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Could Kansas’ triangle-and-two pop up again Saturday?


Mike Miller

Most hailed Kansas’ use of a triangle-and-two defense in the second half against North Carolina as a brilliant tactical move by coach Bill Self and likely the reason the Jayhawks are playing in their second Final Four since 2008.

It also turned into a way to criticize UNC coach Roy Williams, but let’s keep the focus on the Jayhawks for now.

Kansas also employed the triangle-and-two –a “junk” defense that uses elements of man-to-man-and zone defenses -- against Purdue when Robbie Hummel couldn’t miss from outside. The move worked then and it worked well against the Heels, too.

Wings Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson stayed on their men, while the other three Kansas defenders, big men Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey and point guard Tyshawn Taylor, stayed in a zone. As a result, UNC’s offense stalled and Kansas closed the game on a 12-0 run.

So would the Jayhawks use it again this week?

My hunch is only in a pinch. The triangle-and-two works best when the opponent doesn’t have players can slash through the defense or when teams spot cutters through the lane. There’s more space than a typical zone, especially when the defenders playing man defense are spread to the wing.

Ohio State features all of these. Wings William Buford and Lenzelle Smith Jr. – the two most likely options for being guarded in man – are both adept at finding their own shots or cutting through the defense for looks. Center Jared Sullinger excels at interior passing, while forward Deshaun Thomas is excellent at finding holes in a zone. (Ask Syracuse.)

The time you might see it is when point guard Aaron Craft takes a rare breather or if Robinson and Withey get into foul trouble. Coach Bill Self will try anything to keep them on the floor as much as possible. A standard 2-3 zone seems more likely, mostly to force the Buckeyes – and average shooting 3-point team – to hit open shots.

But don’t rule anything out. Not with a title shot on the line.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.