With foul trouble plaguing Kaleb Wesson, should Ohio State utilize more zone?

Is it Time for zone defense to keep Kaleb Wesson out of foul trouble?

With foul trouble plaguing Kaleb Wesson, should Ohio State utilize more zone?

Basketball

With foul trouble plaguing Kaleb Wesson, should Ohio State utilize more zone?

There’s no way around it. For this year to be one of success, Ohio State needs its big man Kaleb Wesson. And to enlist his services, he and the coaching staff have to find some way to keep him off the cushy seats of Value City Arena because of foul trouble.

You know the story well. Wesson continues to be plagued with time in the penalty box. And while a lot of the whistles going against him are suspect at best, it’s the nature of an aggressive guy with a big body down low. Former Ohio State star Jared Sullinger dealt with it, and now we’re seeing the same thing with Wesson.

Against Iowa, it was so bad that the 6-9 sophomore had to sit in the first five minutes of the game because of two quick fouls, and tallied just two points total in a ten point defeat on the road. That just won’t get it done. Not against Rutgers, not against Penn State, and definitely not against the top of the league.

So what does Wesson — or better yet — Ohio State and Chris Holtmann do about the fouls that continually stuff the stat sheet for the younger Wesson?

It can continue to play man and try to develop Wesson to the point where he’s smarter about his body positioning, and even less aggressive when it comes to defending, but it’s hard to take the fight out of a guy that has it in his game. Frankly, a lot of it is what makes him effective on the offensive end. It’s in his DNA.

So perhaps more drastic, and quicker fixes are in order. Instead of employing mostly man-to-man which appears to be a Holtmann (and before him Matta) philosophy, perhaps it’s time to switch to more of a zone concept with Wesson on the floor. It would allow him to guard a space rather than having to follow his man and get caught up in screens and body rubs so often. It would also take away a lot of the one-on-one post ups and banging down low.

That should all result in less opportunities for referees to blow Wesson for fouls.

Of course there’s a couple pitfalls to playing zone, the biggest of which is defensive rebounding. Generally more offensive rebounds are given up out of a zone because there aren’t assigned men to block out. It’s also easier in a lot of cases to for offenses to bomb away from deep.

However, at this point, those are two things that the coaching staff might have to live with in exchange for keeping the Buckeyes’ most talented player on the floor. Because without him, it’s going to be tough to string together wins in perhaps the deepest conference in the country.

Ohio State will probably never be a strictly zone team under Holtmann, but it’s something that might need to be looked at before the season gets away from him. There’s other ways to skin this cat, but going to zone might be the best option.

 

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