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Why John Calipari has been Forced to Play Zone

This year John Calipari is doing something he’s only done on the rarest of occasions: play zone.

Fans asked for years why Coach Cal would not at least try a little zone here and there to give opponents a different look.  Many times Kentucky’s length could have suffocated opponents with a zone, yet Calipari refused to relent.  That all changed this year.

“This year for us, we’re just so young,” Calipari said on the SEC teleconference. “The way you have to trust each other [in man-to-man]; the way you have to talk; the mental toughness you have to have to sustain a full possession.  To really be that guy, that team, you have to be a great rebounding team, which means you gotta play people before the ball hits the rim.”

He added, “Young kids don’t have that discipline, that toughness yet.”

Calipari has been forced to deviate from his philosophy to cater to his players.  Few coaches would do it, but Calipari is willing…for now.  It’s his job to push them to play like they are no longer freshmen.

“Now you’ll see veteran teams out there, the best teams in college basketball right now are veteran teams, and they do have that discipline. They do have that toughness. They do know how to finish.  They do know how to sustain.

“I think part of it is looking at young teams, it’s just harder when you got young teams.  But it’s doable, because we’ve done it before, it’s just when does it catch?  When do they grasp it and understand?”

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Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

9 Comments for Why John Calipari has been Forced to Play Zone



  1. rockatao
    5:22 pm January 25, 2018 Permalink

    Would he please play a zone on under-the-basket out-of-bounds plays? We must give up 2-3 baskets a game on those plays. There’s a reason that darn near every college basketball team plays zone in that situation. Except against UK of course. We never run an in-bounds play designed to get a shot.



    • Cmart0907
      7:02 pm January 25, 2018 Permalink

      That’s because Cal don’t know how too. All he does is yell and tell the kids to drive. That’s why it’s so many turnovers. We will have 20+ turnovers against West Virginia.



    • BBNDan7
      9:49 pm January 25, 2018 Permalink

      At least he knows how to speak properly…



  2. TonyMontana
    6:14 pm January 25, 2018 Permalink

    It’s time to implement a tweak.



  3. Luether
    6:14 pm January 25, 2018 Permalink

    Sorry Nicky boy, but I’ve got to call BS on your post. Cal has ALWAYS had young teams.

    He’s playing zone now because it’s FINALLY dawned on him that he’s lost a lot of games stubbornly sticking to a man to man D. This is NOT complicated…



    • bdmnky81
      3:17 am January 26, 2018 Permalink

      Stick to one-liners. That was you just look goofy instead of idiotic.



    • Ez21
      4:53 am January 26, 2018 Permalink

      No he isn’t he’s playing zone bc he has no older players and these young guys cannot move their feet. Lookin at Knox & Quade especially. I’m sure he was just daydreaming 1 day and thought well I think I will play more zone bc I’ve lost a lot of games. Bs good coaches adjust to what their teams do best. Not make their teams adjust to their style of coaching.



  4. kjd
    8:21 am January 26, 2018 Permalink

    Cal will always be a man-to-man guy even with young teams. This year is different. He doesn’t have players with the ability to play man-to-man at this level.



  5. AJBlue
    9:46 am January 26, 2018 Permalink

    People including Cal need to quit thinking of a zone as a passive defense. It’s only that way if you play it that way. But if you extend it, and match up out of it and trap out of it like this team IS MADE TO DO, it can be more disruptive than man to man but without the chasing, breaking down off the dribble and fouling. Use the zone to your advantage Cal, turn these guys loose to pressure and create turnovers out of it.