CLEVELAND -- The moment Indiana State's name flashed alongside Syracuse's on the TV screen, the first thing that popped into Orange forward Kris Joseph's head was Larry Bird.
"Probably a bunch of (players) that could shoot," Joseph said. "We're going to have to extend the zone."
Ah, the Syracuse 2-3 matchup zone.
It's a diabolical five-man vice that has been a burial ground for so many offenses in the past, and it's what the third-seeded Orange (26-7) will count on Friday night to handle the 14th-seeded Sycamores (20-13) in the NCAA tournament.
The zone is a human flytrap of sorts. Venture into its middle and risk getting your shot swatted or the ball stolen at your feet. Dribble into the court's corners and expect to be double teamed by swarming defenders. There is no easy way around this mobile, 10-armed, 10-legged monster.
"It's a different zone than what we usually face," Indiana State guard Aaron Carter said. "We really didn't face a whole lot of zones this year in the (Missouri) Valley. But it's going to be a tough zone. They're athletic. They cover a lot of ground. We just have to do our best to be patient and work in and out and try to get some open looks."
To prepare for Syracuse's zone, Indiana State practiced against six defenders while using a hockey stick to replicate the length of an Orange frontline led by center Rick Jackson, the Big East's defensive player of the year.
None of the Sycamores were sure where the hockey stick came from, but first-year coach Greg Lansing finally fessed up that it was "borrowed."
"You're going to get us in trouble because we got it from our rec sports and we kind of had it in our office for a while and they never asked for it back," Lansing said. "If I've got to buy another one for the rec sports department, I'll do it."
The son of a basketball coach, Lansing will be matching wits in his first NCAA Tournament game against Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, a Hall of Famer with 34 years experience, 855 wins, 29 NCAA appearances and one national title on his resume.
"It's an honor for me," Lansing said.