Louisville basketball: One player that will break the Syracuse zone

Malik Williams #5 and David Johnson #13 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Malik Williams #5 and David Johnson #13 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Louisville basketball meets once again for a unique challenge against an almost forgotten defense in college basketball

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has patented the 2-3 zone defense to become a trademark of Orange basketball for the past 45 years. As much as it works for him, he refuses to ever waver from it. It’s a defense predicated on team play to put three players spread across the front court and two players at each “elbow” on the floor.

One way that Louisville might be looking to defeat this type of defense is by running what is called the 1-3-1 setup that positions three players across the perimeter with one player planted at the free throw line and one player (realistically the center) in the paint.

The player at the free throw line is massively important in this type of offense as they sit in a gap in the zone.

Who is one player that can break the Syracuse zone?

The likely candidate is Samuell Williamson. Why? Well, that’s pretty simple.

Williamson is Louisville’s best mid-range shooter. He’s a natural in this area of the court and he fits the criteria as the “4” on the court that would likely sit at the free throw line where he can either shoot an open jumper or dish to teammates on the perimeter or inside.

His decision making in this 1-3-1 setup will depend ultimately on who has to come to defend him. Whether it’s someone from the painted area or a perimeter defender, Williamson will have to make decisions based on how the defense runs to face him. That allows him to shoot, pass, or drive further to the hoop.

If the Cardinals are having trouble penetrating the zone, throwing Williamson at the free throw line makes a ton of sense here. He’s a key factor for the game on Wednesday.

It sounds like the true sophomore still feels like he has plenty to prove.

What could go wrong?

Louisville basketball is coming off a Covid break that has forced them to miss over two weeks of game action. There is a rust issue involved with Williamson and the intellectual components that come with breaking this zone defense.

Another issue is that the Cardinals will be without two scholarship players according to assistant coach Dino Gaudio. Luckily for Louisville, Williamson does not appear to be one of the players who will be out after he spoke to the media on Tuesday.

Williamson will be a key piece against Syracuse, a team fighting for their NCAA tournament lives. In a game where the Cardinals will be shorthanded coming off a long break, he’s a player that needs to step up.

Next. What impending return of Malik Williams means. dark