• Joshua Marlow

Heel Tough Blog: Should UNC Implement 2-3 Zone Permanently?


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It was another frustrating loss for North Carolina on Saturday when they traveled to Pittsburgh. The eventual 66-52 loss was a combination of all the issues that have plagued the team this season. One positive if any that came out of the loss was that in the second half, Roy Williams employed a 2-3 zone, albeit against his will, but it kept the Tar Heels in the game to some capacity. Carolina's inability to score the basketball kept them from making it interesting, but there was noticeable improvement on the defensive end. In the second half, the Panthers shot just 23% from the field, and a even worse 10% from behind the three point line. The zone limited the penetration into the teeth of the defense, as the Tar Heels have struggled to stay in front of the ball in the perimeter. This subtle change in defensive philosophy isn't something that happened lightly, as Roy Williams despises zone as much as coach in the history of forever. But after seeing some positives it has many fans including me, pondering the thought of should that be the primary defense moving forward. Here are some pros and cons of the potential move:


Pros:

1. Limits Penetration: Like the issues the team has had staying in front of the ball, the same can be said for their struggles rotating in screen situations. Some of that is due to inexperience, in addition to communication issues. In a zone you aren't responsible for a man, you're responsible for an area on the court. Pittsburgh was 1-10 from behind the arc, and a large part was that Carolina was in better position defensive, because they weren't caught up in ball screen action. Florida State will throw at you?

2. Easier Rotations: Like the issues the team has had staying in front of the ball, the same can be said for their struggles rotating in screen situations. Some of that is due to inexeperince, in addition to communication issues. In a zone you aren't responsible for a man, you're responsible for an area on the court. Pittsburgh was 1-10 from behind the arc, and a large part was that Carolina was in better position defensive, because they weren't caught up in ball screen action.

3. Foul Trouble Less of a Issue: Until Cole Anthony returns, there isn't a lot of depth in the backcourt. With Jeremiah Francis experiencing soreness in his left knee, you'd expect Roy Williams to be cautious with the freshman point guard. In a zone your perimeter players don't usually get into foul trouble, unless they play undisciplined.


Cons:

1. Rebounding: There were possessions where Carolina gave up some offensive rebounds that they normally wouldn't because they were out of position in the zone set. The reason why teams utilize a zone is to limit the amount of offensive rebounds you give up, but for Carolina it's a change for your positioning for the rebound.

2. Doesn't Force Turnovers: Not that the Tar Heels have excelled in this department thus far, but Carolina doesn't double when they zone like Syracuse for instance. What this does is make the game a half-court game, which isn't something UNC is comfortable in the majority of times.

3. Playing Over the Top: Late in the second half, Pittsburgh started playing over the top of the zone, which lob passes over defenders. You become suspect to easy baskets around the rim against teams that pass the ball accurately. While this isn't the biggest concern with the zone defense, it's something that you have tp be aware of at all time, and we've seen this team struggle with allowing easy backdoor buckets.


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