John Calipari prides himself on strong defensive teams, but as this group has struggled this season, he’s been forced to do something he hates: play a zone. Kentucky’s used the 2-3 zone a lot in the past few games, and because Calipari is not a fan of it, he put Tony Barbee in charge of teaching it. Today, Barbee said that using zone has worked; over the past two games, on the 30 possessions Kentucky has played zone, they’ve gotten stops 21 times, a pretty impressive mark.
“When you grade the tapes, the last two games we’ve played, of the 30 possessions we played it, we got stops 21 of the 30 times. I think we would take that percentage any day of the week and of the nine times they scored, the majority of the times they scored, it was a breakdown on our end, not so much effective zone offense either way, although you have to give guys credit for making those shots.”
Cal may not like it, but Barbee says that this team actually has the makings of a great zone team.
“It’s a good change of pace. The one thing, we have the attributes to be a fantastic zone team. We’re long, we’re athletic, we cover a lot of ground. It’s a work in progress, like our man defense, like our man offense is a work in progress. The one thing about the zone right now, we’ve been effective in it. When we watch on tape the times the teams have scored on the zone, it’s usually somewhere we broke down, and they slide, or a communication that we possibly could have contested that shot, but it’s a great change of pace for us if teams get it going against our man [to man defense].”
When asked how he — a former Calipari pupil — became such a fan of the zone, Barbee diplomatically said that it’s not that Cal dislikes the zone, he just prefers the accountability of man-to-man.
“He’s not averse to zones. He just likes to say that. He likes the accountability of man-to-man,” Barbee added. “It’s something that we’ll use from time to time, but we’re a man-to-man team, and he’s a man-to-man coach, and that’s what his identity has always been for a long time and he’s had a lot of success with it.”
Right now, the only success Kentucky’s having on defense is with the zone, so let’s stick to it. (Sorry, Cal.)