Kareem said basketball is a lot like jazz – improvisations on a theme. The theme is simple: put the ball in the basket, keep the other team from doing the same; there are two basic approaches to the former, and two to the latter. You can try to score the ball by executing set plays to get a player open looks at the basket – the ‘Half-court Offense’ perfected by Bobby Knight’s undefeated Indiana Hoosiers in ’76. It relies on positioning, screens & ball movement to free-up a shooter or open a lane for a drive & lay-up. There is also the extreme version of the set-offense, developed by one of basketball’s legendary coaches, Pete Carril @ Princeton, and used now by one of his disciples, John Thompson III @ Georgetowm. Known simply as ‘the Princeton offense’, it can be boring has hell if you can’t or won’t appreciate it’s nuances. It consists of running the 35-second shot-clock down by passing the ball around the perimeter until the defense loses an instant of concentration & allows a ‘back-screen’ to open a lane to the basket (good passing skills are a must). I’m one who can appreciate the mechanics, but still be bored to tears watching it. An even worse variation of the half-court offense is used by lesser teams against better teams to ‘shorten the game’, and thus give the superior team fewer chances to score. This one has been used a lot against Syracuse this year, and has been successful in keeping scores low, if not in winning games. Here, the hapless team passes the ball around the perimeter with absolutely no intention of taking a shot until the shot-clock winds down to under 10 seconds – if they happen to miss the shot, and get an offensive rebound (which SU is prone to allow because of the zone defense they employ), said hapless team will force you to sit through another snooze-inducing 25-30 seconds of playing catch before the next shot. …….The other style of offense, the Syracuse-style, is to force the issue – try to run the bastards out of the building! Open-court fast breaks after forcing a turnover & culminating in a rim-rattling, crowd-pleasing windmill jam is very disheartening to the opposing team, each one a dagger in the spleen! (I’m really growing fond of that phrase)….even when there is no turnover & the other team scores, the ball gets in-bounded quickly & pushed hard up-court in an effort to score before the defense can be properly set. It’s an exciting brand of ball & one I’m hoping we can lure Kansas State into today.
On the defensive end, there are really only 2 options – the man-to-man defense, which is used by 99% of teams, and the zone, which SU uses almost exclusively & has turned into an art-form. Teams seeing that 2-3 zone for the 1st time, as happens in the tournament & as will happen to K-St today, are often flummoxed, bamboozled & thrown way out-of-synch….Coach Boeheim looks at a team today that only went 10-8 in it’s own conference, gathers his troops & gives the command: “MAKE IT SO!”