The 2-3 zone is to Syracuse as water is to life. Life is dependent upon water and Syracuse is dependent on zone. There’s no denying this — any argument otherwise is futile and illogical. Syracuse and zone have become synonymous. So much so that even the thought of the Orange playing man-to-man defense seems ludicrous.
Jim Boeheim has become so allergic to playing man-to-man that Team USA sprinkles in the esteemed zone every now and then. The closest Syracuse has come to playing man in the last six seasons is when Bill Raftery has been on call and recites, “Syracuse goes 2-3 zone with MANTOMAN principles.”
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see below.
You get the idea. Syracuse hasn’t played a lick of man defense since it lost to Le Moyne in 2009. In fact, the only man-to-man Syracuse has played is a mere manifestation of the defense — the full court press.
Nevertheless, as we head into the 2016-2017 season, Jim Boeheim has hinted at the idea of playing man-to-man, per Donna Ditota.
Is this some kind of sick joke? What’s next, UConn joining a power 5 conference? Georgetown not sucking?
“If we think it will help us, we will use it,” Said Boeheim referencing man-to-man. “We’ve got 10 guys. We only had six or seven guys (in the past). Depth. We’ve got more physical, defensive-type players. And we have a 7-foot-2 shot blocker.”
That’s Boeheim patois at its best. If you’ve heard the Hall of Famer speak a time or two, you know he tends to speak in vague terms (and in hyperbole). He doesn’t definitively say whether he will or won’t play man this season. My guess? He’s bluffing.
Look, there’s something be said that if Syracuse played man-to-man, it would still be a very good defensive team. I get that. Nobody ever said if it isn’t broken you couldn’t make it better. I get that too.
There’s even an argument to be made that if there were a year post 2009 to play man, it would be either the 2011-2012 team or this year’s team. Why? Depth. The Orange could run 10 guys this year and nobody would bat an eye — the team is that deep and that talented.
But ever since Boeheim has made the decision to go strictly 2-3, none of his teams have fallen outside of the top 20 defensively in the KenPom rankings (fewest points per 100 possessions).
Even the 2015 team that didn’t win 20 games? Yep. 19th.
Last year? 17th.
Why mess with that success?
It’s as Bruce Lee once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
And if nothing else, consider this: Charles Barkley thinks Syracuse should play man. I rest my case.