Sunday, October 28, 2012

Zone Week

As you may recall, our first week was spent working entirely on installing the fast break against man to man defense.  We also added a few OB-Under plays against a man, and one OB-Sideline play, along with one quick-hitter.  Players learned how to run the break following a score by the opponent, following a rebound, and after a steal.  Finally, we emphasized from Day 1 the importance of offensive rebounding, and started ingraining our ORB routes (four to the boards, 3-point shooter rotates to the top for a "second chance three.")  Our emphasis during Fast Break Week was to learn the basics, and to begin developing the "warp speed" instincts and habits needed to play at System Pace.

Week Two was "Press Week" where we taught our full court pressure defense and trapping schemes after a score, after a missed shot, and in the front court vs. a spread-delay set.  Players also learned how to defend OB-Under and OB-Sideline sets.  We spent some time as well working on three skills that I consider the most essential to executing our defense effectively: 
  1. Trapping, at the front end of our press(taught via our 1 on 2 Trap Drill)
  2. Defending the Rim, at the back end of our press (taught via our 2 on 1 Drill), and
  3. Chasing from Behind and turning the ball, which is the middle portion of our press after an opponent escapes from a trap (taught via our Chase and Turn Drill)
Week Three, we are returning to fast break work, but now are doing so vs. zone defense.

One thing I've seen over the eight years we've run the System is that I'm not the only coach who has struggled to figure out a way to attack zones.  I mentioned to Michelle today that in our first year of System ball (2004-05) I can recall only one team that zoned us!  Maybe that was because our dribble-drive attack vs. M/M defense was in it's infancy and teams therefore felt they could stop us using their standard man defense. But I think it's more likely that opposing coaches believed that zone defense would not work vs. a team shooting 45 threes a game.

In System Year 2, we began to see two defensive adjustments.  First, there were more switching M/M defenses (we were using our "Pass and Screen Away" options much more in that early era, and switches were the only way to prevent easy open three-point looks off single and double-stagger downscreens.)  The second way coaches began trying to cover us was by playing lots more zone defense.  Maybe they had thought previously this would not work, but enough coaches began having success zoning us that the idea seemed to snowball.

So why did zones slow us down so much? First, we didn't rebound as well, because our zone attack back then was very stationary.  We spotted our players up in the zone gaps around the arc and relied on quick ball movement, and because we were standing rather than moving, we tended to not crash the boards as well.

Second, since we were standing still, it was easy for the zone to match up on us.  Third, whereas our man to man attack began to rely more and more on dribble penetration to break down the defense, forcing help to create open looks off the "drive & kick" action, our zone attack was pass-oriented.  We couldn't figure out how to integrate a driving attack into the zone offense!

Bottom line:  whenever anyone zoned us, we tended to underperform offensively due to our decreased player movement, decreased use of dribble penetration, and less effective offensive rebounding.  Not good!

This came to a head last season at ONU when several teams in the league began using matchup zones to defense us.  One game in February found us almost helpless against at quick, strong opponent who held us under 80 points.  In fact, we only had about 65 points late in the game before getting really hot and catching a few breaks to pull away at the end.  We knew then that we needed to address "The Zone Dilemma." 

And I think we have the answer.  But you'll have to tune in tomorrow for more details!

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