Saturday, October 11, 2014

Using a Horns Set Against the 1-3-1

A number of years ago when I was the head varsity coach at South Tama we played a lot of 1-3-1 zone. I felt a zone gave us the best chance to win and a 1-3-1 was a little different zone that most teams didn't prepare for.

The second time around in conference play we went up against Pella Christian and they HAD in fact prepared. They shredded our zone with a similar look. I was going over tape and it gave me the idea for this zone set series. I haven't run it in a game, yet, but I really believe it's a great way to beat a 1-3-1 zone.

Basic Alignment:
The set starts with horns. A point guard (1) two in the high post (4, 5), and two deep corners (2, 3). It doesn't take much to see how this distorts the zone and makes it tough to match up against.

Basic Action
This was the basic action they ran effectively against us. The point guard (1) dribbles a little bit one direction, pulling the top player. As he does the middle defender (X5) will likely slide to take away the high post. Once the dribbler reaches the lane line, he throws back to the opposite high post player.
 Once that pass is made it's on. The 4 attacks the rim and the other high post (5) dives. So you end up with either a layup on the drive, a pass to the cutting 5, or a wide open three in the corner. I still have nightmares watching those guys knock down three after three.

Sink Wings to Match Up - Adjustments
If they sink the wings and try to match up there are several things you can do. The first thing I would do is set an actually horns ball screen on the top of the zone. Bring the point guard (1) off the ball screen. The back side post (4) dives to the rim, trying to get in front of X1 (who is usually a smaller player) and post him up. The screening post (5) flashes backside elbow, we can throw back to him, he can drive the ball, and we've got some options there as well. 

Another simple option is to run a high low look. The baseline guy is usually smaller so you can throw the ball to your 4 man, have your 5 dive hard and seal the baseline, and look to dump it into the 5. You can then play from there. 

A final interesting option is to have the 1 dribble away from your best wing shooter on the floor. The backside high post (5) will down screen for the wing in the corner (2) who will cut up (and should be wide open). As this happens the ball side post sets a flat baseline screen for the 1 who goes baseline. The backside post (5) dives to the backside block after setting the down screen. Both screens should happen at about the same time. 

Deny the Opposite Elbow with The Middle Man Adjustment
One of the adjustments they make make is to leave their middle man (X5) in the middle to take away that pass. That obviously leaves the ball side high post open (5) so then we run the same basic action. What happens is we force the middle man (X5) to decide who he's going to cover.

Deny the Opposite Elbow with the Backside Wing Adjustment
If they cover it by bringing the back side wing, we throw the diagonal skip pass to the backside corner (2). If that pass is made the 2 attacks the zone. The ball side elbow (4) dives to the front of the rim. The backside corner spots up and you make a play. The 1 could also rotate over to the other lane line if you wanted to give you that pitch as well. And if the bottom of the zone (X1) is over far enough 2 can cut to the backside block for a pass in and a layup.

Deny Elbow and Skip Adjustment
If their backside wing (X2) manages to play it correctly to try and take away both the backside elbow and the skip, you can throw it to the ball side corner player (3). The action is exactly the same as the above counter. If he catches the ball he should drive it. The ball side elbow (5) cuts to the front of the rim. So you have the hammer pass to the opposite corner, the 45 degree to the backside elbow (4), the post at the front of the rim.

Hubie Brown Special
This is a special set you can run out of the look. It's one from one of the Hubie Brown videos. The 1 dribbles hard and makes the trap happen. As this happens the ball side corner cuts through, up the opposite lane line, and gets open.

We reverse the ball to the 2 filling up and he drives the ball. On the catch the high posts (4 and 5) dive to the rim.

If the ball side wing (X3) stops the drive it's an easy kick to the corner for a wide open three.
If the middle man (X5) stops the drive the ball side or back side wing should be wide open.

*One addition I might add is having the 1 cut to the open corner for a kick out 3. 

In Conclusion
Again, I've never run this live, but I do think it presents some interesting options. I'm hoping we can find a team on our schedule who runs 1-3-1 to give at least the basic look a whirl. I know as a coach who has played 1-3-1 this alignment would give us problems if we hadn't spent some time drilling it before hand - I know this from experience! Would love to hear feedback if anyone does try it!

Check out the Horns Variation that @halfcourthoops shot out on Twitter for a 2-3 Zone. 

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