Skip to content

No. 5 Duke’s inability to adjust to a zone a concern moving forward

Feb 21, 2014, 12:50 AM EST

source:

In the grand scheme of things, No. 5 Duke’s 74-66 loss at North Carolina on Thursday night isn’t going to mean all that much.

The Tar Heels are one of the hottest teams in the country, they’ve proven they can beat anyone this season — just ask Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville — and they were playing on their home floor two days after Duke played at Georgia Tech and two days before the Blue Devils host No. 1 Syracuse.

Duke’s chances of winning the ACC regular season title have been slim since they lost to Clemson and Notre Dame, and losing at UNC isn’t going to drastically alter their perception when it comes to seeding by the selection committee.

By Sunday morning, this loss will be nothing more than another chapter in one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.

But that doesn’t mean this loss wasn’t concerning for the Blue Devils.

Marcus Paige was terrific down the stretch for the Heels, closing out this game in a manner that would make Tyler Ennis blush. Leslie McDonald played his best game of the season, scoring 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting and hitting a number of clutch buckets down the stretch. The Heels pounded the offensive glass and got some key second chance points from their front court.

What changed this game, however, was Roy Williams throwing a couple of different zone looks at the Blue Devils.

I’ll have to go back and watch it to figure out what, exactly, they were playing, but midway through the second half, Williams switched to a zone. At times, when the Heels extended, it looked like a 1-3-1 and at times it looked like a point zone, which is essentially a 1-2-2 matchup zone that was invented by Dean Smith. Regardless of what it’s called, the effect it had on the Blue Devils is the reason North Carolina won.

Duke’s high-powered offense was suddenly stuck in the mud. When they weren’t taking quick shots they were forcing contested jumpers at the end of a possession. When they got open looks, they missed them.

How does that happen?

According to Synergy, North Carolina plays zone on roughly 8% of their defensive possessions. I know they have length and I understand that they are athletic, but when you play that little zone, you aren’t going to move that well in it. A couple passes, some dribble penetration, a touch in the high-post. That’s all it should take to be able to get a good shot, but Duke went almost nine minutes in the second half without making a field goal. In that time, the Heels cut 51-40 lead to just 53-51.

Duke did not prepare for that zone, and while they will be playing Syracuse on Saturday, what the Orange do in their zone is very different from what UNC was doing on Thursday. When you’re not expecting a defense, it can be tough for a team to react to a change that is that drastic.

So it’s understandable that the Blue Devils had some trouble.

But that doesn’t make it any less concerning.

Duke is not a good defensive team. Their best player is an atrocious defensive player. They have to put up a lot of points if they are going to be good teams.

They cannot afford to struggle making adjustments when junk defenses get thrown at them.

Latest Posts
  1. POSTERIZED: Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson dunks on Purdue 7-footer (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    Demetrius Jackson (AP Photo) Demetrius Jackson (AP Photo)

    Jackson scored 22 points, with two coming on an emphatic dunk on Purdue freshman Isaac Haas.

  2. Late Night Snacks: Villanova survives Syracuse while UNC, SMU get big wins

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:41 PM EST

    Jayvaughn Pinkston (Getty Images) Getty Images

    It’s already been a busy day in college hoops, with two buzzer-beaters and two ranked teams already going down.

  3. Chris Thomas, Malcolm Riley lead Texas Southern past No. 25 Michigan State

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:57 PM EST

    Mike Davis Mike Davis

    While Michigan State’s 4-for-21 night from three didn’t help matters, Texas Southern shot better than 53 percent from the field.

  4. Report: Former Marquette guard/forward transferring to Iowa State

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:18 PM EST

    Deonte Burton, Tim Coleman Deonte Burton, Tim Coleman

    Burton was one of two sophomores to leave the Marquette program earlier this month.

  5. No. 1 Kentucky dismantles UCLA

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:46 PM EST

    kentucky ucla AP

    Kentucky completely embarrassed UCLA on Saturday.

  6. Wake Forest freshman guard suspended six games for violation of NCAA rules

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:04 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwrmm2riyzjmntcznwyymwm1yzy1zmqxndg1ztbimtdi AP

    Mitchell Wilbekin could miss up to six games, and classmates Cornelius Hudson and Rondale Watson missed Saturday’s game for conduct detrimental to the team.

  7. Rayvonte Rice gives Illinois ‘Braggin’ Rights’ for a second consecutive year (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 4:31 PM EST

    Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Young AP

    Illinois has now won two straight in the series, thanks to Rice’s three-pointer as time expired.

  8. No. 7 Villanova’s wild rally forces OT, where they beat Syracuse (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:26 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Not surprising, considering Gus Johnson is on the call.

  9. No. 24 North Carolina handles No. 12 Ohio State

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:23 PM EST

    north carolina ohio state AP

    North Carolina had its most impressive showing of the season in a convincing win over Ohio State on Saturday in Chicago.

  10. Mixtape for top 2016 recruit Josh Jackson (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports) (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

    Josh Jackson put on a show last night. Here’s a mixtape of what he can do.

  11. Alex Murphy to play, Eli Carter out vs. Wake Forest

    Dec 20, 2014, 11:49 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    This will be the first time that Murphy plays this season.

  12. More ridiculous plays from 2016 acrobat Kwe Parker at City of Palms (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Kwe Parker might only be a junior in high school, but he’s one of the best leapers in the country.

  13. Pregame Shootaround: A tremendous day of hoops filled with intriguing top-25 battles

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    TaShawn Thomas AP

    If you don’t feel like watching lower-tier bowl games, you’ll be happy to know that Saturday is loaded with great games.

  14. Eastern Kentucky’s 3-point shooting leads to blowout win over No. 18 Miami

    Dec 19, 2014, 10:13 PM EST

    AP AP

    Eastern Kentucky had 14 threes. Miami had 12 field goals.

  15. adidas puts wrong logo on Duje Dukan’s Wisconsin warmups (PHOTO)

    Dec 19, 2014, 8:59 PM EST

    Duje Dukan AP

    The senior forward is apparently playing for the Wisconsin Bearcats.

  16. New Year’s Resolutions: Villanova Wildcats

    Dec 19, 2014, 7:30 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Villanova is off to another good start in the regular season, but heading into the New Year, the Wildcats will need to rack up the wins in postseason play.