1–3–1 defense and offense

Last updated

The 1–3–1 defense and offense is a popular strategy used in basketball.


Typical 1-3-1 Formation ZONE1-3-1.jpg
Typical 1-3-1 Formation

The 1-3-1 zone defense is a defensive basketball formation. It was originally utilized by legendary basketball coach, Red Sarachek. This defense is named for its formation since there is one defender at the point, three defenders at the free throw level, and one defender at the base line. The main focus of this defensive strategy is to force turnovers. This is done by using quick, pestering defense and anticipating any passes to attempt a steal. A two-man trap is implemented in this defense. The defense attempts to guide the ball handler towards a corner and quickly close in and double team the offensive player creating a trap with the defenders and side lines. This trap often forces the ball handler to get rid of the ball prematurely taking the offense out of their set up. This often results in poor passes or shots. These poor passes are meant to be taken advantage of in this defense so the weak side defenders must anticipate passes to create turnovers.


The defensive usage of the 1-3-1 is mostly used to create turnovers, not for protecting the paint, due to only having one player down low. Teams usually have two guards to double team the ball carrier.

Another variation of the 1-3-1 defense is the full court press version. The lead guard will pressure the ball in the backcourt, and also can shade over to the side and form a 2-man trap with a defensive player in the 3-set when an offensive guard tries to bring up the ball down the sideline.

One effective press-break against the 1-3-1 full court press is to have either the power forward or the center to flash to midcourt and then quickly pass the weak side guard running down the sideline, not allowing the trap to be formed.

There are multiple ways to approach defense in the sport of basketball. Typically they are divided into man defenses and zone defenses. The 1-3-1 zone defense is a zone defense. It falls under this category because each player guards a specific zone within the formation. This defense is named for its formation. A picture of the formation is shown on the right. In basketball positions are numbered from one to five. One and two are guards, three and four are forwards, and five is the center in a typical basketball lineup. Guards are quick and typically are good ball handlers and shooters. Forwards usually are the most athletic and are typically taller than the guards. The center is the tallest player and specializes in close vicinity to the basket.


In this formation, the one will take the top and meet the oncoming offensive guard. The two and three positions are split out on the edges of the court at free throw level, or on the wing. The four position is down beneath the basket and acts as a rover along the base line. The rover position is typically the best athlete’s position since there is the most area to defend around the basket. The five position is posted in the center of the formation at about free throw level.

Zone responsibilities

The goal of the 1-3-1 zone defense is to create turnovers. This defense focuses extra pressure on the ball handler and will exert more effort to force turnovers. Turnovers within this defense are created by a couple key features of this strategy. Two defensive players will try to trap the ball handler in one of the corners of the half court. In basketball the ball can only be held for five seconds before passing, shooting, or dribbling. If a player is trapped in the corner they tend to stop their dribble before making a decision to pass or shoot. This creates a problem for the offense but is exactly what the defense wants to happen. When a player is double teamed without their dribble they tend to make poor decisions. Often bad passes and shots are forced out by the player just to get the ball out of the corner. It is vital for players not guarding the ball handler to anticipate a bad pass or shot in order to make a steal or get a rebound. This will help create the most turnovers.

Each player will have their own responsibility in the zone. They each have their own area to guard on the court. Players will also shift as the ball is moved to be in better defensive position. This means moving to a better location to cut off passes and gather rebounds. Typically, the one will take the top position. They will meet the ball handler and force them in one direction while playing close defense. Based on the direction the ball handler dribbles the defender on the wing, either the two or three position, will close in on the ball handler for a double team. The intention is to force a double team quickly and drive the offensive player into a corner of the court. The double team creates a lot of free space on the court. The other three players must shift to cover this area equally during a trap. A trap can be made at any of the four corners both at the base line and at half court. The only difference is the base line is defended by the rover and they will trap with the wing instead of the one position. By forcing these double teams the offense will make long cross court passes. These passes are more likely to get stolen because they are less accurate and travel in the air longer. More space is open during a double team so the defenders not trapping must take advantage of the long passes and force any possible turnovers

Coaching strategy

Defensively Coaches usually do this to throw the offense off tempo. It is thrown in to mix up the defensive look and force the offense to adjust or face flustering defensive pressure. Normally the 1-3-1 defense is used to create turnovers and is fast paced so players cannot keep it up the whole game. By applying pressure to the ballhandler the defense plans to take advantage of any mistakes forced from the pressure. The extra defensive pressure often makes the ball handler lose some composure and turn the ball over. By using this at key points in the game this strategy can change momentum, cause quick scoring shifts, and create a large enough lead to break the opponents morale. This defense is very effective if run correctly and can take a team out of the game both physically and mentally.

Offensively The 1-3-1 defense attempts to fluster the offensive set up. The key to beating the 1-3-1 zone is to get the defenders out of position. This is accomplished by quickly passing the ball around the perimeter. If the offense can pass the ball before the defense traps them then the defense must shift to adjust to the new ball position. As the defense shifts passing lanes open up and defenders have to rotate to stay in position. Speeding up the tempo and running fast breaks also can beat this defense. Pushing the ball quickly up the court gives the defense little time to set up the zone. If the offense can get to the basket before the zone sets up scoring can be achieved easily. The defense can easily be beaten if composure is kept and good passes are made. Issues occur when the offense is surprised by the extra pressure and is not expecting the trap that occur in basketball.

Related Research Articles

Basketball Team sport

Basketball, colloquially referred to as hoops, is a team sport in which two teams, most commonly of five players each, opposing one another on a rectangular court, compete with the primary objective of shooting a basketball through the defender's hoop while preventing the opposing team from shooting through their own hoop. A field goal is worth two points, unless made from behind the three-point line, when it is worth three. After a foul, timed play stops and the player fouled or designated to shoot a technical foul is given one, two or three one-point free throws. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, but if regulation play expires with the score tied, an additional period of play (overtime) is mandated.

Point guard Basketball position

The point guard (PG), also called the one or the point, is one of the five positions in a regulation basketball game. A point guard has perhaps the most specialized role of any position. Point guards are expected to run the team's offense by controlling the ball and making sure that it gets to the right player at the right time. Above all, the point guard must understand and accept their coach's game plan; in this way, the position can be compared to a quarterback in American football, a catcher in baseball or a playmaker in soccer. They must also be able to adapt to what the defense is allowing and must control the pace of the game.

Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent in order to win the game.

Basketball positions Positions played in basketball

Organized basketball is a game played by five players per team. Historically, these players have been assigned to positions defined by the role they play on the court, from a strategic point of view. Broadly speaking, the three main positions are guard, forward, and center, with the standard team featuring two guards, two forwards, and a center. Over time, as more specialized roles developed, each of the guards and forwards came to be differentiated, and today each of the five positions are known by unique names, each of which has also been assigned a number: point guard (PG) or 1, the shooting guard (SG) or 2, the small forward (SF) or 3, the power forward (PF) or 4, and the center (C) or 5.

Zone defense is a type of defense, used in team sports, which is the alternative to man-to-man defense; instead of each player guarding a corresponding player on the other team, each defensive player is given an area to cover.

Man-to-man defense is a type of defensive tactic used in team sports such as American football, association football, basketball, and netball, in which each player is assigned to defend and follow the movements of a single player on offense. Often, a player guards his counterpart, but a player may be assigned to guard a different position. However, the strategy is not rigid, and a player might switch assignment if needed, or leave his own assignment for a moment to double team an offensive player. The term is commonly used in both men's and women's sports, though the gender-neutral 'player-to-player' also has some usage. The alternative to man-to-man defense is zone defense, a system of defense in which each player guards an assigned area rather than a specified opponent.

Basketball moves are generally individual actions used by players in basketball to pass by defenders to gain access to the basket or to get a clean pass to a teammate to score a two pointer or three pointer.

Fast break

Fast break is an offensive strategy in basketball and handball. In a fast break, a team attempts to move the ball up court and into scoring position as quickly as possible, so that the defense is outnumbered and does not have time to set up. The various styles of the fast break–derivative of the original created by Frank Keaney–are seen as the best method of providing action and quick scores. A fast break may result from cherry picking.

Glossary of basketball terms Wikipedia glossary

This glossary of basketball terms is a list of definitions of terms used in the game of basketball. Like any other major sport, basketball features its own extensive vocabulary of unique words and phrases used by players, coaches, sports journalists, commentators, and fans.

A full-court press is a basketball term for a defensive style in which the defense applies pressure to the offensive team the entire length of the court before and after the inbound pass. Pressure may be applied man-to-man, or via a zone press using a zone defense. Some presses attempt to deny the initial inbounds pass and trap ball handlers either in the backcourt or at midcourt.

American football positions Specific roles that players take in American football

In American football, the specific role that a player takes on the field is referred to as their "position." Under the modern rules of American football, both teams are allowed 11 players on the field at one time and have "unlimited free substitutions," meaning that they may change any number of players during any "dead ball" situation. This has resulted in the development of three task-specific "platoons" of players within any single team: the offense, the defense, and the so-called 'special teams'. Within these three separate "platoons", various positions exist depending on the job that player is doing.

The following terms are used in water polo. Rules below reflect the latest FINA Water Polo Rules.

Basketball playbook Book of plays used in basketball

A basketball playbook, like any sports playbook, involves compilation of strategies the team would like to use during games. The playbook starts as a canvas picture of the basketball court with all its boundaries and lines. On top of that, the playmaker can draw O's for players on offense, and X's for players on defense. Specifically however, the playmaker will need to number them for different positions. They are:

The game of lacrosse is played using a combination of offensive and defensive strategies. Offensively, the objective of the game is to score by shooting the ball into an opponent's goal, using the lacrosse stick to catch, carry, and pass the ball. Defensively, the objective is to keep the opposing team from scoring and to dispossess them of the ball through the use of stick checking and body contact or positioning.

The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.

2–3 zone defense

The 2–3 zone defense is a defensive strategy used in basketball as an alternative to man-to-man defense. It is referred to as the 2–3 because of its formation on the court, which consists of two players at the front of the defense and three players behind.

Line defense is a strategy used in basketball. It is referred to as the "line defense" because of its formation on the court, which consists of two lines of defense. Three players at the front of the defense and two players behind. The line was the first zone concept to be used in basketball. The line defense was developed to counter the fast break plays that were being developed, and adopted, at the time. The line defense was the catalyst of the future 3-2 zone defense.

The amoeba defense is a defensive strategy in the game of basketball.

Basketball is a ball game and team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules. Since being developed by James Naismith as a non-contact game that almost anyone can play, basketball has undergone many different rule variations, eventually evolving into the NBA-style game known today. Basketball is one of the most popular and widely viewed sports in the world.

Wheel offense is an offensive strategy in basketball, developed in the late 1950s by Garland F. Pinholster at the Oglethorpe University. It is a kind of continuity offense in which players move around in a circular pattern to create good scoring opportunities. The wheel offense is a popular offensive play, frequently used by teams from middle school to college levels because it can effectively work against any defense, including zone defense and man-to-man defense.


[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

  1. Philo, C. "1-3-1 zone defense." Texas Coach 48.6 (2004): 46-47.
  2. Horyzer, L. "The 1-3-1 'in-between zone defense'." Scholastic Coach 60.3 (1990): 22-23;76.
  3. Earle, J. Complete book of 1-3-1 basketball. West Nyack, N.Y.; United States: Parker Pub. Co., 1976.
  4. Pitre, L., and R. Nordstrom. "An old friend the 1-3-1 zone." Texas Coach 35.7 (1991): 34-35.
  5. Scariolo, Sergio. "1-3-1 ZONE DEFENSE." FIBA Assist 34 (2008): 24-27.