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How To Beat The Vaunted 2-3 Zone


The way some people are talking about the Syracuse 2-3 zone, you'd think it was unbeatable. But, luckily for the Sooners, not only is the 2-3 zone beatable, but Syracuse has been beat 9 times this season while employing that defense.

Here are some resources that I found using good ol' Google about how to attack the 2-3 zone:

From Coaches Clipboard Dot Net (Word file) - How to Beat a 2-3 Zone Defense - How to Beat a 2-3 Zone Defense
Keith Cooper: A Complete Package To Beat The Zone

For those of you who don't want to dig through the resources, I'll summarize a few key points here and how that might impact OU's personnel.

  • Transition game is huge: The best way to beat the 2-3 zone is to get out in transition and set up some sort of offense before the zone can set up. When we hit the glass, our bigs need to get an outlet pass in a few seconds and AJ/Willie/Omar need to push the tempo and find an open man.
  • Find A Way To Make Them Work: The 2-3 zone helps players get a bit of a rest on defense instead of constantly having to run after a man. So, by moving the ball laterally quickly by passing it from one side of the court to the other, you will make the defense work harder than they want to.
  • The Weak Side Becomes Important: A lot of our offense runs through Blake. That means when we set up a post play, or any offensive play for that matter, a lot of times Blake will be attempting to post up on the strong side. The weak side is important against a zone because the zone will gravitate towards the ball. Weak side cutters can hit seams and get easy shots. It's also going to be important for guys on the weak side to crash the boards, as it will be easy to get offensive reloads that way. If Taylor and Pattillo can clean up on the weak side boards (even guys like Crocker or Davis), we could be pretty successful.
  • Don't Give Up On Penetration: You won't be able to drive all the way to the rim against a 2-3 zone, but by feigning a drive in an alley, you will cause two defenders to shut down the lane. When OU has been least successful this season is running through a half court offense and just standing around on the perimeter. We need to hit an alley to cause the defense to collapse towards the penetration and then kick out. Obviously, this will require someone tall enough to see over the defense and pass, but quick enough to get to the hole. I think this makes it important for Willie to have a big game, maybe not as a scorer, but by creating opportunities.
  • The Two Easiest Offensive Plays: (1) Just set a pick on one of the outside baseline defenders. One guy sets a pick on an outside baseline defender. The offensive player will run past the pick, and then curl around for an open shot. This is something I've seen OU do during the year, with varying success. It seems like Willie and Cade are best in this situation. (2) Passing to the free throw line. You'll be getting the ball to the middle of the defense so the entire defense will crash in. Taylor and Blake are really creative with the ball at that area of the floor, and both are perceived scoring threats so getting one of them the ball at the free throw line should open up for scoring opportunities or passes to open perimeter shooters.

Anyways, that's all I've got for now. If you want more you can use the links above, try another Google search, or buy Jim Boeheim's book! I think that people get worried about the Syracuse 2-3 zone because they typically execute it well and have tall, long guys who can shut down the passing/driving lanes with their wingspan.