Breaking Down The Huskies’ Problems With The 2-3 Zone

Without worrying about rhetoric, here’s the biggest problem the Huskies are currently facing in their game planning: the zone defense.

Everybody and their mother knows the Dawgs can’t compete against the 2-3 zone, hence every team plays zone against the Huskies.

UCLA employed the 2-3 zone for nearly the entire game Thursday, and in the end it was enough to defeat the Huskies.

The 2-3 zone is designed to prevent offensive penetration. Since the Huskies feature a number of adept penetrators, opponents are basically out to neutralize the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton, Quincy Pondexter, etc. by utilizing the zone.

Ideally, when facing a 2-3, an offense would like to enter the ball into the high post (the area around the free-throw line) and maneuver it through passes out of that area.

Picture a bicycle wheel. In the middle of that wheel is a hub, of sorts, from which all the spokes flow. The high post equates to the hub. The spokes are the passes that can be made away from the hub.

By entering the ball to the high post, an offense is presented with a number of options. The player who receives the ball can shoot, kick out to the wings, or look for cutters along the baseline. By centering the ball in this fashion, an offense enables itself a better opportunity to move the ball around, spread the defense, and set up opportunities for baskets.

Now let’s examine what the Huskies do when facing a 2-3 zone.

Rather than utilize the high post, the Huskies often swing the ball to either of two guards on the wings, then attempt to force entry passes directly into the low block from those wings.

Picture a pentagon flipped upside down. At the tip of the pentagon, you have the point guard. On the outer points of the pentagon, you have your wings. And on the base of the pentagon, you have your forwards on the block.

Imagine passes flowing between the outer points of the pentagon into the base points of the pentagon. Now imagine that there are two defenders standing along that route. Not easy passes to be made by any means. But that’s basically what the Huskies are trying to do.

This problem isn’t new. The Huskies have been plagued by problems with the 2-3 zone for years, and it just seems to get worse and worse with each passing season.

This doesn’t fall on the players so much as it does the coaching staff. The coaching staff is either a) not preparing the team to face the zone, b) incorrectly preparing the team to face the zone, c) not communicating to the players when to run certain zone plays, or d) simply doesn’t have the right set of plays to combat the zone. My guess is the answer is d).

Until the coaches find a new way to beat the zone, expect similar results out of Washington against heady opponents. Trust me, I’m just as pissed as you are about this. These guys have to figure out what they’re doing wrong and adjust. And so far, they haven’t been able to do that.

8 thoughts on “Breaking Down The Huskies’ Problems With The 2-3 Zone”

  1. What’s strange is that nearly every other team I’ve ever seen (and the way my teams were always coached) attacks the 2-3 zone the way you described– look to have a big man catch it at one of the elbows and look to dump it down to the other big guy, or hit one of the wings cutting baseline. It’s almost the universal way to attack a 2-3. Lorenzo doesn’t even attempt to do this, and it isn’t that hard to teach…I’m sure most of these guys did this in high school anyways. It’s just weird.

  2. Afreakinmen. One of the most frusterating things in the world as a sports fan is watching a team with so much talent underperform because of poor coaching.

  3. Maybe someone should try to convince Romar he needs to schedule OOC road games. Good God UCLA looked bad. What does that say for the Dawgs?!?

  4. These Huskies could win the national title or lose to Roosevelt HS. Never know on any given night. What I do know every night though, is that Romar needs white guys that have been raised to play as a team. One for all and all for one.

    I love our team, but these guys are not getting it done. Not even with the wins vs. the bay area schools.

  5. By saying “Romar needs white guys that have been raised to play as a team,” you’re putting the onus for the team’s problems unfairly on the players.

    I love Romar. I think he’s a great guy. Probably one of the nicest, most respectful people I’ve ever met in my life. But the guy can’t coach against the zone. He just can’t. He never has, and it’s not his players’ fault.

    The thing is, the Husky players are combating the 2-3 zone defense so improperly that it’s clear they’re simply employing the skills they’ve been taught by the coaching staff. It’s not like they’re trying to combat the zone correctly and failing. They are flat-out not combating the zone the correct way.

    It doesn’t matter if Romar’s players are white, black, brown, green, blue, pink, whatever. If he and his coaches don’t teach them the right way to defeat the zone, they’re gonna suck. And that’s just how it is.

  6. I would argue that some of the problem lies with the structure of the roster. The Huskies simply do not have a big man that you can put in the high post and trust to make the smart pass or consistently knock down a 15 foot jump shot. Quincy is an option, but is usually most effective running the baseline to receive that pass or attack the offensive glass.

    For example, with the Huskies down 3 points with about 3-4 minutes left, they got the ball to Darnell Gant at the free throw line. Though it took too much time to do so, and he was probably a little rushed by the shot clock, the result was an ill-advised turn-around jumper by Gant. Not exactly what the coaching staff would like to see in that situation.

  7. “The Huskies simply do not have a big man that you can put in the high post and trust to make the smart pass or consistently knock down a 15 foot jump shot.”

    Agreed.

    None of the trio of MBA, Gant, or Breshers is very capable in the high post.

    But I would argue that when you have a guy like Quincy, who commands attention as it is AND can hit that straight-on 15-footer like nobody’s business, that makes him a dangerous high post option no matter what.

    The way I see it, if Quincy commands a double-team no matter where he is on the floor, then send him to the high post and kill two birds with one stone. Because the high post in the 2-3 zone automatically turns in to a double-team anyways.

    The fact is, when you’re this bad against the 2-3, you have to use the high post and get back to basics. There’s no excuse otherwise, in my mind at least.

  8. Doesn’t help when we don’t have a zone buster either…Wide open 3s from the wings.

    Where’s Ryan Appleby or Tre Simmons when you need them?!

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