Can You Play Zone Defense In College Basketball

Paul Gonzalez
• Saturday, 09 January, 2021
• 8 min read

Duke and Syracuse will play a Sweet 16 game filled with zone defense. It’s not always a fan favorite among college basketball watchers for aesthetic reasons, but it’s been an effective defensive strategy for decades.

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Zone defense comes with a stigma, and that’s only amplified when attached to nationally-despised programs like Duke or Syracuse basketball. Instead of playing a typical man-to-man offense, like you see in the NBA, teams dictate different zones of the court for each of their five players to defend.

A 2-3 zone typically places two guards on either side of the free throw line. The “3” in 2-3 zone represents the three wings and big men who create the back line of the defense.

Just like the guards, the big cheat either way depending on where the offense reverses the ball. This type of defense is meant to coerce teams to shoot semi-contested threes or dare them to attack the lane with beasts awaiting their arrival at the bottom of the zone.

Duke hit a wall mid-season, losing three games out of four to Virginia, UNC and a very bad St. John’s team that was then 0-11 in the Big East. The Blue Devils have two of the most talented big in the game, as both Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bailey III are expected to be lottery picks in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Head coach Jim Botham has made a Hall of Fame career out of running the most effective zone in college hoops. You don’t see zone defense played in pickup games around the country, and that’s probably where the connotation stems from.

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They typically slow the game down and entice teams to hoist shots from deep. In the NBA, nobody can camp out in the paint without defending a specific player for three seconds or longer.

College three-point shooters are a heck of a lot worse than pros, which is why leaving semi-contested shots is advantageous to a college defense. WIN MORE GAMES with offenses, defenses, plays, drills, fundamentals, strategy, animations, video, Playbook download, youth section... unique, mobile ready.

Zone defense is different from man-to-man defense in that, instead of guarding a particular player, each zone defender is responsible for guarding an area of the floor, or zone “, and any offensive player that comes into that area. Zone defense is often effective in stopping dribble penetration and one-on-one moves.

On a personal note, I believe that all kids must develop their man-to-man defensive skills first. I believe youth basketball leagues should limit the use of zones to the older age groups.

On the other hand, some high school and college coaches treat zone defense almost as if using it were blasphemous, or an admission of inferiority! At the upper levels, I believe you should assess your team's strengths and weaknesses as well as your opponent's, and the game situation, and use whatever tool you need to try to win.

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Or the offense may have a couple of outstanding players too quick to defend individually. A zone can look intimidating with all your big guys stacked up inside with their hands up. If you play man-to-man defense and have very short guards, the opponent will run screens to get switches and size mismatches against your small guards near the basket.

Toucan avoid this by playing zone defense, keeping your small players out on the perimeter. In using a zone, you protect the paint area and force the opponent to shoot from outside.

An example would be using the 2-3 zone which clogs the paint and invites the offense to shoot from outside. Even good shooting teams have off nights, especially under tournament pressure.

Toucan slow the game and control the tempo somewhat with a zone. Opponents tend to become impatient against the zone and often rush shots.

Most youth and high school players are just average passers, and have difficulty making good inside passes and accurate skip passes. By changing defenses from man-to-man to various zones, toucan keep the offense off-balance and confused.

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If youplayzonedefense exclusively (no man-to-man), toucan save practice time in not having to teach how to handle ball-screens and other screens. If the opponent is having a good shooting night, your zone is not effective, and you must consider going man-to-man to get pressure on perimeter shooters.

If youplayzone most of the time, and rarely man-to-man, your players may become complacent on defense and may lose their man-to-man skills. Move quickly, adjust your position relative to the movement of the ball.

Move quickly on the flight of the ball, as soon as it leaves the passer's hands. Close-out on the shooter with high hands, to pressure the shot and the pass.

The weak side low defender should keep his “butt to the baseline” so that he can see the floor, and any cutters or screeners coming his way. When the offense dribble penetrates, quickly close the gap.

Especially if you are ahead, don't gamble or get too zealous about trapping the wing and point guard positions. Keep pressure on the ball, but also protect the paint and force the outside, low-percentage shot.

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Good zones can limit the numbers of fouls you commit. This means you can keep your better players on the floor for a longer period of time.

Zone makes it easier to protect players in foul trouble. The zone requires good passing and few players possess the passing skills needed to effectively beat a zone.

There are fewer offenses against the zone, therefore it takes less time for you to prepare defensively. Certain players don't have to work as hard in the zone, making fatigue less of an issue.

The offense can take advantages of mismatches by putting their best player in the zone area” of the opponents' weakest defender. It's more difficult to figure out which person to block out when in a zone defense.

Playing in a zone defense will LIMIT your players' development. You might win more games by playing zone, but from a development standpoint do the right thing and play man to man defense with your youth team.

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Would be kinda hard to play considering you only have 5 players on the court for your team... MMM The NBA has the defensive 3-second rule which results in a technical foul.

The center cannot stand in the paint like in how a 2-3 zone is run, so it makes it easy to penetrate and get to the basket. Florida was playing a 2-3-2 zone defense today against UCLA, which was pretty effective, by the way.

If a set tires out actual or in the event that they desire to velocity up the sport greater to transition play than a million/2 court. It relatively is not that not undemanding to interrupt an entire court catch you only could desire to make solid judgements, yet maximum of faculty athletes are only that they are athletic yet at the instant are not sensible selection makers.

Like interior the NBA there isn't a lot of finished court press because of the fact they make solid judgements and there is not a lot of zone protection the two because of the fact they are able to knock down the three ball. The likelihood of zone being played greatly diminishes as the quality of the players increases and vice versa.

Many college coaches have some zone plays in the book but will only break them out on special occasions. Coaches who employ the zone know that it can be a powerful offensive weapon that creates bad shots and allows for long rebounds and great transition basketball.

For many years, coaches most associated with the zone defense were John Chaney of Temple and Jim Botham of Syracuse. Fran Duffy took over the reins at Temple when Chaney left and put that tired zone to bed.

Jim Botham’s heir apparent, Mike Hopkins, will likely hold onto that defense for quite a while, considering it’s what he knows and what has worked at Syracuse for almost 40 years. With the criteria being my eye test, here is a list of the college coaches who lead the pack in zone defense and excellence.

Allegations of payments to players, loss of scholarships and a murder were the beginning to Drew’s arrival. Baylor is on somewhat of a rebuild after taking it on the chin against Kansas, and that Kentucky win doesn't have the shine it did at the time.

Like Scott Drew, Baleen has brought Michigan back to prominence and out of the despair of Tommy “NIT” Maker. He has done so with a ferocious 1-3-1 zone that suffocates opposing offenses, although in recent years he has used it less and less frequently.

As Baleen’s tenure has proceeded, the talent level at Michigan has increased, giving him the players he has been dreaming of to make that zone create havoc. With the recent loss to Ohio State being the only blemish on the season, Michigan is once again making noise in the NCAA.

In the 2008 NCAA regional final, Self’s Jay hawks faced their former head coach, Roy Williams, and were tied at 47 at the half. With only a few minutes left on the clock, Self famously switched his defense up to a hybrid triangle-and-two and completely stymied the Tar Heels.

Self knows that teams don’t prepare for the zone and uses it as his tempo-changing rabbit punch when the opportunity presents itself. That being said, West Virginia is having a very mediocre year, proving that, while toucan teach positioning all you want, if you don’t have talented players, your defense won’t really matter that much.

Piano was once known for running teams that threw three-pointers at the basket like they were pitching coins at the carnival and hoping that as many would fall as possible. He made an exodus for the NBA, but after returning to his former Kentucky team’s cross-state rival, Louisville, Piano has reinvented himself as a defensive master, which includes lots of zone looks and confusion.

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