Clamping down: Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone gets set for clash with loaded Indiana offense in Sweet 16

first_imgWASHINGTON — Indiana is an offensive juggernaut. The Hoosiers are dangerous from the arc and menacing in the paint. Boasting a lineup of stellar scorers, they can be a nightmare to defend.All season long, Indiana bludgeoned its opponents with that balanced attack. With two of the top players in the nation in its lineup – Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo – the Hoosiers present a challenge Syracuse must solve when the two play in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at 9:45 p.m. in the Verizon Center. IU will test each part of Syracuse’s zone.“We’ve been watching them play all year. They’re on TV a lot. One thing that stands out is that everyone can score on their team,” SU forward James Southerland said. “They have a lot of weapons on their team, a lot of great shooters. They have Zeller, who’s a big man who can score, and he can get to the free-throw line.”Indiana is third in the country in points per game with 79.5 and sixth in field-goal percentage at 48.6. As a team, Indiana is outscoring its opponents by an average of 17.3 points.On paper, it’s a bad combination for Syracuse — a zone defense against a great shooting team — but none of the Hoosiers’ Big Ten opponents play a defense that remotely resembles Syracuse’s lengthy zone.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIndiana head coach Tom Crean coached in the Big East at Marquette for nine seasons before coming to IU in 2008. He said Wednesday that no matter how many times he’s had to prepare for SU coach Jim Boeheim’s defense, it never gets any easier.“I don’t think you can look at that zone and think you’re going to beat it any one way, but I don’t think you can look at the zone and think you can stand around and pass the ball around the perimeter, either,” Crean said. “That is a recipe for defeat.”Syracuse guard Brandon Triche said it’s a matter of staying active and getting out to shooters. Indiana has four of them in the starting lineup with Oladipo, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell. Will Sheehey, who’s shooting 49.2 percent, adds another threat off of the bench.But if the Orange extends too far out, it gives the 7-foot Zeller room to work in the middle. He makes 57.1 percent of his attempts from the floor. When he catches the ball at the free-throw line, he’s quick and athletic enough to go left or right, or drive the lane for a hard layup. Zeller has scored at least 10 points in his last seven games.“Basically, we’re going to have to keep the ball out of his hands in the low post, and once he gets the ball to the high post, he’s going to try to go left, go right,” Syracuse forward Rakeem Christmas said, “so we’re going to have to play one-on-one with him and keep him out of the lane, basically.”The problem for the Orange is that if it pays too much attention to Zeller, he can kick out to the perimeter to a top-notch shooter. That includes Oladipo, a first-team, All-American whose 59.4 shooting percentage is second in the Big Ten.Indiana has seen zone from teams like Michigan and Wisconsin, but never for an entire game. Wednesday will be the first time the Hoosiers have to crack a zone for all 40 minutes.“We’re going to have to be prepared for that,” Oladipo said. “We’re going to have to play at a high level and we’re going to have to definitely let our defense create for our offense.”Indiana comes into the Sweet 16 with a small chip on its shoulder after it nearly fell to Temple in the Round of 32. The Hoosiers pulled out the 58-52 win in the closing minutes, but questions about their dominance have still been rampant ever since.Syracuse will try to pull off what Temple couldn’t and knock Indiana out of the tournament. It’s going to require stellar defensive play for all 40 minutes.The Hoosiers can score from seemingly any spot on the floor, but haven’t needed to against many zone defenses, especially one like the Orange’s.Said Triche: “I know they haven’t seen the Syracuse zone.” Comments Related Stories High school teammates Grant, Oladipo meet in Sweet 16 Boeheim, current Syracuse players reflect on 1987 national title loss to Indiana’It still stings to this day’: Twenty-six years after narrowly losing title game to Indiana, Syracuse has shot at redemption in NCAA Tourney Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on March 27, 2013 at 7:04 pm Contact Chris: [email protected] | @chris_isemanlast_img

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