Or so says Seth Davis, esteemed CBS Basketball Analyst and helpless apologist for Duke Basketball.
Not so fast, Dukie. If it were that simple, Michigan State would struggle to score 50 and Tom Izzo's head would explode. It might anyway.
The fact of the matter is, you can not simply wave a magic wand, say "We'll Zone 'Em", and then run out a bunch of Princeton kids and take Alonzo Morning's Georgetown squad to the brink. And just because a team doesn't play two JJ Redicks and a Chris Collins, doesn't mean that a zone is going to work. How many shooters did Vegas have on their squad? Two perhaps if you consider Greg Anthony a plus shooter. Anderson Hunt was the only bona fide shooter. UNLV, as I recall, had a pretty good run until they started bathing in hot tubs with wise guys from Jersey.
That said, I know why Davis is touting the zone vs. Texas but it's a function of lazy analysis of this Longhorn Squad and nothing more. He's looking at Texas through the prism of the 2008-2009 squad and he will do so at his peril. But I'll walk you through why lazy analysts will cry zone at the top of their lungs going into the 2009/10 season before the Horns are unleashed on the nation. It's a lazy basketball fan's recipe. It's almost cliche at this point. Texas has a dominant big man. Texas has a ton of returning athletes in the front court. Texas has virtually no returning players that are elite perimeter shooters. Thanks for the recap, Seth. Let's dig deeper.
Now before I retort, allow me to list the myriad a ways you can defeat a zone without having 4 perimeter bombers.
1) You can run teams out of a zone. It's probably the least effective way if you're not dedicated to pressing and running, but it's certainly a weapon Texas has at its disposal for at least stretches in games. It's tough to zone a 3 on 2 fast break when Bradley is blurring it up the court, or Damion James is dunking because a slow footed power forward can't run with him.
2) Multiple creators can defeat a zone. If you have 3 solid ballhandlers that can get their own shot or shots for other players, it's almost impossible to keep them out of the lane with a traditional 2-3. It doesn't matter if they can't shoot like Kiki Vandeweghe. There are simply too many gaps to help and recover to vs. 3 great solid ballhandlers if you're playing a traditional 2-3. And Texas will deploy at least 3 ballhandlers/passers/creators at all times and may be 4 if you consider James a decent handler for a 4 man as I do.
Now, why do I infer that Seth is talking 2-3 here? Because Pittman would prison-rape a perimeter minded zone like a 3-2 or 1-3-1. Dex could simply duck in and show his way to 20 points and 10 rebounds in a half of basketball vs. a 3-2 if all he has to do is catch, score, and rebound. Teams will have to make Dex show some pivot skill in the post to defend him, because two much of a load if he's allowed to catch and score.
3) And probably most effective outside of the shooting component is offensive rebounding. There may be 3 or 4 teams in the nation with the athletes 1-5 that can rebound out of their zone vs. this Texas team, without the benefit of blockout responsibilities. Against everyone else, Texas can simply play volleyball on the glass after two or three cycles of slashing and passing to contort and disorganize the zone. More than likely this ball movement leads to a 10 foot shot with a small forward trying keep Damion James or Dex Pittman off the weak glass. Nuh uh.
But the previous 3 items wouldn't be the crux of my retort to Seth if he was sitting here at the bar with me. I'd simply say, you're nuts you wild eyed Duke fellator. Texas has shooters in spades. Brown, Hamilton, Bradley, Lucas, and for a power forward, Damion James are all above average to elite shooters. Even if they don't play for Duke.
Zone if you must. But don't say I didn't warn you.