Besides Eric Bledsoe’s long-distance accuracy earning comparisons to Jodie Meeks, the most surprising aspect of the IU game was watching Kentucky play in a zone. For years folks have been calling into the Kentucky Coach’s radio show, begging and pleading for a zone defense to limit outside shooting. As the 1-3-1 is not a historically terrible perimeter defense, those folks must have been crying tears of joy on Saturday.
Coach Cal said after the game that he implemented the 1-3-1 after reading about Coach Rupp using it. Of course, Coach Rupp wouldn’t have enjoyed the results. Part of the reason Indiana was only down 1 point at halftime was because Kentucky was not executing the zone effectively and because Indiana was able to exploit it. The Hoosiers made a ridiculous amount of jumpers, partly because they would rotate out of the zone trap and find a high-percentage shot. There were several drives off the trap that would result in a quick inside pass for a dunk. Indiana made at least 8 points were made from nearly-wide-open 12-footers. Maurice Creek kept getting lost in the zone and ended up making it rain all night long.
(To be fair, very little of organized defense would have stopped Creek that afternoon. Also, IU made about 15 points from winning the ball away from busted plays or scrambles on the floor. A 1-3-1 can’t help it when one or two Kentucky players hit the deck, can’t come up with the ball and can’t get off the floor fast enough to put a hand up over Creek.)
My question: How long has it been since Kentucky deployed the 1-3-1? As Google is still just a child, it can not analyze the old-school basketball videos on YouTube for used defensive sets (yet). I seem to remember Tubby using a 2-3 or a 2-1-2 half-court zones, but never a 1-3-1. I also seem to remember Pitino running a 1-3-1 and other half-court zone variants in the late 1980’s, mainly because I remember Cawood telling me about them. Before Pitino, my memories focus more on Star Wars, Transformers and watching Family Feud.
Do you remember? Let us know in the comments.