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The Zone Defense: A Disputed Strategy
Lessons on strategy may include discussion of the zone defense. Get a head start with Groupon's introduction.
In theory, a basketball player can be more effective on defense by guarding a region of the court—his "zone"—rather than matching up one-on-one with a particular offensive player. This is the central tenet of the zone defense, which seeks to negate the advantages of an offensively dominant opponent by forcing outside shots and disrupting offensive rhythm, ideally causing players to make unwise decisions with the ball. While the zone has plenty of potential variations, the setup witnessed most often is the two–three formation, in which three players—usually the forwards and the center—stand in a row along the baseline while the two guards patrol the backcourt.
Though the zone defense was disallowed in the NBA until as recently as 2001, zones have long been a staple of college hoops. The two–three has famously helped Syracuse men’s coach Jim Boeheim amass 29 NCAA tournament appearances, including a national championship in 2003. Even so, the defense is not without its detractors, many of whom cite its vulnerability to strong outside shooters and its general perception as a passive method of play. “It looks like a stickup at 7-Eleven,” former North Carolina State coach Norm Sloan was famously quoted as saying, explaining his disdain for the zone. “Five guys standing there with their hands in the air.”