By Parrish Alford
The plan is simple. The execution may be another matter.
Andy Kennedy gained quick familiarity with long-time Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and his 2-3 zone when Kennedy was the interim coach at Cincinnati in 2006.
The Bearcats went 0-3 against Syracuse that season, losing 77-58 at home, 82-65 away and 74-73 in the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden.
Cincinnati reached the NIT quarterfinals, finished 21-13, and Kennedy was hired at Ole Miss.
This morning, he gets a rematch.
The Rebels (21-13) and Orange (19-14) play in an NIT second-round game in the Syracuse Carrier Dome at 10 a.m. If Ole Miss wins it will host a quarterfinal game against either Georgia Tech or Belmont with a trip to New York for the semifinals on the line.
“That was the old Big East. I was a first-year coach, had never called timeout, and the next thing I knew I was going head-up against Jim Boeheim.
Boeheim, 72, has coached Syracuse since the 1976-77 season and has a career record of 901-353.
This season’s Orange team finished tied for seventh (10-8) in the ACC.
Get in the zone
Success for Syracuse through the years has often been tied to its perplexing 2-3 zone. That’s still the base defense for the Orange, who are giving up 70.6 points a game, eighth among ACC teams. They are averaging 76.2 points and have a minus-1.0 rebound margin.
“The way they shift is unique to the way he runs it, and they have length and athleticism across the board,” Kennedy said.
Syracuse opponents are shooting 42.8 percent.
The zone could neutralize Ole Miss center Sebastian Saiz. The only player in the SEC averaging a double-double, Saiz had 23 points and 11 rebounds in the Rebels’ first-round NIT win at Monmouth on Tuesday.
It was Deandre Burnett who had the hot hand from the perimeter, hitting four 3-point shots in the second half and finishing with 17 points.
“Their zone forces you to make shots, and when we do that we’re a pretty good team,” Kennedy said.