Bernie's Revenge: The ACC Is Learning All About This Zone Thingy

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Miami is one of a few ACC teams playing more zone defense. Hey, that's our thing.

Like you, I have so many questions about how Bernie Fine left things with Syracuse University and Jim Boeheim. There's a time and place to pose those questions but in the meantime, one thing is clear, the disgraced-but-never-charged-and-perhaps-slandered-but-we'll-never-know longtime Syracuse Orange assistant coach isn't done coaching just yet.

Fine, who lives in South Florida (the real one, not the Northern one), has recently been helping the Miami Hurricanes play better zone defense.

"The University of Miami basketball coach reached out to Ralph Willard, a former Rick Pitino assistant at Louisville who lives in Naples. He also called on Bernie Fine, a former Syracuse assistant of Jim Boeheim’s who lives in Fort Lauderdale. If anyone knows the intricacies of the zone, it is Willard and Fine. Both spent time with UM coaches and gave them a crash course.

Whether anything long-term comes of this for Fine, it's anyone's guess (I'm guessing no, no major university will hire him officially). That said, it's just one example of ACC teams not called Syracuse employing zone defense.

Last year, Larranaga estimated that his ACC champions played against a zone during regular-season conference play for 20 minutes – total, for all 18 games. This year, 11 of the 15 teams are going zone more often than last year, and just two (Virginia Tech and Boston College) are using it less frequently.

The zone trend extends beyond just the ACC. Last season, Duke played 8.6 percent of its total possessions against a zone. This season, it’s up to 24.3 percent

According to that article by Laura Keeley (no, we're not), four ACC schools play zone defense more than 20% of the time (SU, Miami, ND & Pitt) and three more play it at least 10% of the time (Wake, VT, UNC). Obviously, no one is going to do it as well as we are, but familiarity isn't always the best thing for us.

Miami gets another shot at the Orange this weekend so we'll find out if they've learned any new zone tricks since the last time. They certainly did a good job shutting us down offensively and slow the game down. When both teams are good at it, you're looking at some seriously low-scoring affairs (like last time).

And, hey, Tom Crean, if they can figure it out, so can you. Well, maybe...

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