Bardo's Mailbag: Zone, March surprises & more

It’s time to dig into my Mailbag. This week, Big Ten fans are curious about zone defenses, particularly Syracuse’s version, possible March surprises and consistency. Check out all my answers to your questions in this post. Oh, and feel free to use the form at the bottom of the post to send me your questions.

[ MORE: Check out my latest Big Ten Power Rankings ]

What Big Ten basketball team could be a surprise come March madness. – W D Smith

Hard to say who would be a surprise since it’s still early.  Whichever team in the Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, and Penn State mix emerges would be a good candidate.

No Bacari Alexander on the (top assistants) list??? Come on now. – Tom Francen

I think Bacari does an excellent job. I wanted to highlight assistant coaches that many people don’t know about or haven’t heard before. Bacari has done an excellent job of establishing a niche, which most assistants don’t do. He could easily be on this list.

I am an IU grad and fan. Really like your commentary during games. Like how you disagreed with some other analyst who said that last year was the strongest year for the Big Ten. You said, no, the late 80s and early 90s had stronger teams. Definitely agree. Really think IU will start to gel. Think teams who play zone (Syracuse) are sort of like cheating. It is like they are afraid to man up, check someone, one on one. Could you imagine going down to your local park for a pick-up game and someone saying, “Hey, we’re going to play zone.”  Ha! – Delbert Blanton

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to appreciate the use of the zone defense. Especially the zone that Syracuse and Louisville uses. They have man-to-man principles in them. It’s a defense most teams don’t see that often, so it’s an unusual approach for most teams to execute. Minnesota will use it similar to the way Louisville does.

I think you are the best former basketball player commentator and sports writer.
You do the University the my wife and I graduated from proud. Consistency; I am not a former basketball player, so I do not understand but want to. I just saw the box score and read the recap for the Illini vs Auburn and Tracy Abrams had a super game. I saw the game he played at Georgia Tech, and it was very, very bad. How does that happen? It has to be more than variable effort? – Greg Urbanski

Greg, thank you for those words.  The best years of my life were spent wearing the jersey at U of I.

Consistency is a hard concept for most 18-22 year olds to understand. Most players don’t understand why a coach can go crazy on a simple play not done right in practice. Coaches are constantly trying to get their players to block out all of the distractions and focus on the task at hand.

Also, I think different teams pose different problems, depending on the matchup. Georgia Tech may have keyed on Tracy and tried to take his offensive game away. Auburn may have focused elsewhere to gain an advantage. Just depends on what opposing teams are trying to limit.

Creighton is a scary team. If they like Nebraska can find consistency, they will end up in the top 5. NU has some horse power this season. Trouble is that some of it is on the bench.  The big men need to spend more effective time in the weight room. If they don’t get it in gear and put on some weight NU will only qualify for an NIT bid. If they do put on some muscle, NU could compete for the upper half of the B1G. Problem is that the window to get that done is closing fast. I spent a few years as a thin guy and in order to put on weight, they have to cut down some on the running to allow the muscles to put on the pounds. That seems unfair to the other guys, but if you want your 7’1″ guy ready, he needs to work out in the weight room in an old school way. (wieder training principles). Modern tech does not put muscle on a big thin man quickly. Running just burns off the muscle you are trying to build. Run and stretch out to a minimum to keep new muscle flexible and usable. The clock is ticking. – Richard

Richard, I think Nebraska can be improved, but they have to play better when they have opportunities like they did last game at Creighton. That was a great game for them to show the nation they have improved. Can’t spot an offensive juggernaut like Creighton a 14-1 start.

About Stephen Bardo
The BTN basketball analyst and former Flyin’ Illini star is a regular contributor to Follow Bardo on Twitter @stephenbardo, read his past posts right here, and use the form below to submit your questions to his Big Ten basketball mailbag.

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