In the grand scheme of things, the defensive strategy of the West Virginis University women’s basketball team ranks pretty low in terms of importance on the list of things the COVID-19 pandemic has affected.
But for WVU head coach Mike Carey, using a zone defense will be a huge diversion from what is normal. Carey, a staunch believer in man-to-man defense, said he has been considering using a zone defense for the upcoming 2020-21 season because he is not sure if there will be enough practice time to fully implement his usual man-to-man scheme.
“I don’t like to play zone,” Carey told reporters Thursday afternoon. “We may try to put a zone in because of not practicing a lot and heading into the season with all of these new players.”
The Mountaineers will have six newcomers on the team this season, including four transfers and two true freshmen, against seven returners. Carey said getting news players up to speed with the team was especially difficult this offseason due to COVID-19 precautions.
“Three of [the transfers] never even visited here before they signed, that was unique,” Carey said. “Three of them signed and the first day they were on campus was for classes this summer.”
With the season scheduled to begin soon, Carey said he is unsure if they will have enough practice time to be ready with everything he wants to do.
“I just think we’re not going to have time,” he said. “We’ll put it all in, I just don’t know how good we’ll be at it. I just think we better have a backup, we’ll try a little bit of zone and see how it goes, I’m not a zone person, I despise zones but I may have to go to it some.”
With his distaste for zone defenses, Carey said any zone WVU would run would be a little different than usual. He said he has thought about using John Beilein’s 1-3-1 or a 1-2-2 zone, but either one will present its own problems. With practices scheduled to start next week, Carey said he is going to have to force himself to make a decision.
“I just can’t pull the trigger right now but I’ve got to pull it here this weekend,” Carey said. “The only thing in the 1-3-1, you funnel to the middle, in our man-to-man defense, we funnel the ball to the baseline. So now I’m trying to teach new players to funnel in man-to-man to the baseline and then in a zone now you’ve got to funnel to the middle. It’s just going to be interesting to see what happens there. I’d like to play a 2-2-2.”
Despite what Carey says, WVU men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins is not convinced he will actually do it.
“He’ll play zone until they score,” Huggins joked. “And then they’re going to play man-to-man. He’s a man-to-man guy.”
Carey himself questioned whether or not he will be able to commit to using the zone.
“I say we’ll put a zone in, we’ll probably use it two minutes the whole year,” Carey admitted.