Sidney Lowe spent 20 years of his professional life in the NBA so it's natural that he prefers a man defense to zone.
While N.C. State's defense has been much improved this season — the Pack's field-goal percentage defense is down (41.5 percent) while both their steals (6.2 per game) and blocks (5.1) are up — it still lacks variety.
State plays man, and uses an occasional full-court pressure, but rarely employs a zone, which theoretically helps defend the paint and forces teams to shoot from outside.
Teams with limited outside options, such as Tuesday's opponent North Carolina, are the perfect matchup to mix in a little zone.
Lowe said the Pack has a zone package and works on it practice but he has been hesitant to use it in a game.
"I'm not ready yet," Lowe said.
Like any coach, Lowe bristles at any hint of coaching-by-media suggestions, but he had a good sense of humor about it on Monday.
"I just gave you a little something, so I can't give you everything," he said.
When I told him Wayne Ellington and Danny Green wouldn't be in UNC's lineup on Tuesday, he graciously asked for my coaching advice.
"I'll look to you," Lowe joked. "Tell me when you want me to put it in."
There were two losses that a zone might have helped State this season — Saturday's debacle at Maryland and early in nonconference play vs. Northwestern.
Lowe's 0-6 against Maryland, in part, because State has no idea how to defend a flex cut. The easiest way to get a team out of its comfort level on offense is to switch defenses.
That's not to say State would have beaten Maryland if it had used a zone, just that it might have slowed the Terps, who scored 88 points, down or forced them to win another way (re: from the 3-point line).
A 12-point home loss to Northwestern on Dec. 1 was another situation begging for zone defense. Northwestern uses the Princeton offense, which relies on screens and backdoor cuts. Those tenets are infinitely harder to execute against a stationary defender.
Of course, man defense is nothing new at State, or even in the Triangle. Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams are both devoted to a man scheme, although Coach K is more married to it.
Herb Sendek spent 10 seasons employing a man at State even when he didn't have the personnel to run it (of course, Sendek has subsequently seen the error of his ways. Arizona State is now becoming a diet version of Syracuse with its 2-3 matchup zone).
It's not as though Lowe never uses a zone — they used it on a handful of possessions against Clemson and Virginia this season — just that there's a time and place for more of it. One of Lowe's best wins in 2006-07 came after the Pack switched to a zone after Engin Atsur's hamstring injury in a Big Ten Challenge win over Michigan.