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Friday, April 4, 2003
Attention on Anthony, slowing down Ford

By Fran Fraschilla
Special to

Editor's Note: Fran Fraschilla spent 23 years on the sidelines as a college basketball coach before joining ESPN this season as an broadcast analyst. He guided both Manhattan (1993, 1995) and St. John's (1998) to the NCAA Tournament in his nine seasons as a Division I head coach, leaving New Mexico following the end of the 2001-02 season.

On the eve of the NCAA Tournament national semifinal game between Syracuse and Texas, he breaks down the keys to each team's offense and defense.

When Syracuse has the ball
Syracuse on offense
Texas will play mostly man-to-man defense, so this semifinal could come down to Syracuse exploiting matchups. And that starts with any team's matchup "nightmare" -- freshman sensation Carmelo Anthony. Welcome to Royal Ivey's nightmare.

Carmelo Anthony
Look for Carmelo Anthony to post up down low for Syracuse.

At 6-foot-8, 220 pounds, Anthony will try to post up the Longhorns 6-4 wing, who'll likely draw the early assignment to guard Anthony. Remember, Anthony averages 10 rebounds a game and gets to the foul line an average of seven times. But Ivey won't be alone all night. Look for Texas to double team Anthony.

Anthony, however, is a good enough passer to exploit the "4 on 3" situation it will create for the 'Cuse. And, on the perimeter, he is big enough to elevate over smaller defenders and get his shot off. The only "big" defender who could possibly guard Anthony is James Thomas, and Anthony will quickly take James outside his comfort zone as a defender by drifting outside the paint to shoot the jumper, or drive by him to the basket.

As good as Anthony is, Syracuse isn't a one-man team. The next guy I'd expect Jim Boeheim to try to establish as a factor on the offensive end is Hakim Warrick, who is one of the most improved players in the country. He has the quickness around the basket to create foul trouble for the 'Horns and eliminate some of their depth inside. In addition, his quickness will help him as a relentless offensive rebounder.

Benifiting the most from Texas' strong emphasis on the Syracuse inside game would be Gerry McNamara and Kueth Duany. Both can shoot the long-range jumper. The more effective Syracuse is at establishing an inside game, the more likely Texas must help inside. This will open up McNamara's game not only from behind the 3-point arc, but also his ability to can put it on the floor and create shots for other Orangemen.

Fiinally, if the Orangemen can rebound defensively against a very good rebounding Texas team, it will open up fast-break opportunities. If Syracuse can get out and run, it should be able to reach its average of almost 80 points a game.

Texas on defense
Guarding Syracuse means guarding, maybe, the most versitile offense player in the country in Anthony. He can take over a game both inside and out. The key, therefore, is to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible. Texas must deny him easy passes and double-team him whenever possible. The Longhorns must also keep pressure on freshmen point guards McNamara and Billy Edelin when they try to the ball to Anthony.

Royal Ivey
Royal Ivey will have his work cut out for him guarding Carmelo Anthony.

With Ivey assigned to Anthony, it'll come as no surprise when Syracuse works to post up Anthony early in the game. It's up to the other Longhorns guarding the "other" big men Craig Forth or Duany to double down on Anthony to give Ivey help. It's a dangerous double, however, because Anthony is unselfish and will pass the ball, forcing Texas to rotate back to their men quickly.

On the the perimeter, I would not let Anthony "catch-and-shoot" it. He is an excellent shooter when he is in a rhythm and has a terrific "pull-up game" in the 15-foot range. When he does put it on the floor, Texas must make him go to the baseline and "fill in" with plenty of help on the drive to cover the basket area.

Containing Anthony is the primary goal, but the defense doesn't stop with guarding one guy. Texas can't give McNamara too many open looks at the basket. He is an excellent shooter who can also create reasonably well off the dribble. He is the one guy I wouldn't leave to help off on any drives.

Warrick is as good an offensive rebounder as there is in college basketball, so he must be blocked out on every shot. It's not necessary to double him in the post early in the game, but I would be very aware of his ability to score down low. Warrick has very quick moves and likes to spin off the defender to the basket. If he starts to hurt Texas, however, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few late double-teams like those Texas used early against Anthony in the post.

But, it all comes back to Anthony. He is still the key to the Orange offense because he is big enough to post up the 'Horns wing players and too quick for their inside players. It's up to Texas to force someone else to beat them, but at the same time understanding Syracuse isn't a one-dimensional team.

When Texas has the ball
Texas on offense
As someone who has had to attack the Orangemen's 2-3 zone, trust this: it is a daunting task. Texas, however, has a player who could make the task a little easier -- Ford.

T.J. Ford
T.J. Ford will need to drive and keep the ball moving against Syracuse's 2-3 zone.

The easiest way to score against a zone is to beat it down court. Using Ford's ability in the open court to get easy baskets before Syracuse can get back to its zone will be crucial to the Longhorns' success. Texas will also count on Ford's quickness to attack the top of the zone with dribble penetration, forcing Duany and McNamara to contain him. This will create, with quick ball movement, a "4-on-3" advantage, temporarily, to get some open looks for Mouton, Ivey, and Harris.

Texas must also set screens at the top of the zone to create confusion as to who will be responsible for Ford. This gives him a different way to penetrate into the lane from the top. Also, I would look for Ford to get the ball to Thomas and Buckman in the middle of the zone on "flash cuts" from behind the zone, where they can catch it, draw defenders, and kick it back out to the 'Horns shooters. Keep in mind, Auburn put an athletic Marquis Daniels in the middle to catch and ctreate, and it nearly got the Tigers past the 'Cuse in the Sweet 16.

The Longhorns will also use the "short corners" behind the zone, along the baseline, as a place to score or to look to pass to the opposite wing to "stretch the zone." This must be quickly, because Syracuse will trap this area of the zone. But, Texas has the luxury of popping out the 6-9 Boddicker, an outstanding shooter, to create four perimeter players vs. the zone. Because he is such a threat, the zone must expand to cover everyone and this will open up more penetrating opportunities for Ford.

No matter how it attacks the zone, Texsas must take care of ther ball, be crisp with its passing, and make the zone move side to side. The ball always moves faster via the pass than the defender can move. Good offensive rebounding is usually effective vs. a zone because the responsibility for blocking out isn't as defined as it is in man-to-man defense. But, while Texas is a relentless offensive rebounding team, the 'Cuse is accustomed to blocking out well in this defense.

Finally, as simple as it sounds, the 'Horns must take good, open shots and -- this is "genius stuff" -- make them! Syracuse holds teams to 30 percent from the 3-point arc because the zone forces teams into hurried, contested shots.

Syracuse on defense
The biggest coaching question at this year's Final Four is: How will Texas solve Syracuse's 2-3 zone?

Kueth Duany
Kueth Duany will need to score and defend for Syracuse.

Because the Orangemen play the 2-3 zone all season as their "base" defense, they are very, very good at it. It also helps that Jim Boeheim has a group of big, rangy guards and mobile forwards, who cover a lot of space in the half-court defense. But, the biggest concern for Syracuse is to, first, get back in transition to set up its zone up against T.J. Ford, possibly the country's quickest point guard.

Texas' ability to get down the court before the 2-3 zone is set is crucial because teams that push the ball quicker that the Orange can get back on defense don't need a zone offense if they are consistently scoring quick transition baskets.

For this reason, Ford presents a major problem for the zone -- in transition and in the half court. Ford can get into the heart of any defense and break it down with his extraordinary ball-handling ability. Syracuse will commit to keeping him out of the lane with McNamara and Duany. This commitment to stopping Ford puts pressure on the 'Cuse forwards, who must get out to the Texas shooters and contest shots so that Ivey, Brandon Mouton and Sydmill Harris don't get open looks.

Syracuse will also have to contend with a weapon they normally don't see from an opponent's big men -- Brian Boddicker's ability to shoot the 3-point shot. So, awareness of where he is will be crucial.

Finally, rebounding out of its zone will be important because the Longhorns average 16 offensive rebounds a game and turn many of those into scoring opportunities for James Thomas, Brad Buckman, and Jason Klotz.

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