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1-3-1 ZONE DEFENSE AND HALF COURT TRAP
Thanks to the success of West Virginia and Michigan in recent seasons, the 1-3-1
zone defense is making a comeback in basketball. Originally designed by
basketball coaching legend Clair Bee, this zone defense has the ability to force
a team into mistakes whether it is with bad shot selection from the perimeter or
in forcing the offense to a corner and keeping them in that corner.
Advantages of the 1-3-1 Zone Defense
The best advantage of the 1-3-1 zone defense is the ability to take away the
middle of the floor. The 1-3-1 zone defense forces the defense to one side
of the floor or the other and has the ability to front both the high and low
post areas. The zone can also provide help in the post when the ball is
swung to the corner.
Another advantage of the 1-3-1 zone defense is that it can keep the center close
to the basket. Like the 2-3 or 2-1-2 zone defense, the 1-3-1 zone defense
is effective in keeping a dominant center close to the basket and in position to
front the post and to rebound.
Finally, the 1-3-1 zone defense is versatile with the ability to trap and
extend. In addition to the slides that are shown in this article, this
article will also detail the ways that the zone can be used to trap and extend
in an effort to create more turnovers and attack with this defense.
Disadvantages of the 1-3-1 Zone Defense
Since the 1-3-1 zone is a strong defense in taking away the middle of the floor,
the perimeter is compromised, especially in the corners. A player who can
hit shots from the corner, especially three-point shots, can be a headache for
Also, two other weaknesses of all straight zones arise from the 1-3-1 zone.
The first of these is the difficulties rebounding the basketball. Because
the zone has the players guarding area, it is difficult for zone defenders to
block out effectively. Because zones force long shots, they will also
force long rebounds which could play to the advantage of the offense.
The other weakness is with match-ups. Because the zone guards area, the
offense can dictate the match-up with the defense. The four outside
defenders (X1, X2, X3, and X4) must all be competent and capable on-ball
defenders and X5 must be a force in the middle for this defense to be effective.
Setting Up the Defense
In putting the defense together, we want to set up X1 at the point, X2 and X3 at
the wings, X4 just in front of the basket and X5 just below the middle of the
free throw line (Diagram 1). X1 is the best on-ball defended while X2 is
the second-best on-ball defender. X5 is the best big man and X4 is the
next best big man.
Once the players are in position to set up the zone, the players are taught how
to move and get into the right spots in the zone. For this defense or any
other straight zone defense to be effective, the players must be quick and jump
to the pass.
The ball is passed from the point to the wing in Diagram 2. X2 will point
the ball while X4 and X5 cover the low and high posts respectively. X3
slides to an area just below the help-side elbow and X1 will move to where the
lane line-extended and the top of the circle-extended meet in an effort to keep
the ball on the same side of the floor.
In Diagram 3, the ball is passed to the corner from the wing. Here, we
want X4 to point the ball with X5 fronting the low post. X2 will look to
deny the pass back to the corner while X1 will cover the high post area and X3
protects the help-side low post just inside the lane.
Diagram 4 shows the end result of where the defensive players should be when the
ball is passed into the corner. From here, we should be able to keep them
in the corner with the right pressure. This will then force them into
shooting low percentage shots from the corner or making an errant pass that can
be intercepted by the defense.
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