3-2 Match-up Zone

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Defense Name 3-2 Zone
Defense Nickname 3-2 "Matchup"
Type of defense Hybrid Defense
Most appropriate age range is High School
Best used against Guard-Oriented Teams


The 3-2 matchup zone has a similar look to the 2-3 Zone but has a distinctive differrence in it's goal. The 2-3 is looking to protect the interior, force teams into outside shots, and limit post effectiveness. The 3-2 instead focuses on allowing for quick closeouts to perimeter players and limiting dribble penetration from the outside. The reason why we call this a "matchup" zone is that man to man principles still apply other than the fact that players will stay in their zone placement and match up with the offensive player(s) in their area. Players who find themselves on the weak side of the ball will look to shade basket line, help on dribble penetration, and see ball and man to be able to close out to anyone in their assignment area.

Video Breakdown

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BasketballWiki.Net Broadcast #4 - 3-2 Matchup Zone

Execution Details

Standard Alignment

Basic alignment of the 3-2 Zone

This is the basic alignment of the 3-2. Three guards --- two at opposing wing positions and one at the top of the key. Your two forward/center players will generally be at the two block positions.

We often use the phrase "Protect the House" with this defense as the 3-2 looks very similar to that shape. We talk about "not letting the roof cave in" which helps our players visualize keeping the ball above the zone and not allowing interior penetration. We also don't want players overextending outside the perimeter creating gaps for the offense to take advantage of. This is a zone that generally allows ball movement and focuses on keeping the ball in front.

On-ball Defense

Avoid allowing gaps inside the zone.

One of the priorities of the 3-2 is not overextending it's reach. We use the phrase "stay home" to emphasize that perimeter defenders should not be extending out past a couple steps beyond the three point line.

Defenders on the weak side should be in man to man principles. The weak side block defender should be on the basket line ready to step up and help on dribble penetration and the weak side wing should shade towards the middle as well. The weak side wing may want to sink a small amount to be ready to help defend the basket if the weak side block has to step up and help.

Defending the Wing

Communication and understanding responsibilities is key to defending the wing

General responsibilities for guarding the wing:

  • Above the FT Line extended - Responsibility of top defender
  • Below the FT Line extended - Responsibility of the wing defender on that side
  • Help defender - Weak side block - help and recover on any dribble penetration.

As with any defense, you must adjust to what the offense is presenting. If the offense alters to a 2-1-2 look, make the adjustment that makes sense for the offense's alignment. The key is making sure to limit long closeouts so rotate the zone to make the best of the situation.

Defending the High Post

Most high post flashes will come from the weak side block

Defending the high post can get complicated if you haven't practiced the responsibilities of who should be taking care of an offensive player flashing to the middle of the zone. This is the place that you don't want the ball to go... the place where it will cause it all to break down. We need to be aware of high post flashes and have clear priorities:

  • Not Allow a Face Cut/Lower Paint - The weak side block defender is generally the one who will be on basket line and make first contact with the flasher. Most teams flash a high post to the strong side or the middle from the weak side short corner. This means the weak side block defender needs to first and foremost make sure they do not allow the cutter to simply make a curl around their face. If they allow this the wing may be able to make a quick overhead pass and the flasher will have the ball in a very advantageous situation to get to the rim. Therefore this weak side block defender must get their arms up, step in front, and force the flasher to either go behind them or above them. It is the responsibility of the weak side block to defend the high post from the baseline to the bottom area of the circle.
  • Mid-Circle to Elbow - This is a rotation between the top defender and the weak side wing defender. If the ball is high up top then the top defender will need to match up up top, this leaves the weak side wing defender to discourage the high post pass. This rotation will shift from one wing defender to the other based upon how far the ball is on one side of the basket line or another. If the ball is high up top, the top defender can simply sink down to about the 3 point line level to discourage a high post pass. Sinking a bit at the top when the ball is high stays true to our "Protect the House" policy for the 3-2 matchup.

Defending the Low Post

Man to Man Principles Defending the Post

Defend the post as you normally would with the block defenders matching up with any attempt at a low post feed. In the 3-2 you want to keep the offense's possession above the zone so we want to deny the post. For more on man principles defending the post see Post Defense.

  • Three-Quarter - Foot over the top, hips over the top, denying hard but still possibly able to recover and cut off the baseline if the pass gets there.
  • Front and Back - If you choose to completely front the post, make sure the weak side block defender is ready to disrupt any attempt at a lob pass over the top.

Goals of the Zone

Adjust rotations to the offense's alignment