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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JROCK1966 says:
7/24/2013 at 7:59:14 AM

Thanks for posting this!! I am a 2nd year high school coach and there are a couple teams in my district which run a 1-3-1 and I struggled to help my team play against it last year...this post has an option for for anything we saw. You can bet I will be using it. Specifically posting the 2 at the high post and also the flare screen and skip pass at the end...two things I will be adding to my offense!


John says:
8/29/2013 at 9:41:03 AM

Nice movement! Remember to be patient and wait to attack 2nd side! Can implement dribble option to top! #4 can dribble up dragging his defender and opening #2 on lift. On reversal pass to #1, #3 curls to corner as #2 flashes across to ball side elbow while #4 fades to weak side wing. Continue action! Can also run step out reversal action... Instead of #4 dribbling up, he puts ball over his head signaling #2 to step up to pt. for reversal pass, #2 reverses ball to #1,#4 flashes across to ball side elbow and inial action continues. This keeps it unpredictable! Try it!

  1 person liked this. 1 reply  

Jerry Petitgoue says:
7/9/2017 at 12:04:29 AM

John could you send me your offense @ a 1-3-1 defense.
Thank you.


JROCK1966 says:
9/6/2013 at 7:14:50 PM

John...can you email a diagram of the options you describe? Thanks!


JROCK1966 says:
9/6/2013 at 7:24:02 PM

One questions....what timing do I use between the high post option and the skip pass option...the 4 cannot hold the ball forever...dribble drag her defender up and skip pass like John says?


Coach J says:
12/18/2014 at 12:32:09 PM

Hey John can I get a diagram as well. Curious to see these options.


Brian says:
2/15/2015 at 7:53:12 PM

I love this. It's so simple and you can do it with any team. The only thing that IS level dependent is the skip pass. But you can replace that with rapid ball reversal. I really like it.


Curtis says:
4/14/2015 at 11:29:50 PM

John can you email me the diagram I am very interested.


Jenn says:
4/30/2015 at 8:59:17 PM

On ball reversal 1 dribbled over 3 goes back to his spot, does 4 then move to the high post? Does 4 move to the high post when 1 gets the all back? Because my guys reverse the ball so fast that when 3 has the ball 4 is almost running to the corner all the way from the other wing.

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
5/2/2015 at 9:40:05 AM

I'm not really keen on this offense, but I believe you have that correct.

And your players reverse the ball quickly... that sounds like a good problem to have. :)


Stan says:
6/27/2015 at 8:11:00 AM

John, please send diagram of your 1-3-1 offense. THANK YOU


shawn says:
11/30/2015 at 5:00:12 PM

please send me a diagram, thanks


Milan says:
1/15/2016 at 5:41:55 AM

John,please can you send to me diagram of your 1-3-1 offense.THANK YOU VERY MUCH


Chris says:
2/20/2016 at 7:15:08 AM

This offense assumes 2 out of 3 defenders will be out of position. After initial setup X2 is guarding a player at half court when he should be at high p9st elbow area or at least near there.

Picture 2 has x1 and x3 and X2 out of position in relation to the ball. This WILL work if you play a poorly coached 1 3 1


Shane says:
1/29/2017 at 11:21:21 AM

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


Abbas says:
6/30/2017 at 3:56:14 PM

Good plays I used it but have the mistake I used to make,

  1 reply  

Dash says:
8/28/2018 at 1:18:51 PM

Could you explain the mistake that you see??


Eric M says:
8/29/2017 at 2:19:53 PM


Please send me a diagram and options as well. (in your 1-3-1 vs 1-3-1



Jeff schultz says:
11/8/2017 at 12:13:56 AM

John please send me the diagram too please.


Bud says:
12/14/2017 at 9:55:32 PM

Can you send me the diagram too, please! Thanks


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

John could you send me your diagram? Thanks!


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

Hi John,

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


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

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


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

John could you send me your diagram please? Thanks!


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


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

What''''s the mistake??


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??


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