From Friday night, I caught the college basketball game between the Texas and Stetson. With Stetson being the smaller, less athletic team, I expected them to come out playing zone and they did. I thought Coach Rick Barnes did a good job tactically and the players executed their zone offense perfectly. They really looked prepared and ready to go, a sign of a well coached team.

The zone defense that Stetson used was a 3-2 zone. Texas countered with a 1-3-1 zone offense exploiting the middle of the floor to get open shots. As a result, the Longhorns got plenty of open shots and all of their players were making shots on this night. Take a look at a couple of sequences from the first half,

Against the 3-2, Use the Ball Screen:

Against the 3-2 zone, you can really use ball screens to free up open perimeter shots. Because the defense is in a zone, when you screen the defender on the ball, there is no switch so you basically will end up with an open shot every single time,

Also notice how the defender goes underneath which allows for the wide open jumper.

Against the 3-2, Use the High Post:

The general weakness of the 3-2 on the floor is the open space in the middle. Both posts are on the low block which means the high-post is open. The Longhorns move the ball from side to side a few times, go into the high post, then out. Finally, they get it into the high post area. X4 comes up to defend but is late on the closeout,

The other option is the high-low action. Once the ball goes into the high post, you can lob it into the low post player to go 1v1.


Simplicity works the best. Position your players in the gaps, find open shots and take them. You have to take what the defense gives you, the zone prevents the offense from driving into the lane, or post-up isolation. You will need to make outside shots, but that's why your team does all that shooting during practice, right? Making sure your team is versatile is key against any team you will face this season.

Rick Barnes doesn't make instructional videos but for more great zone offense principles from another great Big 12 head coach, take a look at Bill Self's DVD on 3-out 2-in Zone Offense. Coach Self is the head coach of the national championship Kansas Jayhawks. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.