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Jim Boeheim rips zone critics on ACC teleconference

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One reporter catches Boeheim’s scorn for asking about the notion that the 2-3 zone saves his player’s energy levels.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Little irks Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim as suggestions that his famous 2-3 zone defense is a gimmick, easy to run, or a play-it-safe strategy. On this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference teleconference that notion intertwined with a flurry of questions about Syracuse’s roster playing massive minutes.

Al Featherstone hopped on the line third, stating he’d talked with coaches about the fact that Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard lead the ACC averaging over 37 minutes per game.

“Is that a function of the way you play,” he asked Boeheim. “Is it easier to play more minutes when you’re playing zone all the time?”

Boeheim preceded the question describing Bourama Sidibe’s season of knee tendinitis and Brissett’s role on offense, so a switch to defending his core philosophy immediately fired him up.

“Well,” he started. “People who think that, Al, are full of shit ... we don’t work on defense?”

Boeheim then chuckled at the suggestion.

“You don’t watch our defense I guess,” he said. “We work just as hard, or harder in fact, than some teams playing man-to-man. So that doesn’t have anything to do with it. I think players can play big minutes. I just think some teams don’t play... big minutes, they play nine guys and they spread the minutes out and it’s good. We traditionally have played two or three guys heavy minutes anyway, this year we don’t really have an option.”

NCAA Basketball: St. Bonaventure at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Howard Washington’s yet to receive consistent play this year. Boeheim recently indicated he’s improved in practice, and following Matthew Moyer’s injury against Boston College he said Washington could fit into three-guard lineups.

That leaves Howard, Brissett and Battle facing full games, and only limited rest for Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu, given Sidibe’s limited availability.

“You get a two and a half minute rest every four minutes in college basketball,” Boeheim added, before diving into the old days. “When I played before the TV games, you played the whole first half without a timeout. It was a different game, and it was probably a faster game ... when the good players came out back then, they were sitting on the bench for two, three or four minutes. Not even game minutes.”

By comparison, he said, it’s easier to play significant time in today’s game and even expressed that many could go even longer.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The discussion continued, Featherstone asked about older players possibly handling the minutes better, such as Howard as opposed to Brissett.

“I don’t think so,” Boeheim said. “I think there’s a lot of stuff people talk about that’s just opinion. In my estimation that’s a bad opinion ... I think you can play a lot of minutes.”

The Orange play Georgia Tech on Wednesday to conclude the road trip. The Yellow Jackets hit a stretch of four straight losses playing ranked Virginia, North Carolina and most recently Clemson (a 72-70 game) over that stretch.