The Griner Zone | The Boneyard

The Griner Zone

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Two years ago (and some last year), we saw UConn employ a zone that I wanted to spend some time talking about, because we might see it again tomorrow night.

In a normal 2-3 zone, the forwards and center are responsible for the entire baseline, with the guards responsible for some of the high post, but mostly the perimeter near the top of the key. When the ball is in the corner, the forward guards the ball handler in the corner, the center rotates to the near post (probably behind the center who's posting up), and the weak-side forward takes the far post. The near-side guard takes the nearest open perimeter player and the weak-side guard rotates down to the foul line.

The problem with guarding Griner in the post is that she's too damn tall. If you let her bury her in the low-post, she can get the ball and shoot over even Dolson at will. Face-guarding leaves you exposed to a lob (we had this problem in spades against Sylvia Fowles the year they destroyed us in the Sweet Sixteen). Last year, Walker did a fantastic job (despite a strong height disadvantage) of physically forcing Griner out of the post, but I don't think we have anyone who can do that this year. What we may see is the strategy successfully employed against Baylor in the Final Four two years ago.

It is similar to a 2-3 zone, except for when the ball is in the corner (the only place to easily feed the low-post), with Griner on the same side. In this case, the near-side guard assumes the responsibility for the ball handler in the corner, with the weak-side guard rotating over to the nearest perimeter offensive player. Instead of guarding the corner, the near-side forward face guards Griner, while Dolson prevents the lob. The remaining forward maintains their responsibility for the weak-side post, with an eye on the center. Hopefully, the ball denial on Griner forces someone else to make shots.

The main weakness of this strategy is that it leaves the team even more open to perimeter shooting. It leaves our guards responsible for a full two thirds of the perimeter, and leaves the weak-side forward with a lot of responsibility. Two years ago, Baylor did not have the shooters available to take advantage of this and they still don't, except for Sims, who could have a field day against this zone. The mitigating factors here are that we have fairly athletic guards who may be up to the extra responsibility, and the wings (Hayes and Faris in the starting line-up) are all quick enough to provide weak-side help in the center, but still tall enough and athletic enough to harass Griner. Sims, while talented, has the capacity to be a volume shooter and can't beat us by herself and, outside of her, Baylor doesn't have the shooters to exploit the zone.

I wouldn't be surprised to see UConn adopt this strategy at the start and see how effective Baylor is in exploiting it.
 

Tonyc

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There are alot of fans worried about this game. 2 things must happen. We must put the ball in the basket with some regularity and we must play suffacating defense. Baylor has not seen defense like UConn has played and Griner cannot beat us by herself.
 

Kibitzer

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Who am I to dispute a strategy that calls for putting the ball in the basket often and playing suffocating defense. That is a winning concept. All that remains is sustained execution for 40 minutes. And everybody stay healthly.
 
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