 2021 May Have Been a Net Negative

The old saying “defense wins championships” is a popular one, and it’s something Syracuse Men’s Basketball held dear on its run to the Sweet Sixteen two years ago. Jim Boeheim’s famed 2-3 zone left San Diego State and West Virginia flustered, and it was the talk of the town among the national media. Fast forward two years and the zone is once again the talk of the town. Only this time, the connotations are not good ones.

After the Orange outlasted the Mountaineers, the talk leading up to the Houston game was “will the zone fluster the Cougar offense?” Well, SU allowed just 62 points, but the offense couldn’t muster anything. So the defense wasn’t the problem then, but boy has it become one now. The national attention the zone got from that tournament run has severely detrimented SU’s outlook.

In November 2021, Colgate provided a blueprint on exactly how you beat a zone. If you have ball movement out the wazoo and a few good shooters, you’re as good as set. If you look at the recent blowout losses, especially those over the past week and a half, that’s exactly what you’re seeing. Duke, Clemson, and Pitt all moved the basketball like it was Hot Potato and knocked down three-pointers at such ease you would think it was a pregame shootaround. Yet Boeheim shows no interest in switching it up. Neither of Georgia Tech or Wake Forest is on the same level as those three teams, but both have a blueprint at beating the zone. And teams have been writing it since March Madness in 2021.

The most frustrating thing about this is back in October, Boeheim hinted at showing man defense this season. To his credit, he did that against Colgate and it struggled. But we haven’t seen it since. That’s not okay. Just because something doesn’t work one time, you completely abandon it? The game of basketball now revolves around the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter which, spoiler alert, is significantly easier to do against a zone. At least show man a few times per game. Is that too much to ask?

The point here is that during Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament run two years ago, the secret of the zone was exposed more than it ever has been. Since then, opposing teams have been tearing it to shreds. We’re not saying things would’ve been astronomically different had that run two years ago not happened, but you have to wonder, “What If?”

Let’s be honest, it might take a miracle for Boeheim to ever abandon the zone defense which he adores. But the Butterfly Effect is a real one. Had SU not made that run two years ago, would fans be so irate about it right now? That run was a ton of fun and it is very enjoyable to look back on. But over the last two seasons, that run has extracted a major toll.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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