FanPost

Terps need to play more zone defense

By now, a few things are clear about last year's team compared to this year's team. Virtually everyone recognises that we miss Len, in terms of our ability to challenge shots and in terms of general athleticism (Mitchell and Cleare are not exactly fleet of foot). What very few people want to admit is that we also sorely miss Pe's defense. Through the first two games, we have not been able to close out on guards, and both UConn and Abeline were consistently getting open three looks. Heck, Abeline even got 3-4 open looks during the Terps miraculous run last night.

Simply put, I'm not sure we have the quickness to play a straight up man to man defense this year. Shaq and Chuck are going to be abused by athletic, fleet of foot bigs, as is Evan. Seth and Roddy are not exactly known for their defense at this point and Nick and Dez in my opinion, are not quick enough to chase guys around on the perimeter the entire game if the other team goes small on us. And they also aren't quick enough to keep smaller opponents out of the lane.

But consider how playing zone defense, especially a pressure zone like we employed in the second half, works in our favor. While guys like Dez, Nick, and Jake may struggle to stick with shorter guards when teams go small, don't kid yourselves--these guys are very athletic, long and have hops. They are terrors to deal with in a pressure zone, and can really clog up passing lanes and showed an ability to block shots, helping from the weak side on the zone as well.

Playing a zone takes away any advantage the other team could get by playing small because it keeps them out of the lane and makes them pass it around the perimeter where they will have to shoot over our taller defenders who are closing out on them.

Another advantage of the zone is it will keep Shaq out of foul trouble. Also, with the tighter foul calls (to the extent that's still a thing once the season is in full swing) playing a zone will keep key scorers like Dez and Jake out of foul trouble. (I think we can all agree that if either of these two guys are in foul trouble--especially until Seth is back--the Terps are in deep shit).

I think Turge has started to recognize this. In both games this year when we needed a run, he (to his credit--I am very hard on him but credit where credit is due) switched to a pressure zone to great effect. Ideally, we can work on it in practice to the point where we aren't only going to it when we are desperate, but mix it in as a regular part of our defense. When Seth comes back, maybe you have more of an ability to play man up because he can match up with smaller guards man to man (you would hope) in a way that Dez and Nick can't and in a way that Roddy is too green to do.

I wouldn't mind seeing the zone sprinkled in during the first 5-10 possessions of the game and then Turge riding what appears to be working on any given night. But I'm not sure if we just stick to a "man to man unless we are desperate" strategy, that we are going to have success with that.

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