Jacks need to get rid of the zone defense

After a 101-92 loss to Omaha Saturday, Jan. 7, you have to really question whether the 1-3-1 zone will ever work for the South Dakota State men’s basketball team.

The Jacks are off to a 1-3 start in Summit League play. In the conference opener, SDSU fell to North Dakota State, 80-69. That loss ended their 34 home game winning streak at Frost Arena. They were up by 15 at halftime before giving up 58 points in the second half.

The Omaha game was the first time SDSU gave up more than 100 points since 2011 in a game against Oakland University (Michigan). At that game, the Jacks gave up 55 points in the first half and were down by 21 at halftime.

So far this season, the Jackrabbits rank 323rd in defensive efficiency rating out of the 351 Division I teams. The defensive efficiency is based on how many points a team gives up per possession. As of right now, SDSU gives up 1.1 points per possession. 

The Jacks switched to a 1-3-1 zone during the Sanford Pentagon Showcase over the Thanksgiving weekend. In the first five games of the season, they gave up 80 points a game before switching to the zone. In the next ten games, they gave up only 64.3 points per game. After that, Summit League play started, and they have given up 83.8 points a game in their four conference games.

The 1-3-1 zone allows teams to score wide open three point shots. SDSU is last in three’s given up in both conference play and overall. The team has given up 53 three-pointers in Summit League play. That is eight more than the next team, Fort Wayne. Overall, the Jacks have given up 239 three’s this season. The next closest Summit League team is Omaha and they’ve given up 161.

The Jacks have held their opponents to 44 percent shooting from the field, which is third in the conference. Three’s are more than two’s though, which is why they have been giving up so many points. They allowed Omaha to make 16 three’s on 35 attempts, a 45 percent success rate.

One of the reasons I believe the Jacks don’t like to go into man-to-man is because they are not a very quick team. Last year, the Jacks had quick guards in Deondre Parks and George Marshall. With both of them leaving, they’ve had to go to transfers Andre Wallace and Michael Orris.

Another reason I believe they run a zone defense is they think their opponents can’t continue to shoot three’s very well. However, if they continue to give up three’s at the rate they have in the first four Summit League games, a change will have to be made. You have to figure that you would rather a team make five more two-point baskets and five less three’s than vice-versa.

They are only four games into Summit League play, which means there is plenty of time to turn things around. As of right now, they hold eighth place in the Summit League. That’s something Jackrabbit fans are not used to since they have finished tied for first in the Summit League the past two seasons.