I think that nowadays, most coaches use some sort of a matchup zone instead of a straight up zone or straight up M2M. The matchup is a good way to use a zone formation but keep M2M principles. There are however, a lot of rules that you need to establish for how your matchup zone will function in the different scenarios, such as what to do with cutters, screens, etc...

Here are some great notes I went through the other day from a Nike coaching clinic that covered Mike Deane and how he goes through the different rules and progressions of teaching his matchup zone. Mike Deane is currently the head coach at Wagner University, he recently was featured by ESPN last season for wearing a seatbelt on the bench to avoid getting T'd up. I don't know the author of the notes, otherwise I'd certainly love to give them credit. Enjoy...

Guard Movements:

When the ball is in the middle, play normal M2M principals, defenders must travel on air time. Guards have to cover perimeter- they must cover 3 guards,

If the ball is in the outside 3rd, deny all back pass. Guards play the ball as if there is no help when they are guarding the ball. Must move on the air time- jump back to help. On closing out it's 2 steps towards the ball, then close out,

Forward Positions:

They cover everything from middle of the lane to the block, to opposite short corner. They play on the baseline side of the offensive player. Forwards work in a pair with the guard on their side. On the reversal of the ball, 3 covers the wing, like a 2-3 zone slide. It's like a bump,

On the bump 3 must pick up anybody who is in his area. If there is a player in the corner, he guards him.

If there is a post player on the block 3 must cover him and bump the other weak side defender off the block,

Skip Pass:

Skip pass back to the top, 2 takes the ball, 1 is in help, and 3 bumps back to help side- help must have 1 foot on the basket line,

Center Position:

5 covers block to block, and high post. Ball enters paint, everybody drops to the level of the ball. 5 plays on the high side of every body,

High/Low Interchange:

4 takes 2 steps with 5 then yell high post and cover 4 on the low side,

Baseline Runner:

The defenders bump the runner from defender to defender,


Matchup zones are a great disruptor defense in that they mask what your intentions are. It can throw the other team's offense off a little bit as they try to adjust to whether you are running a M2M or a zone. However, there are a lot of rules that you need to install that are very specific and cover very specific situations, such as how to defend certain kinds of cuts and screens. In my opinion, I would not install a matchup zone in any team lower than Varsity, I just think the complexities of it are more than a freshman or JV team can handle. Plus they should be focusing more on their fundamentals such as stance, ball-you-man, etc... anyways, before they learn the intracacies of a matchup zone.

If you're seriously thinking of going with the matchup zone this season, then you should check out Mike Deane's DVD on Inside Out Matchup Zone. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.