Arizona and Colorado will square off for the eleventh time in three seasons tonight. Ben Burrows knows Colorado basketball the way you know your seventh grade crush’s class schedule: he’s on their every move. This is may be our fifth iteration of a Rumblin Buff-PacHoops Q&A and it’s the first time that we find ourselves with a Colorado team that’s really struggling. For their entire Pac-12 lives, CU has been pretty damn good. This year it’s been an unfortunate not so much. Let’s ask Ben – the genius behind The Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo – about it:
It’s a frustrating game and there are a lot of ways your team can frustrate you. From anything that happens on the court to the litany of things they screw up off of it. It’s the curse of fandom. And maybe you’re an optimist – see growth opportunities in a failed in-bounds or benching due to tardiness. Bless you and may that spirit take you far.
Of course one of the most frustrating things is when your team is struggling. When they just seem to suck but you can’t really figure out why. You can’t quantify it, there’s just a feeling – effing feelings – but you know it and the slouched shoulders aren’t helping. Neither is the scoreboard.
That’s maybe the feeling for Colorado right now. Continue reading
I haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point but I’d like to. By my peripheral understanding, however, and through some Internet investigation, I’ve come to find that a ‘tipping point’ can loosely be defined as “when something not previously popular becomes popularized, and how that came to be.” Which is about where I find Colorado Basketball. Previously, winning wasn’t the most popular activity in Boulder. Then they joined the Pac-12 (a behavioral change) and they started to try the winning thing on. Three straight years of 20+ wins and three consecutive NCAA tournaments, unprecedented in school history. But we’re at that moment, the season where something is going to feel different. Could this be when we begin to believe that Colorado Basketball is a winning brand of basketball and not just fluke run through the Pac-12 tournament and some luck on the recruiting trail (Spencer Dinwiddie + Josh Scott)? This year comes with expectations but also a lot of questions. We basically got to see this roster compete for the latter half of last season. Tad called it a “jump-start.” It wasn’t remarkable and that has some people, myself included, concerned. Are these expectations realistic? Achievable? What even are the expectations? I see this year as a tipping point because I want to know if winning has or will be popularized in Boulder. Jump start for what?
Why I Hate Them:
Spencer Dinwiddie has set aside time with members of the media to declare where he’ll be taking his rehabilitation. The reality of this situation is such that The Mayor is making a terribly difficult decision: Stay or go? That, of course, is the simplification of the choice but he’s in a tough spot picking between two unknowns. His health is unclear and his draft stock is equally uncertain. We don’t know what he’ll do.
But we know he’ll sit in front of a microphone – or a bunch of iPhones as I’m not entirely sure how this thing will go down – make a declaration, and the second biggest shoe of the Pac-12 off-season will drop.
Yes, replacing Monty was big (welcome, Cuonzo); and yes it was interesting to see Bill Moos’ pick (welcome back, Ernie); and yes it was funny to kind of maybe, you know if circumstances were to dictate such, follow the possible consideration of Nigel Williams-Goss’ departure. And when Nick Johnson declared for the draft, it was a touch surprising but it really just means that Arizona goes from unbelievably good to believably elite. The Beavers chose to keep Craig Robinson, Craig’s best returner decided to go, and Zach LaVine’s dad went moderate-to-full helicopter parent in discussing playing time, going so far as to say:
“If it doesn’t work out, you get a divorce. I don’t blame anybody.”
There have been many decisions already in this brief off-season but none will have as immediate and large of an impact as those made by Jordan Adams and The Mayor.
Adams already made his intentions public: he’s staying. This gives UCLA a known commodity for their 2014-15 campaign in an important second year for Steve Alford. Coach can lean on the POY front runner as he gets a very different roster up to speed. Welcome to the Powell and Adams show.
Which brings us to the second shoe. A shoe that rests below a reconstructed knee that is the basis of all this uncertainty. There’s no use discussing what this presser would look like had Spencer never hurt his knee in Seattle. That’s just a cruel waltz down an unpleasant memory lane. Revisionism only ever helped Marty and Doc.
And whether he should or should not go is beyond the scope of my analysis. I can offer no insights into what a player should do when it comes to his future, his earning potential, and what NBA teams are telling him. At least he can eat all the snacks he wants in Boulder now. This is an incredibly personal decision for a young man in a situation I have zero personal experience with. I know Spencer Dinwiddie is a terrific basketball player and I know he aspires to play in the NBA and has the skills to fulfill that aspiration. It’s a dream he’s as close to as he may ever be. The question (aside from Stay or Go?) is whether or not the NBA wants him. Again, I don’t know and I won’t venture to guess. For my money (I have very little), he can play in The League.
Of course what I can definitely tell you is that his decision will have a gross impact on the 2014-15 Pac-12 basketball season. With Dinwiddie, Colorado is a top-15 team, the second best roster in the Pac, and very realistically has sights set on the school’s first round of 16 since the beginning of Beatlemania. John Wooden had won just one title at the time of the Buffs’ last trip to the second weekend (1963). It’s been awhile.
Without The Mayor in Boulder, the course of 2014-15 changes. We’ve had a glimpse of what the Buffs look like when he’s on the bench and allow me to show you the scoring differentials against NCAA teams with and without him:
That’s +3 with the kid and minus-128 without him. I suppose I could break into a Where They Affect The Game here but the numbers are too outstanding. Dinwiddie means something and today, at 1:30pm MST, he’ll drop the second biggest shoe on the Pac-12’s forthcoming season.
No matter what he says, I wish him luck. As noted, this is a personal and monstrous decisions. Dinwiddie strikes me as a bright kid, he’ll make the right choice for him. Good luck, Spencer.
And note, no matter his direction, Dom Collier is headed to Boulder.
This post, had it been written two months ago, would’ve looked a lot different than it does today. Back then, seeing as how I’m a big Booker fan, it would have evolved into another defense of his shot selection and gumption. We’d probably have revisited the Jayheave and his performance against then #10 Oregon where he dropped 27, 7, and 4 on (have to note this in an Askia column) 8-16 shooting. That would have made for a great post and likely unfolded a lot like this one.
Won’t be the case.
Not since Colorado’s season pivoted (I live in start-up land) and what the Buffs need from Booker, the once trigger happy sidekick. The Doc Holiday to Spencer’s Wyatt Earp. When it all changed, Askia has had to reign things in and be the Buffs’ facilitator. It wasn’t necessarily a strong suit of his. We often discuss poor decision making when addressing the matter of Askia. So how has he adjusted?
The first measure I’d like to examine is assist to turnover ratio. This is a less than scientific formula but it is a general indicator of a sound facilitator: distribute to friends, keep away from enemies. Here’s the five game rolling A/T ratio I’ve been subscribing to lately:
As you can see, there’s a correlation between not having your primary ball handler, not winning basketball games, and learning over time. This would suggest that it took Askia about five games to learn a new role. To begin facilitating things such as easy buckets. In the immediate post-injury slate, the Buffs were 1-4 and Booker, in his new role, saw his A:T ratio dive. And then it all began to change. He became more comfortable and distributing. The ball moved and the Buffs won.
When they began winning again, Colorado’s PPP returned to right about their season average (average: 1.08 vs. 1.05). During their 1-4 skid, the Buffs’ effectiveness dipped to 0.896ppp. You don’t need me to tell you that’s bad and conversely you don’t need me to tell you that getting back to their season average was good.
Now I won’t soon forget about Josh Scott and if you’re looking to beat Colorado, neither should you. But his game hasn’t had to significantly change the way Booker’s has. He’s upped his scoring but there are a number of factors that play into that. He’s getting more touches in the post and deserves a lot of credit for turning those touches into points, but he’s not necessarily playing a different role.
Booker, on the other hand, has made some changes. Let’s glance at his FGA:Assist ratio. In doing such, I think what we’ll see is Booker distributing more and shooting more effectively. Or at least marrying up two of his skills to more facilitate the Buffaloffense.
I find this to be a particularly Askia-centric point because his shot selection has so long been a point of contention. The gross numbers don’t necessarily indicate fewer shots, interestingly enough, but it appears he’s working harder to get others involved and better shots for himself. Our previous chart demonstrated that he was taking better care of the ball. This one shows us he’s perhaps taking better shots and getting others into good position. Furthermore, and this is probably a discussion for another time, if his role is to facilitate the offense, it seems he’s doing such.
But everything boils down to wins and losses. The Buffs have lost their last two games (AZ and Utah) and will now head to the Bay for another pair of road games. The type of game (road) the Buffs don’t win very often. As they currently sit, Colorado seems to be in the NCAA tournament but a four game losing streak heading into the Pac-12 tournament might not do them any favors.
Can Askia facilitate a win?
We were perusing the upper bowl of the Coors Event Center during halftime of Saturday’s Arizona-CU game when what I can only assume was an undergraduate encouraged me to “leave [my] f**cking stadium.”
But to say I was mistreated in Boulder would be a gross exaggeration. Quite the contrary. In fact, my favorite team in the world won by 27, shot 60%, garnered 1.32 points per possession, yielded no baskets for more than 10-minutes, held Xavier Johnson to 1-10 shooting, Jacob Hazzard got involved, and Aaron Gordon:
I had little to say to that kid. I declined his invitation carried on to my seat and then the rest of the night transpired. We’ll skip the basketball for now and I’ll go straight to a big shout out to the fine gentlemen who recognized me at Absinthe. I can only hope that the DJ has changed tunes by now and I thank you boys for the drinks.
And I thank you, Boulder, for another glorious trip. I beg an answer as to how I entered the Dark Horse (and its appropriate bathroom) in a T-shirt and jeans and exited to snow? Do the Wildcats bring the snow? We all know they brought the heat but was it snow, too? Alas, I saw old friends and new and a loud, involved crowd. On the latter, speaking bluntly, that crowd had little to cheer Saturday night. The aforementioned successes of my Wildcats gave them nothing to make noise for and Tad Boyle himself said they deserved more. But the effort those fans gave was impressive. It was deafeningly loud and while the Wildcats had an answer for each of their roars, the loyal Buffaloes responded with great support for their seniors, sending Ben Mills and Beau Gamble off in deserving senior fashion. Furthermore, Ben Mills’ family lead the Harlem Shake.
I booked things at the wrong Marriott but we got little else wrong that weekend. Once again the Shady Pony (I like this nickname) treated us right and then it was off to The Sink and a conglomeration of drinking establishments that saw us have a ball and a dance event. It’s what running around a college town is about. And when the night was down and the sun up, stories were shared, the game relived and brunch was had with the most dense number of attractive people I may have ever seen. Bravo, Highland Tap and Burger. The DJ was a heavy touch but the clientele made up for the noise. Good burger.
If I rode in your car, thanks for that.
As for the basketball, I’ll take the perspectives of two people. First, Tad Boyle. From his seat and in his shoes I’m torching that game tape. There’s nothing to look at and nothing to learn. An opposing team shot 60% in your house, there was poor effort, poor execution, and a general abandonment of the game plan. Address these items (defense on screens, 4 transition shots, general effort, etc.) and move along. No sense in dwelling.
Our second perspective shall be my own. I’ve already discussed some of the more impressive notes from Arizona’s game above and in yesterday’s review. Arizona’s tour d’force was an announcement of sorts but I was most impressed by the Wildcats’ bench. As I walked the upper loop, dismissing vitriolic requests of departure, I overheard rather valid commentary about CU’s position (down just 6) considering the half they’d just played. I mean, they’d started the game 0-14 from the field and to be down six was something of a miracle. Or at least a whistle. Because in a span of twenty game seconds, each of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (5:12), Kaleb Tarczewski (5:04), and Aaron Gordon (4:52) picked up their second fouls. The Buffs were down twelve and Arizona was left to a lineup with a local from Tucson (Matt Korcheck) and a kid named Pitts. Before you could say CUnit, Colorado had rattled off seven straight. Five point game. Arizona timeout
Gordon and Tarczewski wouldn’t play the rest of the half if memory serves me correctly but the Wildcats would give up no further real estate during that final 4:37 of the half. It was this critical juncture, a moment when the most hostile crowd was itching to blow the Keg’s roof off, when a multitude of infrequently used players responded to their coaches plea to defend and opportunistically score. They did, like a set up man getting the ball to Mariano, they weathered that storm. And when the closers came in – again, after it was requested I get the f*** out – well they only missed four more shots.
Of final note, a closing observation, I saw a familiar application in use in front of us about mid-second half. The game was getting out of hand but in this young patron’s hand was a phone and an app and photos and swipes. Yes, I witnessed in-game-Tindering and the most notable was a a photo peruse of what appeared to be rather attractive lady. Photo 1 seemed adequate so he sauntered to the second. Attractive women plus child. Right swipe. App closed. Back to the game.
For you, Boulder, I’d swipe right.
Spencer and I are going to Boulder. It’s our second annual appearance there and we will be breaking bread and beverage with Ben Burrows and Jason G upon arrival. How fun is that? So fun that we had them on WANE to discuss. These two are Colorado connoisseurs and flex that Buff muscle at Rumblin Buff and All Buffs. I even flex my own Buff for the latter. But enough physiology puns and full apologies for the echoes.
0:55: A few too many mentions of cream rising
2:10: Let’s get the Arizona @ ASU loss out of the way
5:00: Don’t be fooled, both games in Boulder weekend are sexy
6:00: Bigger game this weekend for Colorado, ASU or UA?
8:04 Anyone here a regular Percy Allen of the Seattle Times reader? No? Ok, well…..
8:45: A debate of who should have the #1 Power Ranking spot.
10:00: philosophical debate of what a “power ranking” is. Conclusion: Tinder.
13:20: Big-X backing up his big talk
16:30: We talk post-Dinwiddie Colorado basketball
24:20: Podcast remote location Power Rankings
26:15: Spencer makes an unintentional back handed complement. Apologies to all those offended.
27:30: Anyone got a ticket for Saturday
27:40: Don’t let the Coors product line fool you, Colorado is NOT the “Keystone State”. Recreation ensues in Colo.
It’s one of my favorite and most comprehensive college basketball websites. NROPP takes a qualitative and quantitative approach to analyzing and commenting on the game and you can’t ask for much else. On the daily – or as possible – the site drops a preview of the day’s games. Here is what he had to say about Colorado and then where it got me thinking:
Pac 12: Colorado’s got some injury issues, so on paper the 7-4 conference record looks pretty good. But when you take out the altitude, the only positive is a victory over Washington State (188) that came by 1 in OT on the road. Other road losses come at Washington (112), Arizona (1), and Arizona State (34) – and all those losses were by double digits. Five of the final seven come on the road, four against top 50 teams, and the other against USC which has been playing better as of late, but doesn’t really show because they’ve played the toughest conference schedule of practically anyone in the country to date. Colorado’s in a really, really, really difficult spot moving forward.
First of all, he’s absolutely right. Colorado does have a difficult road ahead of themselves and are riding a three game home winning streak in part due to competition. I love the analysis because it factors both quantitative (their remaining schedule is five, sevenths on the road including four against top 50 teams) and the qualitative (injuries, 7-4 is inflated). I can’t and won’t make an argument against this.
But I’m a fan. Undoubtedly NROPP is a fan too but I also appreciate seeing that Colorado has overcome some demons to win their last three. You can’t tell me Colorado had seemingly every reason to roll over and die in the face of Brandon Taylor’s overtime inducing three pointer? Xavier Johnson has played at an all league level during this win streak. Have the Buffs needed every bit of it? Absolutely. But the overarching point in my estimation is that he’s done it when he had a multitude of excuses not to.
When this blurb was passed to me, I was watching the tale end of Justin Cobbs beating another team late. This time it was the Washington State Cougars who are the worst team in the Pac-12 but you know what? Cal won. Stanford didn’t. And look at the win probability graphs side by side:
Both squads had ample opportunities to accomplish the opposite result but that’s not how things manifested. Both were expected to win for the overwhelming majority of their respective games but, as stated: Cal won, Stanford didn’t.
At this time of year, in a removed-from-qualitative-and-quantitative-analysis-state, that’s all that matters. NROPP and any other smart site or person would be wise to think that beating WSU in overtime or dropping one to UW late suggests the Bay teams’ processes are flawed. Cal won but didn’t look good doing it and demonstrated further defensive ineptitude. I mean, who allows Washington State to score 1.19 ppp? Well, only Lamar who allowed the Cougs 1.20 ppp and who are 3-20 and rank 346th out of 351 teams per KenPom. That basically means the sixth worst team in the country is the only team to defend the Cougars less than Cal did on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Stanford managed just four points in the final 4:23 (3-9 from the field including FTs) against the Pac’s ninth best defense. They couldn’t close (Cal could) and it cost them not only a game to Washington but – more than likely – an NCAA bid. Process – as sites like NROPP, KenPom, and even PacHoops will tell you – matters. But filling the left column matters more.
We can’t really put a value on momentum. There isn’t a confidence quotient. I’m unable to muster many stats that tell you how how hard it is to beat Justin Cobbs.
So the cards may be stacked against Colorado tonight, while they conversely were stacked in Stanford’s favor. But there’s a reason we play. We play to win the game.
The Colorado Buffaloes will be returning to the unfriendly confines of the McKale Center. They haven’t been there since last January when Sabatino’s perfect hair hit an imperfect buzzer beater. And that’s the last of our monitor mentions (not). But ultimately that just adds to the lore of this budding rivalry. Did you know that the average score – since both were Pac-12 teams – is 69-66, Arizona? They’ve split all six meetings. This, is a rivalry whether you want to admit it or not.
And therefore I go to the enemy – once again – to gain insights into the program that plays its games in a Keg and encourages its fans to blackout. Here is the roll call:
- Jason Gilligan – Here is your new barometer for statistical analysis. I don’t write anything about an advanced stat before running it past JG (contributes to All Buffs)
- James Lucas – Admin at All Buffs and resident oil connoisseur. But oil is irrelevant to the fact that he is, first and foremost, a Colorado Basketball fan (aka, football didn’t lure him into the black and gold). Not a lot of those.
- Ben Burrows – Author, editor, brilliant mind behind Rumblin’ Buff – The Rumblings of Deranged Buffalo. He knows all about Buffs and Beer.
I always appreciate these guys’ insights and know you will, too. What’s more, I can’t wait to absorb the 2/22 tilt in Boulder with these guys. While my family and some of my best friends go to my ex-girlfriends’ wedding, I’ll be in The Keg.
Just try, give me something, about Spencer Dinwiddie and then we’ll drop it because otherwise it’s detrimental.
Jason: I miss him and I hope I never see him in a CU uniform again. I hope he gets healthy quickly, gets drafted in the first round and fulfills his childhood dream of playing in the NBA.
James: There are no words for how bad I feel for that kid. Well, not in English. They may have one in German, but the loose translation of it to English is “fastidious burrow”.
Ben: There are no words, at least ones worth putting to paper, that can adequately describe my feelings when I saw Spencer Dinwiddie collapse in Seattle. I was stunned into numbness. It struck me to my very core. Surely, much of that is borne out of, what you termed, the ‘selfish joy’ of getting to watch the young man ply his trade on the hardwood, but it goes deeper than that. I feel for him. It’s genuine heartbreak. With the understanding that Dinwiddie is an honestly good kid who worked extremely hard to get where he is today, to see him reduced to tears for playing the game he loves… it’s hard to comprehend. With the diagnosis now official, at least there’s finally some direction to the story. Spencer is done for the year, and, now after a successful surgery, will be able to focus on his recovery. As with all things in life, the narrative doesn’t end, it just transforms. He will be back, and we will all get to share in that ‘selfish joy’ once again, whether here or in the NBA.
Most important player: Askia Booker, Josh Scott, other?
Jason: Booker, CU needs Booker to play well to win; he has the ability to shoot CU out of games. Scott is clearly the best player on the team right now, but Ski is more important in my opinion because of the way he can negatively impact the game.
James: Gotta be Ski. Josh is our best player now, but Ski is the heart of the team. And watching him the last two games has been incredible. Re-enforces the belief that some had that a lot of his “wildness” on the court was due to the fact that he had Spencer to keep it calm. Now that Spencer’s gone and Ski runs the team, he’s been an efficiency machine. As Ski goes, so go the Buffs. Meanwhile, Josh just dropped another 19 & 8.
Ben: Tough one. Both are vital to the Buffs without Dinwiddie, and both have stepped up in his absence (Scott – 39 points, 16 rebounds last weekend; Booker – 34/8/8; combined – 61% from the field). Both are team leaders, and a quiet night from either severely limits Colorado’s ceiling. In reality, the answer is Scott, if only because there are few players in the conference that can actually guard him. He demands a double-team on the block, which opens up opportunities for others, and his 15-18 foot jumpers make him a very difficult assignment. Askia’s transition into a more efficient player will be very important, but the offense (and, to an extent, defense) now runs through Jelly. It must be said, however, that they can’t do it alone. Just look at last Thursday’s game against UCLA. The pair had a fantastic game (40 points combined), but CU rarely threatened in the second half. The culprit was the 16 point, 13 turnover, 22% shooting effort from the rest of the roster. Whether it be Xavier Johnson, Jaron Hopkins, or the rare assertive offensive night from Wes Gordon, someone else has to contribute for CU to compete.
Last season, when Colorado was outdueling Arizona, they shot exceptionally well from deep. This season the Buffs once again aren’t the greatest three point shooting team (31% ranking 287th nationally, 11th in the conference). Are there any deep threats or does Colorado really just need to cross its fingers when it’s time for bombs away?
Jason: Booker is always a threat to shoot a lot, but not necessarily to make them, but CU’s got to hope for the best, there are no “shooters” on this team. It is interesting though that CU took 15% more than their average amount of shots from mid-range against USC; maybe they were just prepping for Arizona, because Arizona limits shots at the rim and from 3 and makes opponents shoot mid-range jumpers.
James: Do we count Beau Gamble who’s lighting teams up at a 40% clip? No? OK. Then no, we don’t have anyone and it’s prayer time. There’s always the hope that Ski gets hot from behind the arc, but we’re not going to be a bombs away squad.
Ben: Ski’s gonna Ski, and, while the erstwhile John McClane of the basketball world has calmed a bit in the wake of Spencer’s injury, he’s always weapons free from beyond the arc. Beyond Booker, however, three-point shooting is significantly less promising and consistent. ‘Big X’ Xavier Johnson is fantastic as a set-shooter, and, if he doesn’t have to move, can lob bombs from the top of the arc with accuracy. The problem is, he’s fallen in love with moving into his shot as of late, and he isn’t nearly as accurate off the dribble, or even just stepping into his attempt. As a result, he has lost 12 points off of his percentage from a year ago, making him decidedly less dangerous. I like ‘Little X’ Xavier Talton from range, but the numbers won’t help me. He’s got a compact, calm, repeatable mechanic that seems destined to become lethal. To date, however, he isn’t nearly consistent enough (7-32), which is very surprising. He should be more productive. Freshman (and Arizona local), Jaron Hopkins has made a couple of big shots this season, but is more of the spray-and-pray type. Sometimes I think he’d be better off closing his eyes when he heaves. If he’s making threes against you, just shrug your shoulders and move on.
But offense was never necessarily the way Colorado would won this game. Defense, as it were, is the crux of Tad Boyle’s success. Let’s start at the rim (I love analyzing shooting at the rim). Boyle made a point of protecting the rim and you, Jason, broke down Colorado’s rim protection. To note, the Buffs allow just a 51.9% FG% at the rim. Thirty-sixth best in the nation. How does Colorado do this? (NOTE: Arizona has the 3rd highest FG% at the rim: 76.7%)
Jason: CU doesn’t gamble on defense, they don’t deny passing lanes, they don’t deny the post, they just play solid man defense. So they don’t give up a lot of layups due to lobs into the post nor do they give up a lot of backdoor cuts (I see you Oregon). Guys are rarely out of position which makes protecting the rim much easier because there are actually guys between the ball and the rim…..
James: We don’t gamble. I wish we were a little more adventurous at times, but Tad has pretty much made it obvious that his plan is to line up against our opponents and say “we think our guys are better on D than yours are on O”.
Ben: Coach Boyle has instilled a paranoia in the team as regards to rim defense. They’d much rather give up numerous open and semi-open perimeter looks than give up even one layup attempt. As a result, the pack-line is well defended, and there are few opportunities for easy looks outside of transition. I should also mention that Coach Boyle’s recruiting philosophy plays a large part in this. He loves the ‘tweener’ athlete build, so if you’re 6-6 with good length and strong defensive habits, expect a call from Coach. The effect is that almost anyone in black and gold is comfortable defending in the post.
Tell me about the strengths of this front court. UNLV successfully used their front court strength to get the Wildcats uncomfortable and open some things up for shooters. The Rebels didn’t win but they got damn close. How might the CU collective do similarly?
Jason: I was cautiously optimistic about this game a couple of weeks ago, Arizona really only goes 7 guys deep and Spencer and Scott are two of the best in the Pac12 at drawing fouls and getting to the line. I think that’s a key to this game, if CU has any shot, they’ve got to get Scott the ball where he can hopefully be efficient and get the Arizona bigs into foul trouble.
James: We need Josh Scott to go beast mode. If he can get all 9 of your big men in foul trouble, we may have a chance on this one.
Ben: I cannot emphasize how good Josh Scott is becoming. Ask USC, eschewing a double-team of the Colorado Springs native is done at your own peril. The weight he put on over the offseason has paid off, allowing him to take more shots at the rim (20 points higher than his freshman campaign), and play more of a factor on defense and the boards. Compounding the issue, he’s becoming more comfortable with that 15-18 foot jumper, making him lethal from all areas of the court. Oh, and he also hits his free throws at a 83% clip. There’s a reason, after all, that he’s only finished two games with a sub-100 offensive rating this season. College defenders just don’t see a player of his skill set that often. Wes Gordon compliments him very well. He’s still very raw, but his defense alone makes him a worthwhile addition in the paint. He’s got hands of stone, but he gets those rocks on plenty of loose balls. Not much of an offensive piece yet, but he has shown flashes (13 points against Washington). Combined, they play very good defense around the rim, stretch would-be defenders to guard outside of their comfort zone, and rarely foul (both in the national top-500 in fouls called per 40 minutes). If Josh has a monster game, and Wes does his damage without the ball, CU could be alright.
Furthermore, Arizona crushes the offensive glass (9th best nationally). How much of a concern is that for the Buffaloes considering they’re the 4th best defensive rebounding team in the country?
Jason: I want Arizona to crash the boards; this is the only way CU has a chance to pull off something improbable. CU’s defensive rebounding numbers are largely inflated because teams (USCB, Wyoming and Harvard) didn’t even try to go after offensive boards, instead sending defenders back on defense in order to keep CU out of transition. If Arizona goes after offensive boards, that means CU’s getting opportunities to get out on the break where they take the 17th most amount of initial FGA’s in transition (34.2%), please go after offensive boards.
James: Big concern. Our defensive numbers are slightly inflated because no one crashes the boards against us because they don’t want us to run. Arizona can crash and still get back. It’s going to be interesting to see how Sean handles this.
Ben: I’ll admit that some of CUs defensive rebounding numbers are skewed by non-conference games against teams who abandoned the glass almost entirely to cut off the Buffs in transition, but the Buffs are a very good rebounding team, even better than they were last season. ‘But, how can that be so,’ you ask, ‘didn’t they have the super-human rebounding machine, Andre Roberson, in ‘12-’13?’ Yes, ‘Dre was a monster with the ball in the air, but his brilliance allowed his teammates to sit back and enjoy the show. This year, it’s a team effort, and the rate is up about five points, as a result. Certainly, the Wildcats will be a challenge heretofore unseen on the glass. CU rebounded just fine against Kansas (another strong offensive rebounding team, held them to 8 offensive rebounds), however, giving me hope that the Buffs can continue to hold their own.
Did Askia Booker just take a jump shot? Sorry, I couldn’t tell. Maybe I’ll just check the monitors.
Jason: People lie whey they say “You’re not too bad for an Arizona fan”
James: “Hate” is a strong word. It also applies here.
Ben: You know, I’m honestly over the ‘Chen’ incident. We got our pound of flesh between the Valentine’s Day Massacre, Ed Rush getting fired, and Askia’s Miracle. It’s a sexy layer to the rivalry, but that’s all at this point.
What concerns you the most about this Wildcat team?
Jason: Arizona’s defense only allows 16.4% of shots in the half-court to come at the rim, CU takes 40.3% of their shots at the rim in the half-court offense. As I stated before, CU’s strength isn’t exactly its shooting, if CU can’t get to the rim it could be a very long night.
James: Everything. They’re #1 for a reason.
Ben: Defense. The Buffs can frequently struggle in the halfcourt, and when I see defensive numbers like a 41% eFG and an absurdly-low 18% of shots at the rim, I’m smelling a rough night for Colorado. If the threes don’t fall, and if CU gets nothing in transition, it will be a long night, regardless of what Ski and Josh manage.
And the big one: How does this game play out?
Jason: CU covers the spread and keeps it around 10 points in a game that was never as close as the final score indicates (largely b/c Miller feels sorry that CU’s missing Dinwiddie)
James: When Spencer went down, I said that you can’t really count the next 4 games and that our season starts over on 2/1 against Utah. Too many unknowns, players in roles they aren’t familiar with, uncertainty everywhere. I stand by that. Combine that with the fact that Arizona knows they’re on national TV and I don’t see them letting up. Zona rolls – in a game that will hopefully lay the groundwork for CU to get their revenge on 2/22.
Ben: Wallowing in the despair of the 40 hours between the UCLA and USC games last week, I feared that CU would struggle to crack 45 against the UofA and their vaunted defense. After the sunshine of the USC game cleared my mind of such depressive thoughts, I’ve since re-evaluated. Colorado’s offense isn’t broken, it’s just a re-work in progress. Sure, playing the #1 team in the land at their place isn’t the best time to further the educational process, but I no longer fear the epicly unwatchable. I still don’t see any chance that Colorado can steal away with a win, but I do expect them to push Arizona for stretches. The Buffs are their ‘kryptonite,’ after all. In the end, however, CU’s struggles in the half-court, the home crowd, and the still-developing rotation take their toll, and Colorado slips in the second half. UofA 70 – CU 55
I’m not even going to tell say I told you so. I won’t remind you that I’ve sung the importance of his testicular fortitude for a year-and-a-half now because as Askia Booker euro-stepped past that Sherron Collins-lookin’ bulldog of a KU #0, there wasn’t another player on the floor prepared to make that play. Not NBA bound stars Spencer Dinwiddie or Andrew Wiggins. Not Josh Scott or Xavier Johnson or Tad Boyle. You don’t euro-step past a defender with two-seconds remaining in a tense and climactic ball game unless ONIONS.
While a lot of the Sabatino Chen three-pointer in Tucson narrative has resurfaced, I see few similarities beyond the timing. Chen wound up with the ball by utter mistake. He heaved a basketball he wasn’t supposed to be holding at a rim he wasn’t sure was there from behind a line he’d shot behind less than twenty times. Sabatino Chen was not supposed to take that shot.
Askia Booker was born to make that shot.
Or at least he believes he was and that’s all that matters. “It felt really good,” he’d say crammed next to ESPN anchors and coeds. Damn right it felt good and he’d go on to talk about the confidence instilled in him by his coaches and teammates. Because when you fire up shots the way Askia does, you’d better have the support of those guys. They love him because he’s not afraid to take those shots. Sans conscience, Askia Booker gives Colorado swagger. Dinwiddie and Scott provide credibility and Xavier Johnson and Wesley Gordon bring muscle. Jaron Hopkins, Tre’shaun Fletcher, and Dustin Thomas offer depth. Ben Mills has a scholarship.
But Booker provides that intangible characteristic of not giving a f***.
And who doesn’t need that every once in a while? Who doesn’t need that as your team is exhaustively holding off the sixth best team in the country who calls your arena the western version of their own? The Keg has been a Kansas house for years and it had every reason to remain Phog-West as Perry Ellis bullied his way into the lane for the tie. Xavier Johnson was so ill prepared for the immediacy and magnitude of those two points that he nearly inbounded the ball to the Jayhawks; giving them possession 30-feet from their rim. But Johnson didn’t quite give it up. Tad collected his team and ensured the ball would be in the hands of the one man he knew feared nothing of this moment.
Askia Booker was born to make that shot.
Or at least he believes he was and that’s all that matters. Tad Boyle knows this so he let his scrappy off-guard do his thing and he did it and then everyone else came to join him.
This isn’t a resolution. Booker still has his flaws and may shoot Colorado out of – or dangerously close to – a few games. But as I said a few weeks ago: Askia Booker is the hero Colorado needs and deserves.
Askia Booker knew he was going to make that shot. It’s all that matters.