Breaking down Iona’s defense
Disregarding their awful opening game against Purdue, where Iona allowed 1.13 points per possessions, they have been a fairly strong defensive team so far this season, allowing .95 and .87 points per possessions in their two other games, against Western Michigan and Maryland, respectively. Iona usually plays a 2-1-2 press before dropping back into a 3-2 matchup zone. Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of this defense.
Here are two clips showing the matchup defense of Iona. In the first, you can see Iona lined up in their 2-1-2 press before dropping back into the zone. In the Maryland game, Iona matched up with Sean Mosley and Terrell Stoglin and chased these players, the best Maryland offensive players, around the court. The goal is to not let these players find the holes in the zone, so when they cut through the zone, a defensive player will shadow them until they can pass them off to a teammate.
The following two plays show examples of the matchup zone of Iona. Watch Sean Mosley and how a defender always has eyes on him. When Mosley cuts through the defense, a defender follows him until he can pass him off to a second defender. Then, Iona has to make sure they maintain their shape to not leave too many gaping holes in the zone. They do not want to let Mosley or Stoglin get open, so they matchup in a man defense with them, while they play a zone with the remaining players.
The defense of Iona attempts to do two things to the offense: force the tempo to a high pace game (though 3 games, Iona has played at an average of 72.1 possessions per game) and force turnovers (23.9% turnover percentage in the early season). By putting pressure on the guards, they hope to make mistakes by forcing the guards to move too fast or make someone who is not comfortable bringing the ball up be responsible for getting the ball over half court (similar to Belmont). Iona forced the young guards of Maryland into a 35.7% turnover percentage, mainly through their press.
The main hole in this zone defense is the baseline, as there are only two defenders on the bottom of the zone. When Maryland was successful in the half court, it was often because they got the ball to the baseline, either on the block or in the corner. Teams can open up the floor by forcing the defense to collapse on the baseline.
Teams shoot unusually well against Iona from beyond the arc (39% through three games), so even though Iona stacks the perimeter with three players, teams can find openings to shoot threes. However, the main open spot continues to be the baseline. Teams can open up the floor for three point shots and other easy shots if they get the ball to the baseline.
A second opening is the zone is the offensive glass. It is already difficult to rebound in a zone but it is still harder to rebound in a 3-2 zone. Iona has allowed opponents to rebound 34.4% of their misses (214th in the nation). An undersized Iona team will continue to struggle in this area, so teams will be able to take advantage and extend possessions.