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. Bubble Banter: Davidson with a big win, Stanford in trouble, and … VCU?

    Mar 6, 2015, 1:34 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    All of the bubble winners and losers from Thursday.

  2. Late Night Snacks: North Florida, USC Upstate advance to Atlantic Sun title game

    Mar 5, 2015, 10:23 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    No. 6 Wisconsin is the outright Big Ten champion, and Delaware State’s Kendall Gray went off for 33 points and 30 rebounds.

  3. Draft age limit to be a major issue for NBA, college basketball in near future

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:34 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    With the NBA and NBPA having different views on the limit, college basketball can only wait and see what happens.

  4. Injured Kansas forward’s status will be re-evaluated next week

    Mar 5, 2015, 7:36 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The only sure thing at this point is that Perry Ellis won’t be on the floor when the Jayhawks visit No. 15 Oklahoma Saturday.

  5. NCAA announces upgrade to its replay and timekeeping systems for men’s and women’s tournaments

    Mar 5, 2015, 6:44 PM EST

    NCAA NCAA

    DVSport will handle the video replay technology, with Precision Timing Systems handling the timekeeping.

  6. Concussion to sideline UNLV freshman guard for Saturday’s regular season finale

    Mar 5, 2015, 5:38 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Patrick McCaw has been one of UNLV’s most consistent players this season, but he’ll have to miss Saturday’s game at San Jose State.

  7. Report: Duke not currently investigating Rasheed Sulaimon

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:56 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    This situation seems certain to end up in a mess.

  8. Pregame Shootaround: No. 6 Wisconsin, two other ranked teams hit the road

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:13 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Both Wisconsin and No. 5 Arizona can wrap up outright conference titles with wins Thursday night.

  9. Indiana’s AD backs Tom Crean, calls hot seat speculation ‘ridiculous’

    Mar 5, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    I don’t think any Indiana fans are listening at this point.

  10. West Coast Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:31 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    After winning yet another regular season title, Gonzaga looks to win its third consecutive WCC tournament crown.

  11. Film Session: Who can actually beat Kentucky and why

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:05 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    I’ve been asked the question enough. Here are the answers.

  12. CAA Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Marcus Thornton (Getty Images) Marcus Thornton (Getty Images)

    The CAA will be the nations most wide-open conference tournament.

  13. Southern Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    Karl Cochran (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Can Wofford reach their second straight NCAA tournament?

  14. Vermont honors hospitalized recruit with #JoshStrong shirts (PHOTOS)

    Mar 5, 2015, 10:57 AM EST

    Vermont Athletics Vermont Athletics

    Josh Speidel is still in the hospital as he deals with a serious brain injury stemming from a car accident last month.

  15. Oregon State’s Wayne Tinkle starts five walk-ons on Senior Night

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:51 AM EST

    Wayne Tinkle AP

    The catch: None of them were actually seniors.

  16. Potential NCAA tournament bid thieves bubble teams should be rooting against

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:53 AM EST

    Ryan Boatright (Getty Images) Ryan Boatright (Getty Images)

    These eight teams can steal an automatic bid in conferences that will get at-large bids.

  17. Late Night Snacks: Bubble teams Pittsburgh, LSU and Tulsa suffer home losses

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:22 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Neither the Panthers nor the Tigers did themselves any favors Wednesday night, with Pittsburgh’s home loss being the costlier of the two defeats.

  18. Bubble Banter: Why LSU losing is bad news for Texas A&M

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:59 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    All of Wednesday’s relevant bubble info can be found right here.