This often causes predictable results, because the ball can only move to so many places on the court depending on how the defense is placed. Knowing this allows players in the zone to cheat, because within the zone, a teammate can make a temporary adjustment to allow for an aggressive defender to go after a lazy or telegraphed pass. Syracuse leads the NCAA in steals because of this aspect.
The Orange are so good at executing their positions that they have gained a sixth sense as to how the ball will travel. The other side of the fast-break coin is defensive rebounding. The zone forces a lot of bad shots, which in turn allows the three low-post players, who are already in good rebounding positions, to get the ball to an outlet player, who should be in position to break because of his defensive spot at the top of the key.
Steals and rebounding allow for fast breaks which allows for big runs in games. Another problem teams have is that they can practice all day about how to position the ball to attack the zone, but without knowing how to mimic the zone in practice, teams can be misled into thinking they are prepared for it.
These are hardly substitutes. This has more to do with the low-post players, but a zone can hide a bad defender because his focus is his position on the court rather than following an offensive player. This can keep him out of foul trouble, too.
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A bad defender often commits fouls when tired or left to his own devices. The nature of the zone prevents a defensive player from having to cover large spaces on the court, keeping his legs fresher than someone playing man-to-man defense, which in turn, helps diminish stupid fouls caused by fatigue. Getting to the inside of the zone is a task in and of itself.
The clogs the middle, making it difficult to get the ball in the paint without some very good ball movement. Each player must react to where the ball is on the court and how each of his teammates reacts to the ball. The zone feeds off of players' intuition and positioning.
Chris Mack: How to Beat a Zone Defense - Basketball -- Championship Productions, Inc.
Player movements are not wasted, rather they are well thought out. Some coaches refer to this as the green zone, an extension of the backed-up zone. The offensive thought process, for the most part, is usually the same here as it was for the backed-up area. The Cardinal Rule is to get a first down.
Slight differences may occur, however. For example, the offense can open it up a little more here than it could when it was deeper in its own end. Quarterback sneaks are less prevalent here.
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Another difference is that a penalty will not result in a safety. Ball security is still a must. Trick plays, such as reverses or double passes, are minimal. Passes should be thrown on time, and pass protection is highly important. Backs who check release will ensure extra blockers should the defense bring pressure. Motion may be used to help with pre-snap reads, and play action passes are possible.
The running game probably consists of base-type runs with power or man blocking. Handoffs are probably more preferable than toss or pitch type plays. Counters are risky, and quick-tempo plays will probably be the norm.
Plays with yardage loss potential should be avoided. The offense wants to stay on schedule and not be faced with a long-yardage play. Defensive strategy in this area should be to get a stop and be in position to receive a punt around the yard-line.
Defenses should be taught to think turnovers. Zone coverages are safer than man coverages. A five-under, two-deep scheme that disrupts routes would be effective in this zone. Kenny Ratledge spent more than 30 years as a defensive coordinator in high school football.
How to attack half-court basketball zone defenses
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