Playing a 1-3-1 Zone Defense can be an effective strategy to throw opponents off their game. Since you're reading this, I'm guessing a team has done this to your team or they are about to soon. With most teams only playing man to man defense and not playing a lot of zone defense they aren't very good at beating a zone.
Coaches often have to call timeouts or point guards have to pull the ball out to half-court to listen for the coaches call from the sideline. In both scenarios, the defense has thrown the offense our of rhythm and changed the flow of the game.
Here are four main reasons a team would play a 1-3-1 zone:
1. It's their main type of defense.
2. They don't think your guards can handle something different.
3. They need to change the flow of the game somehow.
4. Change things up during special situations such as: After Timeouts, After Free Throws, Beginning of a Quarter
Your goal should be to prepare your team so well that they don't get thrown off when a zone pops up against them. Your team shouldn't have to slow down, take a timeout, or lose their composure if you've done a good job coaching your team.
If you're not sure whether your team is ready to attack a 1-3-1 Zone Defense take a look at these 11 rules. You can get the whole system in the Complete Zone Offense Course.
11 Rules For Attacking A 1-3-1 Zone Defense
Before you read through the 11 rules make sure it becomes a priority for every player on your team to know these rules. Once every member of the team has a good understanding of how to attack the 1-3-1 zone defense you'll be poised for great success no matter when the zone is used during a game.
- Push The Ball
Don’t allow the zone to get set up. Pass the ball up and attack right away.
- Take The Ball Into The Zone
Too often players stand on the outside and pass the ball around. Attack the zone and make them make decisions.
- Use Ball Reversals
Quick ball reversals is a great way to shift players in the zone and open passing lanes to give you an advantage.
- Make The Zone Collapse
Get the ball in the middle of the zone off the dribble or the pass. Once teh zone collapses look to pass the ball out to the perimeter.
- Attack The Gaps & Draw Two Defenders
Attack the gaps and know where the kick out pass needs to go. Defenders can’t guard the drive and the kick out at the same time.
- Flatten The Zone
Bring the ball down to the baseline with the dribble or with the pass. As the ball moves lower so will the zone.
- Overload One Side
Defenders in zones all have their responsibilities. Put the defense in a position to have to make decision as to who they should guard.
- Use Screens
Ball screens, pin down screens, and cross screens all work well against zones as the zone shifts on the pass.
- Keep Good Spacing
Keep players 12-15 ft. apart. This spacing will allow for defenders to scramble to make the coverage, any closer and the defense can guard both players.
- Use High Post and Short Corners
Post players can collapse the defense and flatten it out. They also give you the chance to draw a foul and score near the basket.
- Misdirect With Eyes and Ball Fakes
Since players know where the zone is at all times they can easily misdirect the defense by looking one way and passing another or making solid pass fakes.
The first part of attacking any zone defense is giving your players the knowledge they need to be successful. This is very different then giving them a play to run. If the play breaks down or doesn't work what are your players going to do? Well, without knowing the rules of attacking a zone they will panic. This will cause you to have to call a timeout to regroup and you shouldn't have to do this. Make sure your zone offense isn't holding your team back from getting the win.
Here's a great ball screen play to run against a 1-3-1 Zone Defense.
Dive deeper into how to attack a zone defense in the Complete Zone Offense Course. I'll walk you through exactly how to organize your team and score more points.