Sean Miller's Way to Attack the 1-3-1 Zone Defense

By Kevin Germany

This zone offense against a 1-3-1 comes directly from Arizona Wildcats men's basketball coach Sean Miller. Miller presented this strategy of attacking the 1-3-1 defense at a Nike coach's clinic in Las Vegas. This zone offense is predicated on moving the ball, attacking the defense's weak spots, and exploiting mismatches in the low post.

Initial Setup

The positions are as follows on defense: X2 is at mid-court, X3 and X4 are on the wings, X5 is at the high post, and X1 runs the baseline. The defense will look to make a trap in the “coffin” corners.

Avoid the coffin corners by lining up in a 1-3-1 offense. The best post player should run the baseline. The best shooter should be at the high post.

Initial Pass to Wing

4 and 3 will need to v-cut or seal to get open. 1 can pass to either side. In this case, 1 passes to 4 at the right wing.

2 moves to the strong-side corner. 3 flashes to the high post. 5 posts up.

Now the defense must “pick its poison” because X1 and X5 have to cover three players.

The offense has several options based on the defense’s reaction to the initial overload.

Corner Option

If X5 and X1 choose to cover 5, pass it to 2 for an open shot. 5 seals off X1 to use as a screen.

Low Post Option

If X5 covers 3 and X1 chooses to cover 5, pass it to 5 for a mismatch down low.

High Post Option

If X5 covers 5 and if X1 covers 2, pass it to 3 at the high post for an open jump shot.

Skip Pass Option

If X3 slides over to cover 3, 3 should set a flare screen for 1. 1 should get an open shot and/or driving lane on the left side since the entire defense is on the right side.

Reset Offense if No Options Available

If none of these options are open, pass back to 1. 2 flashes to the right wing. 3 moves to the left wing. 4 flashes to the high post. 5 moves to the left block.

Recommended Resources:

Beating the Zone - 75 Set Plays to Score Against Zone Defense

No matter what your offensive philosophy, it is crucial to have a few set plays in your back pocket during games. This comprehensive eBook has 75 set plays to attack zone defenses such as the 2-3, the 1-2-2, the 1-3-1, junk defenses, and even man-to-man defenses. Each of these plays adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of your team.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Kevin Burnett says:
10/22/2023 at 4:09:30 PM

Could you send me a diagram of the offense


Vickie Stevens says:
1/27/2020 at 4:24:39 PM

May I have the diagram too.


Adam Lievre says:
12/16/2019 at 10:04:32 PM

Could I get a copy of the 1-3-1 offense


Mike says:
10/12/2018 at 1:18:37 PM

Anyone else see the text book version of the triangle offense at work against the 1-3-1 zone defense??


Dash says:
8/27/2018 at 9:24:18 AM

What''''s the mistake??


Jay James says:
2/26/2018 at 12:01:25 AM

John could you plead send me your diagram of the 1-3-1 offense? Thanks in advance


Ray says:
2/21/2018 at 1:05:06 PM

John could you send me your diagram please? Thanks!


Steve says:
1/6/2018 at 11:11:15 PM

Again assumes x2 will not move. And x3 will not make a backside drop.


Mark says:
12/21/2017 at 1:22:17 PM

Hi John,

Do you think you could email me a diagram as well?


Curt Hildreth says:
12/15/2017 at 10:20:38 AM

John could you send me your diagram? Thanks!


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