Here comes a rant.

It’s become a disgusting, overplayed annoying record. It’s like being trapped in the middle of nowhere with one radio station and no iPod. And the radio is playing crap you don’t want to hear, but you can’t turn it off. And your gas tank is running low and you don’t have any cell phone service. Plus your cruise control doesn’t work so you have to keep your foot pushed on the pedal to maintain a consistent speed. It sucks and you want it to be over.  In fact, it’s like watching the Minnesota Gophers play on the road against Northwestern and their seemingly impenetrable 1-3-1 zone.

Yes, the same 1-3-1 zone that middle schoolers deploy to confuse their gangly, awkward counterparts is the same defense that our coach, Tubby Smith, has been heretofore unable to figure out for five (count ’em) five years in a row. And tonight was no exception. In an amazingly embarrassing and ugly performance, the Gophers literally fell over themselves trying to penetrate a zone that requires two passes and a screen. That’s it. Northwestern deployed it halfway through the second half and that was the end. It was sickening.

I don’t get it. I really don’t. Here we have a veteran college coach. A guy who’s won a championship no less. And he hasn’t been able to figure out how to attack the same dumbass defense for five years. Even more irritating is that it’s not like it’s a surprise. He KNOWS the Wildcats are going to use it. They do it every time they face Minnesota. PREPARE YOUR PLAYERS FOR THE ZONE. Draw up three plays to break it down. RUN THEM. This isn’t rocket science, folks. It’s a basketball offense. Five guys and a ball.

Here’s how it has gone on every Gophers possession for five straight years. And this isn’t hyperbole. This is exactly how it happens. PG1 dribbles down the court just over half court and gets double teamed. Then he inexplicably picks up his dribble instead of passing it away. He gets harassed for a few seconds then throws a pass over the top to PG2. This guy is even more confused because he has no idea where to go. Now, two things happen at this point. Either PG2 takes a jackass shot and misses or he tries a skip pass across the court and throws it away. This happens every time, and it was no different tonight.

Instead of standing around passing it back and forth over the top like lemmings and holding the ball for too long, the players should be making quick passes, attacking gaps and cutting up the zone. THIS IS HOW YOU ATTACK ZONES. The 1-3-1 isn’t some magical potion imported from a mystical planet; it’s a stupid defense that can be destroyed in three seconds. Christ, even Iowa destroyed Northwestern when they used it this year.

Here are a couple links that talk about EXACTLY how to do it. Who knew it was so easy! Some excerpts:

Most success will come with attacking from the corner or short corner, and underneath the zone. Screening the low defender and back-screening the middle defender create opportunities as well.

This did not happen. Another one:

As in any zone offense, we move the ball with good quick passing, use skip passes, look to dribble penetrate the gaps, and drive and dish (either inside to a post player, or a kick out to the opposite side for a 3-point shot).

This did not happen. Another one:

As in any zone offense, attacking the offensive boards for rebounds is important for second and third shots, especially since there is only one inside defender.

Hey, this didn’t happen either! 0-3.

And then there’s some video of exactly what it looks like when Northwestern’s 1-3-1 is broken. It’s frighteningly simple. All you need is a guy to distribute the ball at the top of the key..

Here’s an example of dishing out from the paint. See how easy it is?

Here’s another way to carve up the zone. Was that so hard?


My sarcastic point is that this is not hard to beat. Teams do it all the time. And the fact that the Gophers under Tubby Smith, year in and year out have failed to even come close to figuring it out. And that is inexcusable. Completely inexcusable. Anyone who saw the game tonight couldn’t have missed the fact that Minnesota was completely and utterly baffled by the zone defense, which is sad. They were reduced to a bunch of morons passing the ball back and forth like they’d had a lobotomy – completely unsure of what to do next. How unprepared can a team be for something they know is coming? And this same team has seen this defense before!

I’m not about to pretend to be a coach, but how hard is this to figure out? It certainly doesn’t seem that hard. And the team had six days to prepare for this. It’s mind-numbing. But the most ridiculous thing that I’ll keep hammering home is the fact that Tubby hasn’t been able to figure this thing out once. ONCE. In five years. Completely inexcusable.

There’s already a lot of talk about the Gophers’ season slowly crumbling and it certainly feels like something is amiss. However, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on this squad yet. Yes, they’ve lost three in a row, but for some reason Evanston is just kryptonite for these guys. Not sure why, but it is. The Gophers head down there and it’s like they enter some enchanted forest of idiocy. They completely forget how to play their game. If they have the same mental lapses and dumb play when they head to Madison this weekend then we’ll know something is up. Let’s try to keep it together for one more game.

One thought on “Oh crap, a 1-3-1 zone. WHAT DO WE DO?!

  1. Great article you hit the nail on the head. Why they can’t figure this out is ridiculous. As was said they had 6 days to prepare for this game. What did they do for those 6 days? It sure wasn’t practice there free throw shooting because they shot 40% from the line going (7 for 17) which is a whole nother issue. This is the most embarassing lose I can remember. This team has a few really talented players and there is no way they should’ve lost that game last night. I’m not an advocate for getting rid of Tuby but maybe he needs to look at his assistant coaches and hold there feet to the fire. I imagine thats kind of hard when your son is one of those coaches. Imagine how all those recruits that are thinking of coming to Minnesota feel. This is the type of thing that can cost you that top recruit and you can’t really blame them if they decide to go else where. Being successful is what attracts top recruits and this game could really hurt this program.

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