If you’re not prepared, the 1-3-1 zone can cause confusion for any team. The problem is that you MAY face it, but it’s not so common that you see it on a regular basis. Even with the example of a coach like Michigan’s John Beilein mixing it in with the Wolverines, the 1-3-1 is not a defense you see every day and that’s where the confusion comes in! Our team has one opponent who will mix the 1-3-1 into their attack and so we prepare for it, but never know how much they’ll play it.
In three games with them this year, we faced it about 40% of the time with mixed results. With the season over, I’ve taken a look at our attack and not only did I identify some important principles, but I see those same principles as guidelines for all of us as we live in a very confusing world!
BASKETBALL – Zone offense against the 1-3-1
The 1-3-1 zone just looks different from what you normally see. That in itself is an obstacle to overcome. How many times, at any level, do you see a team looking shocked and tentative as soon as they face a 1-3-1? It can confuse even the most confident players. And when an opponent switches in and out of it, or looks to turn up the intensity of its traps, a few possessions of uncertainty can turn the tide of a game. That’s why it’s a good idea to be prepared like Tom Izzo of Michigan State. Here’s a quick example from a few years ago when the Spartans played against Northwestern’s 1-3-1:
As I watched that and as I reviewed our team’s attack, here are a few principles I’ve identified for playing against a 1-3-1:
1. Run: Any zone is better when it can set-up. In pushing the ball quickly, you can beat traps on the wings before they can get organized or you can attack the point of the zone before he can get set.
2. Be alert: Whether on the floor or on the bench, players need to keep the team’s principles of zone offense or breaking traps at the forefront of their thinking. Tentative possessions, forced passes, and lack of focus by substitutes entering the game can easily undermine your approach. Using chaos in practice can help players prepare.
3. Know the trap areas: The 1-3-1 creates natural trapping areas on the wings and in the corners, but also in the low post. To beat the zone, though, you have to use those areas. The key is to keep players moving and keep the ball moving. The MSU clips are textbook examples of this!
4. Don’t hold the ball: Don’t tempt fate! When catching the ball in a trap area, make the defense pay for trapping and move the ball quickly with the pass or with the dribble.
5. Occupy the middle: A point of emphasis for us is making sure we occupy the middle defender to put more pressure on the wings and low man in the zone. We try to always put a body on the middle defender and do not want our post to float. MSU goes a step further and uses that player to step out as a reversal option – that’s a wise move. I’m going to steal that one!
6. Have a plan: We have a clearly defined plan when any trap occurs in any defense – we want a player behind the trap, a sideline option, and a player posted on-line with the basket. That never changes for us. But it’s also wise to have a set entry or two, to put specific stress on the zone. Check out FastModel for some good examples.
LIFE & FAITH – Attack the confusion of this world.
Do you ever feel like the world is a bit like a 1-3-1 zone? Ask Me Anything and How to Stay Christian in College by J. Budziszewski are two books that can help young people deal with the confusion they’ll experience as they move on to college or the work world, but they are also provocative books for any of us in handling the pressure and changes created by our society. One way to deal with a confusing world is to use the same principles of handling the 1-3-1:
1. Run: run from sin and don’t allow it to get set up in your life. Paul encourages us: “Flee from sexual immorality . . .” (1 Corinthians 6:18), which can be trouble for any of us, but he’s also talking about all sins like excessive drinking, cheating on tests or your taxes, or gossiping. Like any zone, the first way to beat it is run and don’t allow it to set up!
2. Be Alert: Peter directs us to “Be alert and of sober mind . . . (1 Peter 5:8). This world is full of traps and temptations and many times we allow ourselves to fall into a false sense of security. Just like a 1-3-1, traps are always a possibility!
3. Know the Trap Areas: As a young person, I either didn’t realize, or at times didn’t want to realize the things that trapped me. Most of us have a sense of invincibility that clouds our judgment, but James (1:14) reminds us that we each have our own desires that mislead us.
4. Don’t Hold the Ball: Just like a player who holds on to the ball too long, most of us have things in our life that we hold too tightly – like our money and possessions. As Paul instructed Timothy (6:9-10), holding on too tightly will destroy us.
5. Occupy the Middle: The middle is your heart and what occupies your heart determines your character. If you just go with the flow, living life without purpose or living in ignorance, this world will consume you. (Proverbs 4:23)
6. Have a Plan: Jesus gave a very simple plan to His disciples (Luke 22:39-40) when He knew they would face confusion: pray. Like a set play that opens the right shot against a zone, prayer provides the plan that never fails.
1-3-1 zones are confusing. They change from coach to coach and present different obstacles, just like the world does for each of us. I hope these ideas can help!