So at the end of December we had a game on the road during which only 7 players were available to play. Obviously not the ideal situation but with injuries these things can happen.
Before that game we were mainly a man to man team on defense playing a zone every once in a while. But with 7 guys I decided we were going to play alot more zone, we played zone for 40 minutes (except maybe 5-10 posessions of man to man if they attacked it well on consecutive posessions or after timeouts).
And it worked, we had by far our best defensive game, limiting
the opponent to 40 points (on their home court).
We had a long break for Christmas and it gave me time to reflect and even though we have 3 more guys back so we have the legs to play an agressive man to man as we were doing before we’re sticking to the zone and for a second consecutive game we won and limited the opponent to less than 40 points (36). After a couple weeks and a renewed intensity by the players on the defensive end, I wanted to reflect on some of the observations as to why I think this type of defensive philosophy is effective.
Why the Zone can be effective as a primary defense:
- The other team is uncomfortable: They aren’t running their normal sets. They have to run their zone offense which is almost always different than their normal offense and this can be an advantage.
- It’s easier for the players: Say what you want but it is easier to play a zone defense than a man to man. Obviously a good zone defense utilizes many of the same principles as a man to man defense but it is easier to play for the players. This can be a motivating factor because you are asking the players to do something that they will have a higher rate of success. If you ask someone to do a task they are confident they will succeed they will be more motivated than if you ask them to do something that they don’t see as possible to succeed.
- Clear rotations: In a zone it is easier to clearly identify the rotations and where the help has to come from. And players only need to know their role in the zone and know where the help is coming from. Where as in a man to man defense the players need to know the rotations in every position on the court.
In a zone players only need to know the rotations and location of the help from their position in the zone, while in man to man it is necessary the players know the rotations from all over the court.
At 5-9 and winning two games in a row it would be foolish to fix something that isn’t broken. Even though it will bring personel issues because players will be able to play for longer stretches so some guys will get less minutes. At this level the only letter that matters is the W.