January 6, 2014

UNC not preparing early for Syracuse zone defense

Tar Heels coach Roy Williams doesn’t want his players looking ahead.

Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense is one of the most feared and respected defenses in college basketball. North Carolina will face it on Saturday when the Tar Heels travel to Syracuse for a game at the Carrier Dome, yet UNC isn’t looking ahead.

No, that would be a bad idea, UNC coach Roy Williams said on Monday. The Tar Heels on Wednesday night at the Smith Center host Miami, which doesn’t much resemble the Miami team that won the ACC tournament about 10 months ago in Greensboro.

I asked Williams earlier today how he balances a week like this – one with a game in the middle of the week, and another game on the weekend against an opponent that does something different. Williams’ answer? There is no balance. All the focus is on the first game.

“We don’t have the option of trying to work on somebody who is not our next game,” Williams said. “We’ve had that in the past with some our teams. We were getting ready to play somebody, and we would throw in something that we were not going to have to have in our next game but two games later we were going to have and we may not have had enough practice time. We don’t have that luxury right now.”

Williams said last week, too, that UNC hadn’t done any advance work preparing for the Syracuse zone. The Tar Heels will see it on Saturday, but Syracuse doesn’t make a return trip to Chapel Hill.

“If one of our guys is thinking for one freakin’ second about Syracuse, then I’ll say you’re the dumbest guy that’s ever lived,” Williams said. “Because we haven’t beaten the team that we’re playing Wednesday night yet.”

Come to think of it, though, Williams said maybe it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to start prepping for Syracuse. Couldn’t have hurt any, he said, given how the Tar Heels played on Sunday night during their 73-67 loss at Wake Forest.

“Looking back on it, yeah, I should have worked on Syracuse zone the whole time since what we worked on for Wake Forest didn’t work worth a darn,” Williams said.

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