Everything fell apart when Georgia faced the 1-2-2 Zone.
Tom Crean worked on facing zone defenses with the team prior to the game and the team responded poorly. What makes it even more unusual is that Florida used the 1-2-2 Zone, which is a defense that Georgia should actually use more (as opposed to the 2-3 Matchup Zone) and is in their defensive bag of tricks. Georgia should have been ready for the 1-2-2 Zone, but the team’s emphasis on facing 2-3 Zone (and practicing 2-3 Zone) along with Florida’s tendency to play 1-3-1 Zone threw this team for a loop. From the point that the 1-2-2 Zone was used, it turned very ugly for a team that seemingly was in control 19-6, spearheaded by strong half court defense and secondary break opportunities.
To say it was Florida’s 1-2-2 Zone alone would be a lie.
Florida did go back to man-to-man defense after using the 1-2-2 Zone to get back into the game, but they were dealing with a team that was seemingly on tilt. Georgia went back to old habits and showed the country why Hero Ball gets coaches fired. The sequence of events that pushed the balance fully toward Florida featured four straight turnovers, three of which were traveling violations on isos. For all of the talk about moving without the ball, everyone just stands there admiring the atmosphere when an iso is called. Florida knew how to defend the iso because they scouted it very well. They did the following.
- Double-team in the mid-range area.
- Force the dribble action to the off-hand.
- Sag off and dare Edwards or Hammonds to shoot.
Mission Accomplished. Mike White figured out that Tom Crean still thinks Anthony Edwards is a Superhero, he’s not. Edwards has issues with handling the ball when driving with his off-hand from the right wing, all that’s necessary is to defend him tight and build a wall. Edwards does not have a tendency to pass when he dribble penetrates and nobody cuts when he does it from the wing.
Same thing happened to Rayshaun Hammonds. Hammonds would try to use his right hand to attack from the left wing off a weave or on a dribble drive and he faced the same resistance. Toumani Camara would just stand there while the baseline is wide open to cut.
In the case of Hammonds, he has made the pass before. Edwards really does not make this pass and Sahvir Wheeler always looks to make it, but nobody cooperates and thinks it is an opportunity to chuck a three point shot while Wheeler has to make a pass from the baseline. There are not enough weak side or strong side cuts and Hammonds and Edwards are not passing it when they are in an iso.
Edwards’ biggest weakness is his decision making. He takes the tough mid-range jumper or three point shot over making a play that involves his teammates helping him get to the basket. The idea of using Edwards in iso situations in crunch time situations is counter-intuitive for Crean considering his offense preaches cuts and ball movement. There is none in the isos and these isos will go away next season since there is no Superhero #1 Draft Pick.
This falls on Crean, not Edwards. Crean encouraged bad offensive basketball and he lost on Senior Night. The pressure of playing a top draft pick and making the media happy grew too much. Crean did exactly what Mark Fox would have done with Edwards. Mark Fox had Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for two seasons and it was a lot of Hero Ball. When Fox had Yante Maten as SEC Player of the Year, it was a whole lot of Hero Ball. Crean fell into the trap and maybe the best thing for Crean is to not land these sorts of recruits so he does not repeat the same mistakes. Maybe Crean can learn from coaches like Tony Bennett, who has no big stars on his team and the system is what carries the team through. Crean has a sound 5 out offense with solid in-bounds plays from the sideline and baseline, he just betrays it.
The focus from the base will unfortunately be on stupid stuff like timeouts. Tom Crean calling a timeout was not going to fix this, he was openly encouraging this horrible play. If he had a problem with it, this would have been a one-time occasion, but this has happened frequently this season and it always ends badly. It’s like Socialism. In theory, isos with the #1 Draft Pick against an ordinary defender would work fine, but in practice, it results in turnovers, bad shots, and easy points on the other end. However, coaches get sucked into it and so do you!
The 1-2-2 Zone Slowed Things Down and Florida Took Back The Tempo
After a pair of Rayshaun Hammonds missed Free Throws up 19-8, which came after a scoring possession by Florida that came off an Anthony Edwards turnover, the game shifted into Florida’s control. Florida was able to score after the missed Free Throws and then get set in their 1-2-2 Zone. Florida shifted between a matchup and non-matchup look of it. It caused great confusion because the players did not know what defense Florida was in when they went up the floor. The confusion caused a lot of perimeter passes, not much movement, and a lot of deliberation. This game was a very slow paced game because Georgia was slowed down by their own confusion.
It was not as simple as just call a timeout and re-emphasize things as to how to attack the zone. How can you attack something that you cannot decipher? From a viewer’s perspective, it was an obvious 1-2-2 Zone. However, Crean and his team were not clear as to what the defense was until the Second Half, which was disturbing.
How we know that Crean did not know?
Who runs a High Post feed for Anthony Edwards against a 1-2-2 Zone? The passing lane is not there and there is a defensive presence there. Against a 2-3 Zone, the defense up high can be flattened where as the 1-2-2 Zone, the flattening results in a player in the middle resembling a 2-1-2 look, a 3-2 or a player up top playing denial. How this was not clear is hard to know, but the tentativeness and bizarre approach even through media timeouts and stoppages made it clear that they did not know what they were dealing with from Florida’s defense.
What it made even worse was that they tried this twice and the players were going through the motions to set up the High Post iso with absolutely no options for Anthony Edwards. All this against a 1-2-2 Zone, then they did it against man-to-man and it did not work because Edwards was not able to take more than 2 or 3 dribbles.
There were no ball screens against the man up top in the 1-2-2 Zone and there was no movement from players to force defenders one way or another for quite some time. The only real effort was from Sahvir Wheeler and Jordan Harris. Wheeler attacked off the dribble while Harris set a pin-down screen to keep a blocker off Wheeler.
This was a maddening game to watch and it all falls on Crean.
- The approach with Edwards for most of this season was absolutely wrong.
- The zone defense that this team was using was wrong.
- The team was not suited to playing a traditional style of basketball, they did not use their athleticism and length enough to disrupt opponents.
- Betrayal of the Princeton-styled Offense when it was needed most.
- Not utilizing depth well enough during conference play.
- Hero Ball.
This is not what anyone signed up for when it came to hiring Tom Crean. Crean did not do this at Indiana, he did other baffling things, but never resorting to Mark Fox styled offensive tactics. This is a new one and Crean needs to seriously re-think things if he ever gets a highly touted player like Anthony Edwards again. This was Anthony Edwards, Tyree Crump, Donnell Gresham Jr., and Jordan Harris’ last game at Stegeman Coliseum and it was absolutely terrible.
Enjoy Wednesday Night in Nashville, this is the type of performance and approach to the game that gets you there.
Game Score: 1 out of 5 stars