Matching Zone Challenges

Three years ago I presented an extensive piece on coach Gene Sullivan’s innovative matching zone defense. Since then several coaches have asked when I intend to publish Part II – an exploration of special situations requiring adjustments to the defense as well as ways to employ contemporary trapping tactics within the defense’s structure and rules.

Since Part II is not yet available I thought I could be somewhat responsive to these requests by presenting a brief supplemental to the original piece.

Here goes.

Click here to read Matching Zone Challenges

By Request

During the last couple of weeks, in response to a series of posts on the decline of scoring in college basketball and my attempt to trace the reasons for this disturbing trend by probing Austin Carr’s record-setting performance in the early 1970’s, several readers have requested information on the Stack or Isolation Offense. Over the weekend I was flattered to hear from basketball aficionado, Herb Welling.

Coach Welling, as you may know, has been called the “minister of information” in coaching circles and has been featured several times in the media, most prominently in Grant Wahl’s 2008 Sports Illustrated article on the evolution of the Dribble Drive Motion offense.

Herb first became acquainted with betterthanalayup.com when researching the matching zone defense and discovered my piece on coach Gene Sullivan’s strategy. In recent days we’ve shared several emails and phone calls, discussing the origins of Sullivan’s equally interesting Stack offense.

I promised him that I would provide a deeper dive into the subject and am pleased to offer it now in a “quick and dirty,” Q & A format. In the future I’ll post a more comprehensive and polished essay.

In the meantime, I hope this initial piece proves helpful and prompts further questions and commentary.

Click here to read Stack Offense Q & A

It’s a Simple Game

In The Physics of Baseball, Yale professor Robert Adair describes the difficulty of hitting a baseball hurdling toward the batter at 90 miles per hour. Yet, the greatest hitter of all time, Ted Williams, was able to reduce Adair’s detailed study into a simple law that separates the strong hitter from the mediocre. Just as Einstein was able to reduce his theory of relativity to a single equation, Williams was able to distill the science of hitting in a single sentence: Get a good pitch to hit. I have long wondered if we could do the same for the game of basketball. 

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The Best Matching Zone You’ve Never Seen

We’re three months into the 2013-14 season and the more vocal critics of the new hand-check and block/charge rules are beginning to quiet down. (See C.J. Moore and Matt Norlander’s recent columns.) Compared to last year at the same point in time, fouls are up by only four while scoring has increased by six, and most games have been completed in less than two hours.

I happen to think that the rule changes are the best thing to happen to college basketball in a long time. Eventually the players will more fully adapt, learning that defense is played with one’s feet and heart, not with arms, hands, and hips.

In any event, some coaches are turning to various forms of the zone defense in an attempt to cut down on fouls and keep their starters in the game. In early December, using statistics compiled by Synergy Sports Technology, The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen reported that the use of zones was up by a 6% since last year with Top-25 teams facing zones on nearly 24% for their half-court sets.

If that news sparks your interest in the zone defense, here’s an in-depth look at the most comprehensive match-up ever devised.

Click here to read Rediscovering Gene Sullivan’s Matching Zone Defense, Part I