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To Zone or Not to Zone?

With the exception of last Saturday's game against Duke, the Terrapins' 3-2 zone defense has treated them quite well this season. So well, in fact, that Coach Gary Williams has said he's used it more this season than in any other during his head coaching career.

But while preparing to face California -- the top three-point shooting team in the country, statistically speaking -- Maryland has faced an intriguing question: Is running a zone defensive scheme worth the risk?

California swingman Theo Robertson said yesterday that teams have tried to shut them down with a zone before, and those teams haven't had a whole lot of success.

"We’ve been fairly successful with the zone," Robertson said, "just being able to spread the floor with a lot of different shooters around the perimeter."

One team that was effective in slowing California's three-point shooting barrage was Oregon State. The Beavers beat California twice this season utilizing a 1-3-1 zone. On Jan. 21, Oregon State beat California, 65-54, and held the Golden Bears to 15 percent shooting (3 of 20) from three-point range.

The 1-3-1 differs from the 3-2, but several players said that would deter the Terrapins from implementing their zone look against the Golden Bears.

"We still probably will mix up a little bit of zone," Eric Hayes said. "Coach watched some film and they lost a couple games where the team played all zone. When other teams zone, they weren’t making the threes as much and that’s a big part of their offense. That was just one of those games where they weren’t hitting and the zone was working. It just depends on how well they’re shooting the ball and the flow of the game."

Cliff Tucker summation was more concise.

"We’ve got to shut those guys down, know who their shooters are and get a hand up," Tucker said. "That’s really all we can do."

By Steve Yanda  |  March 19, 2009; 10:29 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Three Questions on Terps-Bears


One final comment about the Gary Williams critics and then I'm off.

I remember back when there was a small but vocal segment of the MD fan base that demanded Gary Williams be fired in the late 90s and early 2000s. The week of Feb. 14, 2001, immediately after Md had lost to FSU at home on Valentines Day, to cap a string of 5 losses in 6 games, some fans booed Gary as he left the court. There were letters in the Diamondback calling for Debbie Yow to fire him and find someone else who could finally get MD past the sweet 16 (Gary had gotten MD there 4 times at that point but never past the 3rd round). Gary could not get it done, they argued. We needed to find someone else who could, they screamed.

A month or so later MD capped a run of 11 wins in 12 games, including a win in Durham on Shane Battier's senior night, by beating Stanford in the Elite 8 and suddenly found itself in the Final Four. Within a year, they were national champs, with not a single high school All American on the roster. Juan Dixon coined the phrase "We're the Burger King All Americans."

A few years later, here we are again with a small but very vocal group of individuals claiming to Maryland fans who throughout this season have trashed Gary Williams, with some demanding he be fired while others simply hoped he would resign. After ever loss they showed up on the blogs and taunted the FOGs (fans of gary), mocked his accomplishments, railed at the state of the program, and were basically flabbergasted by everything the man did.

And yet here we are again, in the NCAA tournament after they said it wouldn't--no, couldn't--be done. And if we lose to California today, you better believe they will be out in full force showing their dissatisfaction with Gary, mocking the NCAA tournament appearance altogether and again trashing the program he has built.

All I have to say to these Gary haters who claim to be Maryland fans is this: Thank God Debbie Yow and the powers that be did not listen to you when you wanted Gary Williams fired on Feb. 14 2001. Thank God. 2 Final Fours and a national title later, it's a reassuring to know that the powers that be had more sense, and still do, than to listen to a bunch of know-nothing fools. Gary will leave on his own terms when he decides, and that's the way it should be. Deal with it.

Go Terps.

Posted by: Barno1 | March 19, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

The thing that amazes me is how when Maryland loses, it's off with his head, and when Maryland wins, it's as if he's SuperCoach.

Far as I can see, he's neither.

Would it be fair to say that Gary has done a lot for Maryland basketball, and also that Maryland basketball has done quite a bit for Gary Williams?

If the Terps lose in the tournament, it ain't the end of the world, and it doesn't mean Gary is any less of a coach.

If they win, it doesn't represent vindication for his coaching or recruiting methods, in perpetuity.

It's just a bit of fun for all of us.

Posted by: Samson151 | March 19, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Whether Casey strikes out or not it's still just a game. Zealous followers of the Terps are loathe to appreciate there is more than one point of view.

Posted by: KraftPaper | March 19, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, that was RYAN RANDLE who said the team was comprised of BURGER KING All-Americans, not Juan Dixon...get yer facts together straight!!!

Posted by: iamasofaking | March 19, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse


Great Post.

Posted by: Section505203 | March 19, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

On the other side, I was curious about those graduation rates that became such a contretemps a few years back. You recall Maryland basketball looked awful until you learned that most players who left school early went on to play pro ball (plenty incentive).

So I wondered how the last few years' crop has done. Anybody happen to know? I know, I'm weird, I care about stuff like this...

Posted by: Samson151 | March 19, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I know Gist and Boom are putting up solid numbers and making a good amount of coin overseas. Think they both finished up their classes last summer as well but I coudl be wrong...

Posted by: Lee26 | March 19, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Great post Barno! I'll try to add a little.

Maryland fans need to remember their history--when Gary got here, we couldn't play on TV, couldn't get into the ACC tournament, the program was a mess. He didn't just restore the program, he rescued the program. His teams haven't just won a little, they've won a lot.

He's the most successful coach in the program's history. He fields a competitive team every year. There's no scandal. Sit back and enjoy.

Go Terps!

Posted by: PeteinAZ | March 19, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

You're right, it was Randle. Good call.

Posted by: Barno1 | March 19, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Barno, keeping it real. Here's a post on the Sun to add to the understanding...

Gary got caught off guard when Gus Gilchrist defected...and he should be commended on overachieving without him. Oddly enough, the #12 center coming out of high school two years ago was Braxton Dupree. Tough to have a crystal ball re: player development, I guess. Other observations...probably would have liked to have had Shane Walker this year, too given Burney's injuries and our lack of wingspan in the paint. Overall, I'm pleased with the surprises this year...this team probably would have beaten last year's version. And one last thought...if Travis Garrison had turned out to be a reliable "banger" and inside scorer instead of such a softy, I bet nobody would be saying things have slipped since the championship.
Bound to be a couple of busts among all our diamonds-in-the-rough.

Posted by: matt j | March 19, 2009 12:40 AM

Posted by: Realness1 | March 19, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Barno serving up the koolaid for the rest of his followers to slurp up.

Drink up my pretties, little do you know you're getting closer to the poisoned cup.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | March 19, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Who's fault is it, realness, that certain recruits don't do jack? I'd say that rests on GW and his staff for either not recruiting actual studs or on his staff for developing those "softies" into toughies.

Oh yeah!

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | March 19, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

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