It’s not Texas coach Rick Barnes’ defense of choice, but he will use it when necessary.
At Baylor, coach Scott Drew uses it exclusively.
In Kansas, coach Bill Self had to be convinced to use it.
Not much convincing was required for coaches across the Big 12 Conference to admit that zone defenses are more widely used than in seasons past.
“This is the first year in a long time where I’ve seen this much zone being played by teams that traditionally play mostly man-to-man,” Colorado coach Ricardo Patton said Monday in the league’s teleconference call.
“A lot of teams have guys who are pretty good offensive players but really struggle defensively. Then guys are struggling shooting the basketball. There are only a handful of guys out there who are really, really stroking the ball out there.”
Iowa State coach Wayne Morgan, like Patton, has noticed the trend.
“I am actually shocked. It seems like everybody is playing a 2-3 zone,” Morgan said. “Guys are playing a 2-3 zone who before never played anything but man.”
Texas is one of those teams, but a rash of injuries has left Barnes without many other options.
Kansas, also a man-to-man team, has used a zone sporadically this season, most notably on Jan. 31 against Missouri when Self’s assistant coaches talked him using it in the second half. The move turned an eight point halftime deficit into a 73-61 win.
“One reason people do it is because of health,” Self said. “And some teams, including us, just don’t attack the zone very well. We have a tendency to stand around. And sometimes when zones go up as a change of rhythm in a game, teams don’t attack it as well for two or three possessions, and then teams think, ‘This is a great zone,’ and it gets mental. It’s happened to us this year.”
Morgan said Bobby Knight and Texas Tech is one of the few teams to play strictly man-to-man, while Baylor is on the other end of the spectrum.
Drew said the Bears’ lack of depth, with only six scholarship players, and their lack of strength contributes to the team using a zone.
“That’s the great thing about us all year long we’ve only had one tactic and that’s a zone,” Drew said. “So we don’t have anything special for (Missouri on Wednesday). We’ll just stay with what we normally do.”
CROWDED: Wherever Billy Gillispie goes, excitement for basketball follows.
Last year as coach at UTEP, Gillispie witnessed the largest attendance increase from the previous season in Division I basketball.
Now at Texas A&M, Gillispie has sown similar seeds.
On Saturday, a school-record 13,016 fans were attendance for the Aggies’ 66-59 loss to No. 10 Oklahoma State at Reed Arena. The record eclipsed the previous mark of 12,811 set Jan. 12 against Texas.
“I’ve been at Illinois and different places as an assistant coach and I’ve never heard it louder than it was in there on Saturday,” Gillespie said.
IOWA STATE-MENT: After Iowa State started league play 0-5, a spot in the NCAA tournament and a top-five finish in the Big 12 seemed impossible.
Neither are out of reach after the Cyclones recent five-game
winning streak, which included wins against nationally-ranked Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech.
With the win against the Red Raiders, Iowa State is 4-2 against top 25 teams.
Defense has instigated the turnaround.
“The main thing we’ve figured out is that if we get after our defense we have a chance to stop people,” Morgan said.
The Cyclones have averaged 11 steals in conference play and three of their players are in the conference’s top six in that category.
Against the Red Raiders, Iowa State had 13 steals and forced 18 turnovers.
MOVING FORWARD: It has taken a couple games, but Texas is starting to adjust to life without LaMarcus Aldridge and P.J. Tucker.
Aldridge, a freshman forward, suffered a season-ending left hip injury Jan. 15. Tucker, a sophomore forward, was declared academically ineligible Jan. 20 and will miss the rest of the season.
In their absence, junior forward Brad Buckman has assumed a larger role and has flourished.
Buckman averaged 22 points and 15.5 rebounds in Texas’ past two games, hitting 60 percent of his field goals and 80 percent of his free throws. He was named Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday.
“We’ve always felt like he was a double-double type of player and over the last couple of games he’s been able to do that,” Barnes said. “If he fades now,we’re in big trouble. We need him night in and night out.”