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.