When NC State took on Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt employed a couple of different kinds of zone. NC State ran a great out of timeout zone set, enabling the guard on top to attack down the middle of the zone and setting up an easy lob at the rim.
Finding the right zone attack can be hard. For many, it is not seen all that often and not nearly as much time is dedicated in practice to attacking it. However, there are some simple concepts that can help offenses attack the zone and find success.
Keys to a good zone attack:
Don’t wait for the zone to set-up.
This starts on the defensive end of the floor. Getting stops on defense allows an offense to get out and run. A zone is most effective when it can get back, keep the ball in front of it, and get set. An offense can find good opportunities for easier looks by getting out and attacking early before the defense can get set.
Just like when facing man-to-man defense, the spacing is key. Players should look to find open space against the zone. There is a great saying: “put ’em where they ain’t.” It is a simple concept that must be taught.
Ball and player movement.
The ball needs to move. Moving the ball will cause the defense to shift. The more you can move the defense, the better chance for a breakdown in the defense. Additionally, the ball needs to find the deep corners or short corners of the zone. By attacking from “behind the defense” and getting the ball along the baseline, it will force the zone to “flatten” out. This will help keep the zone from extending out- making it easier for the offense to move the ball around the perimeter and find perimeter shots.
Along with ball movement, player movement can help shift and distort the zone. By cutting, the offense becomes much less predictable to guard and much harder for the defense to match.
Attack the glass.
Unlike in man-to-man defense, the zone defenders are necessarily matched to man. So when a shot goes up, it is much more difficult to get man on man blockouts. This is a great opportunity for the offense to attack the glass and find easy points via the put back and put foul pressure on the defense.