How Michigan used a zone defense to slow down Memphis
Memphis loves to get the ball to the rim for easy buckets and was using this gameplan to hang with Michigan for most of the first half of their opening round game of the Maui Invitational. Memphis’ explosiveness of the dribble was trouble for the Michigan guards, so John Beilein went to a zone for the last few minutes of the first half and the majority of the second half. Their zone was effective in slowing the tempo of Memphis and limiting their ability to drive.
Michigan played a 1-3-1 zone for most of the time and their positioning in the zone took away the driving lanes that were there early in the first half. They trapped the ball on the perimeter when it was passed below the foul line extended. Their main goal was not to force turnovers but to slow down the offense of the Tigers and force them to keep passing the ball around the arc.
The main reason the zone worked for Michigan was that it took away the penetration lanes for Memphis. Unlike the start of the game, where Memphis could space the floor and spread the defense out, the zone was able to clog the paint and stop the Tigers from getting to the rim. Both the paint and the baseline, left open in Michigan’s man defense, was cut off when Michigan went to the zone. While Memphis continued to space the floor, the defensive alignment by Michigan was more compact and able to take away driving lanes.
While many of the looks Memphis got from outside shots were uncontested, Michigan was happy with letting a team that shot 33% from 3 last year to launch outside shots instead of getting good looks at the rim. When Memphis was able to beat the zone, they got the ball to the baseline to open up the rest of the floor. Many possessions, however, they simply passed the ball around the perimeter before jacking up a long range shot. When Michigan took away their driving lanes, they struggled to score and Michigan pulled away for an easy win.