Jim Boeheim's Syracuse teams have thrived on their zone defense for decades, using long athletic players to disrupt opposing offenses for more than 900 wins and a national title.
California coach Mike Montgomery has been more of a proponent for man-to-man defense over his stellar coaching career, using the zone more as an occasional change-up than a base defense.
Montgomery has even jokingly mocked his friend, Boeheim, over the years for his reliance on the zone. So Boeheim got a piece of vindication when he saw the 12th-seeded Golden Bears (21-11) stay almost exclusively in a zone defense in a win over UNLV that set up a matchup with No. 4 seed Syracuse (27-9) in the third round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.
In the win over UNLV, Allen Crabbe clapped his hands toward the roaring hometown crowd at the HP Pavilion in San Jose Thursday as his team realized they would continue the NCAA dance.
Richard Solomon shook his hips and danced. Senior reserve Robert Thurman pumped his fist lightly, just thankful for a chance to play again.
Buoyed by the support of a strong contingent so close to the Berkeley campus, Crabbe had 19 points and nine rebounds, Thurman scored all 12 of his points on dunks and team held off fifth-seeded UNLV 64-61 in the second round Thursday.
"I don't buy the home-court theory because there are a lot of people there that didn't buy tickets to watch us. They bought tickets to watch basketball,'' Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "But I will buy the theory that it was really great to be close to home because we had preparation time.''
"That's the most we've ever played zone this year,'' said Crabbe, the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year. "We took them out of their rhythm.''
Tip off Saturday is scheduled for 6:40 p.m.