Syracuse’s zone has a few breakdowns
Syracuse’s back line of the 2-3 zone is something I will be watching this season. Fab Melo will be called upon to clog the middle of the zone, while Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson are the wing starters. In their season debut, I saw something interesting from the wings of the zone.
I believe they are shaded too far toward the three point line. They need to have some coverage while the top men rotate over, but they also need to cover the baseline. That area is the spot on the floor that is open in the zone and their position makes it more open.
Look at how high Kris Joseph is playing. The offensive player is not a threat to score from that position. He should be a step or two back, just enough to give Dion Waiters enough time to bump him off. With Joseph playing so high up, the baseline is wide open, as UNI correctly has Fab Melo occupied by the high post.
The ball gets entered into the high post and Joseph is out of position to cover the baseline. If he was a step or two back initially, he could have taken one or two more steps back once the ball was passed into the high post and taken away the baseline. He is too late to recover and the ball is easily passed to the dead spot.
There is too much ground to make up because Joseph was too high to begin with and UNI draws a foul at the basket.
Here, we see James Southerland too high on defense. There is no need for him to be that far out of position. He is pressuring someone who is not a threat to score from that position and he has Waiters coming over to guard him. He should be a step or two behind the three point line so that he can step up and guard the three point attempt but also have baseline coverage.
What happens is that mistake causes him to be out of position once the ball gets entered into the high post. This time the ball is kicked out into the corner. What follows are mistakes that compound upon each other, as Southerland closes out poorly, leaving his feet and flying in front of the defender, since he is late recovering.
The offensive player ball fakes, causing Melo to turn his back to fight for rebound position. With Southerland out of the picture, there is an open lane for UNI, which turns into a three point opportunity. This was made possible because Southerland was out of position from the start, coming up too high from his back line spot.
I saw the wing defenders creeping up on several possessions but UNI was only able to take advantage of it on a couple possessions, all when they got the ball to the high post as seen above. Syracuse played good defense (78.0 defensive efficiency) but against better offensive teams, this could be exploited. In the future, see how high the wings are coming out and whether they are getting beat baseline.