Busting Brackets

Coach’s Clipboard: Virginia Cavaliers Zone Lob


Coach’s Clipboard, Vol. 4: The Virginia Cavaliers sit atop the ACC standings due in large part to the masterful work of head coach Tony Bennett. Here we take a look at a go-to play Virginia uses when they face a 2-3 zone defense.

Myths abound when it comes to the Virginia Cavaliers (20-1, 8-1 ACC). Yes, they play at a slow pace (350th in adjusted tempo), but one of the myths that needs to be dispensed with is the one that states Virginia wins solely because of its defense.

Virginia is fifth in the country in offensive efficiency and that is due to their shot selection and their ability to execute Tony Bennett’s Mover-Blocker offense against man-to-man defense.

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Increasingly, Virginia’s opponents are playing zone defense rather than dealing with the constant screening and motion of the Cavs’ offense. In recent ACC play Virginia Tech used this strategy and built a 43-33 lead before Justin Anderson ignited a comeback.

The comeback was jolted by an electrifying alley-oop dunk by Anderson that tied the game 45-45 and the Cavaliers closed out the victory.

But one thing that is true about Virginia is that alley-oops are not an accident. They are scripted and rehearsed. Needing a bucket, Bennett set up this lob play for Anderson during a time out with the Cavaliers trailing by two with under four minutes remaining.

There are some great zone concepts here such as cutting through the zone, overloading a side and screening the zone.

(Diagram courtesy of John Zall @John_Zall Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Franklin Pierce University)

Virginia executed flawlessly in crunch time and Anderson’s dunk, designed by Bennett, sparked the run that finished the Hokies.

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  • The win over Virginia Tech set up an epic ACC showdown with Duke. Much was made of Mike Krzyzewski’s decision to use a 2-3 zone in a critical win over Louisville.

    Coach K and the Blue Devils are using zone this year more than ever before and they unveiled this strategy against the Cards to snap a two-game losing streak.

    Needing to close out the win over Duke, Bennett called Anderson’s number again with the Wahoos clinging to a three point lead (61-58) with under three minutes to play.

    London Perrantes delivered the lob from the same set and Anderson hammered it home. Anderson’s teammates do a great job sealing the zone with screens allowing him to finish emphatically.

    The dunk was not enough to hold off Duke as they closed on an 11-0 run and grabbed a 69-63 victory to keep pace in the ACC race.

    But plays like this are enough to disprove the narrative that Virginia lacks athleticism. It has been proven over and over again that Virginia can stay poised and execute when it is need the most.

    Their Pack Line defense is the trademark, but Bennett’s offensive adjustments and his team’s ability to execute on that end will help them in a march towards the Final Four just as much.

    Next: 2015 NBA Draft Profile: Jerian Grant

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