For virtually my entire coaching career I have had my teams play a 2-3 zone on baseline out of bounds plays (BLOBs) for two reasons.
- So many gimmick plays are designed to get players to the rim off of screens and cuts. These high percentage shots are especially critical in girls high school basketball games where I have found the field goal percentage can hover around 30%.
- It provides for an automatic opportunity to show teams a different look to whatever other defense we happen to be using at the time (unless of course the game plan already has us in a 2-3).
For the longest time it never occurred to me even consider other solutions. Most of the teams in our league also play 2-3 out of bounds, so apparently this is a common philosophy. Obviously college and professional teams rely primarily on man to man, but the shooters in those leagues are much more reliable and the players in general are stronger, so it’s easier to get longer passes to these places ahead of a close out. The idea did not enter my mind to seriously consider using man to man until I was watching a high school sectional final game last week after our team had been eliminated and I noticed that both teams were playing man to man on BLOBs. By the third and fourth quarter of this game, both teams were creating five second calls, deflections, and interceptions on BLOBs.
Looking into our Data
This prompted me to look back at the data from our season. To make my research a little more impactful I searched specifically at our losses to see if I could pinpoint flaws in the way that we were playing defense and also to see if our opponents were doing something noticeably different defensively against our zone out of bounds plays. I charted our individual plays as well as the opponents individual plays, which despite the variety of seven different teams, the plays were generally repeated between different teams.
Here’s the results from 68 different offensive looks:
Playing Offense against Zone
- Positive Plays (I’m calling this either a made shot or getting fouled directly off the BLOB) 22%.
- Missed shots consisted of 22%, which in my opinion are slightly above average plays since we turned it over more than our fair share at 22 times per game.
- To stay with the 22% theme, we turned it over or had it deflected 22% of the time.
- The rest of the time, we did not have a shot off the BLOB or immediate turnover and ended up running offense.
Playing Offense against Man
- On 40% of the possessions, teams that beat us were playing man to man against us. And after looking at the data, nothing really changed too drastically.
- We were getting the positive plays 23% of the time
- A turnover or deflection happened 27% of the time
- A missed shot happened 23% of the time.
Playing Defense with 2-3 Zone
When we were playing defense, the results were similar. Consider though that we only played man to man twice in these games on BLOBs.
- Our opponents made a shot in 22% of the time (they were somehow never fouled in these scenarios).
- They missed a shot 29% of the time.
- They turned it over or had the pass deflected 24% of the time.
Overall, I came away from the whole exercise now feeling somewhat indifferent as to what to have the players run on baseline out of bounds. This research (particularly for our defense) does not even account for scouting which is a huge component of baseline out of bounds defense, but overall I feel confident making the switch back and forth between the two defenses depending on the situation.