A master in zone defense? Topic

I am looking for a coach who has great success with the zone defense (preferably in DI) to give me some insights.  Anyone willing to share some secrets or strategies would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance.  Feel free to sitemail me as well.  
8/16/2012 3:22 PM
i am far from an expert, and ive only played zone once in d1. i took a mid major (csun in tark) to the elite 8, over the course of maybe a 7 season rebuild, where i lost by 3 to a team so much better than mine, they had to have 9 of the top 10 players (and arguably the top 5). 

however, i really thought i had things pretty well figured out at the time, it was a fb/zone set. the trick to zone is to make sure you get guys worthy of playing 35mpg, and play them that 35m. you can't have a well rounded team, unless its very short, or else zone suffers somewhat considerably, it seems. you really need to find a couple guys who are tip top scorers (for whatever set you had, my super star on my fb/zone set had 70 ath, 100 spd, like no lp, and 48 per, with 99 bh. he also had a+ ft shooting and that led to his greatness, he put up 24ppg even against top competition, at very good efficiency - really, he outperformed many, many 90 ath/spd/bh/per guys ive had over the years).

along those lines, i think zone really rewards teams who build a good starting 5, from a synergy standpoint. those 5 guys will play together more than starters in any other set. so if you can manage to grab a great pg in a traditional (spd/bh/pass/def) sense, a great scoring sg, 2 great rebounders, and a sf who rounds things out in whatever way is needed, you can play the **** out of those guys, and really claim an advantage over other teams who are playing their backup line for 15 minutes a game.

i found that bigs had to have good reb/sb (which go hand in hand) to be effective in the zone, with at least competitive ath (60+). defense is still very important in the zone, i think that forum myth doesn't have the wings it used to have, but you still hear it from time to time.

still, arguably the best advice i can give you is, always take a couple walkons. in zone, you really rely on your stars. ANYTHING you can do to up the quality of your top few players, do it, even if it means taking 2-4 walkons every single season. i wouldnt take less than 1 under virtually any circumstance, and really would only take 1 if i was thrilled with every single player i signed. also, consider the use of senior transfers for that 7th-9th spot, i mean they aren't great a lot of time, but then you get the money right back (same as a walkon), and often, they hardly play anyway, and even when they do, they are usually at least competitive with the kind of freshman you'd have signed as your worst freshman.
8/16/2012 3:42 PM
Awesome stuff.  Thanks gillispie!  I will sitemail you with a few more questions if you don't mind.  Appreciate the insight and help!
8/16/2012 3:51 PM
Posted by jjwarden on 8/16/2012 3:51:00 PM (view original):
Awesome stuff.  Thanks gillispie!  I will sitemail you with a few more questions if you don't mind.  Appreciate the insight and help!
i dont mind, but ever since my wife had the baby (5 weeks ago), i havent gotten around to writing back site mails. i cant resist the forums but i have a ton of site mails outstanding, maybe 25 or so? ill get to them eventually, hopefully they havent deleted themselves yet. ill try to keep an eye out for your sitemail but no promises! i will probably check this thread again, though.
8/16/2012 5:05 PM
OK, understandable!!  I have two kids and know the stress they bring.  I will stick to the forum where it is a bit easier and others can benefit.  I guess one of my first questions is based on the prospects of success for running the zone at a high DI school.  No one can firmly answer this question but is it possible to be highly successful (win championships) while running the zone at a BCS DI school?  I do not see a bunch of examples (if any) of it (at least in the Smith world) but maybe it is because people don't really understand its intricacies?  Maybe they are mostly all running M2M for a reason...?  I am at a place now (taking over a new team) that I can go either way.  With the turn over I will have on my team in the next 2 seasons I can practice any set and have them ready to go in 2 seasons.  I also plan to make this my last stop.  Ohio St is my favorite school and I don't plan on leaving.  Right now my team (OSU) runs a zone.  Obviously it would be easiest to stick with it.  (benefical for the current players)  But if zone is ultimately a failed DEF for DI in this game then i don't want to try to be the pioneer of a system that is fundamentally broken.   2 seasons of transition is well worth a lifetime of average results if the problem is the DEF scheme.  If zone has its niche than I am willing to work to find it, but just not sure if it is out there for a high DI school.  So that, I guess, is my first question.  Thanks for your thoughts.  
8/16/2012 5:47 PM
Clearly I'm not the expert CBG is, but I will say that I feel the zone is underutilized in high D1.  In fact, I feel that might be the area in which the zone is most useful.  Let me say that I do feel that, per minute, zone is a slightly inferior defense to man and press.  That said, it offers such great benefits in terms of minutes it will allow your starters to play that I would think you should be able to offset this disadvantage.  It was about a year ago that a D3 team with an absentee owner playing zone went through an entire season with only 8 guys on the depth chart and was very successful, I forget how deep into the tournament they went but it was probably about E8 I think...  This with no management the entire season, year-old distro and depth charts, etc.  With active coaching it really isn't all that tough to run an 8-man rotation in the zone if you have decent stamina.  If you know going in you can take up to 4 walk-ons per season without significant repurcussions you can go hard for the 5-star guys and maybe even afford to battle for guys further away than somebody who's trying to fill at least 10 or 11 scholarships can risk.
8/16/2012 7:16 PM
So under that formulation would you say that zone is the ideal defense for a low d1 team? Given that they can then take more Walkons, need less players and concentrate their money to compete for better players?
8/16/2012 7:41 PM
The other reason zone works well for a low-level D1 team, assuming you stay there a while, is that you can take the high-potential 500-525 rated players that no one else is recruiting, and redshirt them and have them sit on the bench for a couple of years while they build up their IQs and ratings. I think it's actually more productive for the low-level D1 teams to not take walk-ons, but rather go after some cheaper high WE guys who can be good as juniors and seniors.
8/16/2012 10:46 PM
In order to get your starters to play say 35mpg as coach billy suggested are you playing them to "getting tired"?  I am currently playing zone with a team that has starters around the 70 to 80 range for stamina and they are typically maxing out at 25mpg.  That is playing normal tempo.  
8/17/2012 8:49 AM
Posted by jjwarden on 8/17/2012 8:49:00 AM (view original):
In order to get your starters to play say 35mpg as coach billy suggested are you playing them to "getting tired"?  I am currently playing zone with a team that has starters around the 70 to 80 range for stamina and they are typically maxing out at 25mpg.  That is playing normal tempo.  
For one thing, you are using a twelve man rotation - I would presume that to get 35 a game' you would use a 9 or even 8 man rotation?
8/17/2012 9:37 AM
Kinda funny, I've been an almost exclusive FB/Press team. As a low DI school (E Illinois), I feasted on the teams that were M2M. I'd run my 12-man (with STA averagearound 82 or 83) FB at uptempo and their 9 or 10 depth M2M team would be sucking wind before halftime. They'd get to a quick lead, but I'd have it cut to a little lead by halftime. In the 2nd half they'd be winded shortly in and I'd frequently be able to win just based on fatigue. This was against ranked teams with my team around 660-670 rating and theirs 770+. I would face weaker teams running zone and even as little as 8-man rosters and I couldn't wear them out enough to be successful with any regularlity.

Zone's strength really seems to be in the fact you don't need a lot of depth. You can focus on recruiting a handful of all-stars and playing them longer before they wear out. M2M seems to need more depth than zone. Note that this is my opinion based upon FACING zone defenses, not RUNNING them.

As a side-note I'm finally moving from FB/Press now that I'm at Ga Tech and I felt limited when I saw great 4-5 star players that don't have the stamina to fit my FB/Press system. Already switched offenses, and I'm pondering the same question as as jjwarden, m2m or zone? And can zone be as successful at the elite level as m2m?
8/17/2012 10:29 AM
i think my guys around 90 sta, on getting tired, would average in the low-mid 30s, but in close games, would play like 35mpg (and that is really what matters, average mpg is usually a bit lower). even in m2m, i have guys in the low 90s who hit 35 on getting tired. i seem to remember my zone dudes breaking 30 even on fairly fresh really, but i would suggest getting tired for those high sta players, because they can take it no problem (very low risk of falling into those lower fatigue ranges with big penalties).

even if i had 10-11 guys on my roster, i usually would have the bulk (160ish) of my minutes going to my starters. who got the rest just depended on the situation. often id have like a clear 3rd best big or guard, and they would get almost all the minutes at both positions (which still might have only been like 12 or 13). other times, id have 2 guys who were about the same, and put one at each spot. i think you could get away with a 7 man rotation in zone, but really 8 works best, 3 guards, 3 bigs, 2 at sf (with your 8th best player being that 2nd sf just because you need a body). well, more than 8 is good too i mean, im just saying you can get away with 8 no problem. if you are only floating like 2 walkons, then you are going to get an IQ boost as a result, so its not like those last 2 scholarship players are totally wasted.

i was running FB at the time so i was obviously not running slowdown, and i hate uptempo generally speaking, so i never really played it.
8/17/2012 11:12 AM
I am thinking of sticking with the zone at the team I just took over at Fordham. If you have an 8 man rotation, have you ever had a problem with more than 3 players fouling out? Also, I read if you have more than 2 walk-ons, the players don't increase their ratings as much - have you found that to be an issue. The flip side, which probably offsets this would be that they get so many more minutes that it may not matter. I am going to give it a shot and see what happens. Thanks for the tips.
2/9/2013 8:31 AM
Have ten players redshirt one freshman and play the other as an emergency backup.
2/9/2013 11:16 AM
Thanks - that sounds like a good plan.
2/9/2013 1:58 PM
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