This is part 1 of a 4 part series on the 1-3-1 zone defense by Coach Rory Hamilton
As we approach the upcoming season, coaches often use the summer months to reflect upon every facet of his or her basketball program. From strength and conditioning programs to combating junk defenses, coaches are always searching for ways to improve and grow their programs. In this blog series, I would like to share with you our 1-3-1 defense. There have been numerous NCAA coaches over the years use the 1-3-1 defense with much success. John Beilein, Mike Lonergan, Seth Greenberg, Bill Carmody and most recently Chris Mack to name a few. Each have added their own little wrinkle but kept the basic tenants of the defense. The 1-3-1 has been integral part of my defensive playbook for over 23 years both as a player and coach.
Here are five advantages we like about running the 1-3-1 defense:
- Uniqueness – Most teams have numerous ways to attack 2-3, 3-2, 1-2-2 and match-up zones. However, those same teams may only have one or two different ways to attack your 1-3-1. With limited ways to attack your 1-3-1, it becomes easier to drill, scout, and make adjustments. The defense also gives you a competitive advantage due to its uniqueness. Teams must spend extra practice time preparing for the defense, which may take away from another important areas. It is also great for quick turn around games where your opponent has little to no practice time.
- Versatility – Whether you play a traditional Dean Smith “point zone”, an extended John Beilein zone, or a hybrid like Chris Mack at Xavier, the 1-3-1 is adaptable to your personnel and team. If you have a team with great length, the 1-3-1 is perfect by distorting passing. If you have a quick and athletic team, you may want to be aggressive and trap out of your 1-3-1. The defense is also great if you have one tremendous post player you want to keep out of foul trouble and keep close to the basket. The defense allows you to anchor your big close to the basket and always keep in great rebounding position.
- Limit Dribble Penetration – One of the reasons I love the 1-3-1 is that it is great at limiting dribble penetration. Keeping the ball out of the paint is paramount in any defensive scheme. The 1-3-1 always has three defenders near the ball handler ready to form an “umbrella” trap and funnel the ball away from the paint. If you have teams on your schedule with great penetrating guards, this defense may be perfect for your team.
- Exploits Bad Passing – I believe passing is the weakest fundamental in young players today. The 1-3-1 distorts passing lanes and can make even the easiest pass difficult. By forcing lob and skip passes, you can increase the number of deflections and steals which may lead to easy baskets for your team in transition.
- Dictates Tempo and Style – The 1-3-1 can be a great equalizer for your team and give you a competitive advantage. There are some teams on your schedule you need to speed up to be effective, and others you may need to slow down. The 1-3-1 gives you that need versatility. Also, it forces teams into playing the way you want them to play. Again, the majority of teams will use a 2-1-2 alignment to attack your 1-3-1 thus you have forced their alignment and dictated where there shots will come from.
Check out the rest of the 1-3-1 zone defense series here:
Part 3: Player Positioning & Rules
Part 4: 1-3-1 Comprehensive Drill Package