After the graduation of Altron Jackson and B.B. Waldon and their 126 combined steals, South Florida men’s basketball needed to find another way to stop opponents from scoring.
With the absence of shooting guard Jackson and small forward Waldon, the Bulls looked to switch their defensive format.
During the 2001-02 season, USF primarily used a man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone defense.
This season, the Bulls switched to using mostly a 3-2 or 1-2-2 zone defense.
With the absence of athletic bodies and long arms on the wings, USF needed a defense that can contain offenses more than try to convert mistakes into easy scoring opportunities.
“One is a passive zone, one is a more aggressive zone,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “The defense we’re playing now, we don’t create offense out of our defense. We contest, affect and hopefully rebound.”
Earlier in the season, the Bulls were using a man and 1-3-1 defense before Marlyn Bryant, a player whom Greenberg calls the “energizer bunny,” tore his anterior cruciate ligament and was lost for the season during the Jan. 11 matchup against Marquette.
Since that game, USF has been short on long-armed, athletic swingmen.
After the Jan. 14 game against Southern Miss, Greenberg decided to switch to a mostly all 3-2 zone defense.
“I don’t think we have the personnel to play it (1-3-1),” Greenberg said. “We’re not active enough. We don’t rebound the ball as well.”
In the 3-2, the team is required to contain and keep the offense in front of it while challenging shots.
“We’re not trapping. We’re not looking to get steals out of it,” senior guard Reggie Kohn said. “We are looking to make teams consistently make shots against us.”
Teams who are not likely to make more than 50 percent of their shots, are more than likely to miss outside shots with hands in their faces.
“If you look at it around everywhere, whether it is college basketball, high school basketball or NBA, there is not that many good shooters,” Kohn said. “Not many teams are going to step on the court with five guys that are going to knock down shots. (The 3-2) is forcing teams to make shots against us.”
This season, USF has kept opposing offenses to 69.7 points per game and 43 percent shooting from the field.
“The (3-2) zone is a little more packed in and we’re concentrating more on forcing people to take contested shots and banking on that they are not going to make more shots,” Kohn said.
While playing the 1-3-1 defense last season, USF would jump into passing lanes more.
The zone earned 293 steals, and this season, USF has compiled 178 with three games remaining.
“The 1-3-1 is more of a reactionary zone,” Greenberg said. “You’re getting them to react to you. You are trying to get them into the passing lanes, trying to turn people over, get some easy buckets.”
Even though Jackson and Waldon combined for 917 of the Bulls 2,466 points last season, the defensive switch has also led to the reduction in points.
In the 2001-02 season, USF scored 77.1 points per game on 45.7 percent shooting.
This season, the Bulls have scored 69.7 points per game while shooting 43.3 percent.
“The 1-3-1, you have to be very disciplined, and it’s a lot of attention to detail in where you place yourself in that defense,” Kohn said. “It’s more about positioning and where you are and where you put yourself. Yes, it does create turnovers, and it does create turnovers in games for us and leads to easy baskets.”
When it comes time to practice either zone, there are no major difficulties in one or the other. The only difference besides player’s positions is the amount of communication.
“I wouldn’t say either zone is hard to learn,” Kohn said. “In the 3-2 we play now, you have to communicate a lot more and it’s a bigger part of that zone. (To) communicate and talk and know were everybody is at, as opposed to the 1-3-1 where you communicate some, but not as much as you do in the 3-2.”
While Kohn played in both the 1-3-1 and the 3-2 defenses, he is partial to this year’s version of the Bulls’ zone.
“I like playing the 3-2 … this year,” he said. “I like the way we match up and how we are doing. As (for) choosing one over the other, it really doesn’t matter to me as long as we get stops.”
The Bulls (13-11) will put their 3-2 defense on the court again Saturday, when they travel to Southern Miss ( 11-14) Saturday.