Colorado needs game-winner to serve as a catalyst for Askia Booker (VIDEO)


After No. 6 Kansas scored the first seven points of the game, it would be difficult to blame any Colorado fans who managed to utter the words, “here we go again.” In last season’s meeting in Lawrence the Buffaloes were blitzed right out of the gates, and the end result was a 90-54 defeat that wasn’t all that close. And with the Jayhawks having won 19 straight games in this series, who could really blame anyone who saw that start and assumed that Kansas was well on its way to pushing that streak to 20.

Tad Boyle’s team did have those thoughts, instead methodically working their way back into the game with a little help from reserves such as guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher and forwards Ben Mills and Dustin Thomas. And in the end, it was Askia Booker who made the difference.

Booker properly executed a Euro step into a 28-footer that connected as time expired, resulting in Colorado winning by the final score of 75-72. The win ends Colorado’s 19-game losing streak against Kansas, but more importantly this could be the game that gets the Buffaloes’ starting two-guard out of a shooting slump he’s been mired in for about a year.

Booker entered Saturday’s game averaging 11.4 points per game, which is a respectable figure. But the percentages, 37.6% from the field and 23.8% from beyond the arc, are nowhere near where he or his teammates would like it to be. And last season he wasn’t much better, posting percentages of 36.4% and 31.2% in those respective categories. A hard-worker who spends plenty of time working on his game Booker isn’t shy when it comes to shot selection, but to limit him too much in that area would take away from his skill set.

The “quantity” will be there when it comes to Booker’s shots, but in order for Colorado to be at their best this season and potentially contend in the Pac-12 the “quality” needs to be there as well. Against Kansas Booker shot 5-for-12 from the field, not the best percentage but it represents his third-best outing of the season percentage-wise, and his 15 points tied his high for the season. Four starters finished the game in double figures, which isn’t much of a surprise when considering how balanced Colorado has been.

Xavier Johnson (14 points, six rebounds) and Josh Scott (14 points, four rebounds) held their own in the front court against Kansas’ talented interior, with highly-touted freshman big Joel Embiid going scoreless in the second half after scoring ten points in the first 20 minutes. But there were some issues for the Buffaloes that need to be corrected.

Colorado shot just 22-for-37 from the charity stripe, with misses down the stretch leaving the door open for Kansas to tie the game prior to Booker’s game-winning shot. On the season Colorado entered Saturday’s game shooting 74.1% from the charity stripe, which is a good number, but at times over the last two seasons the Buffaloes have struggled in this area late in games.

But the biggest concern moving forward has to be Colorado’s three-point shooting. Against Kansas they shot 7-for-22 from beyond the arc, and on the season Colorado ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in three-point field goal percentage (31.5%). Like Kansas Colorado’s going to see more zone looks for this very reason, and this is where Booker comes into play.

Despite struggling with his shot Booker kept plugging away, and his teammates and coaches remained confident in his ability to knock down shots. Now the hope is that Saturday’s finish will serve as the catalyst needed to get Booker back on track, because when he’s scoring consistently (and efficiently) Colorado is a tougher team to defend.

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Throughout Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State the team’s half-court man-to-man defense has been a staple, and the Spartans have generally proven difficult to have a high rate of offensive success against. The reliance on that defense is why Izzo’s conversations earlier this summer about using some token full-court pressure due to the shortening of the shot clock caught some people off-guard.

According to the Detroit Free Press there’s another wrinkle the Spartans may use, and it’s likely that this wrinkle will show up more often than the full-court press. During Friday’s opening practice the Spartans worked on a 2-3 zone, and Izzo wants his assistants to make sure the team works on the defense consistently throughout the season.

That’s also why zone in general isn’t going to get heavy play at MSU, but having it as a tool could be beneficial — especially in games with touch fouls on the perimeter called in droves.

“I told (my assistant coaches): ‘You hold me accountable to working on it every day some’ … I have a tendency to drift off on that, and I don’t want to drift off on it,” Izzo said of the 2-3 zone. “But we will be, rest assured, a 90-some percent man-to-man team still and hopefully take some of those principles to zone.”

As noted in the story one of the risks in using pressure is allowing quality shots, which is why it’s unlikely that Michigan State will go to it. But even with Izzo vowing that his team will work on the zone, that doesn’t mean they’ll be playing it as often as Syracuse does.

Man-to-man has been Michigan State’s staple and it will continue to be. But it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways to keep opponents from getting the looks they want, especially if teams have five fewer seconds to find those shots.

Virginia used 3-on-3 to adjust to new shot clock

Malcolm Brogdon
Associated Press
Leave a comment

When the college basketball rules committee made the decision to trim the shot clock down to 30 second from 35, one reason for the switch was the desire to improve offensive production. With offensive numbers at their lowest point in years, proponents of the move see the shot clock change as a necessary move if scoring is to improve.

Whether or not that winds up being the case will be seen throughout the upcoming season, but teams are still having to make adjustments during the preseason.

Virginia, which has played at a snail’s pace (and with great success, mind you) in recent years, made some adjustments to their summer work in anticipation of playing with a 30-second shot clock. One adjustment was more games of 3-on-3 with a 15-second shot clock, which forced all involved to be more decisive in their offensive decision-making.

While the pack-line defense will always be a staple of Tony Bennett’s teams, the feeling in Charlottesville is that they’ve got the offensive firepower needed to both play faster and be more efficient offensively than they were in 2014-15 (29th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy). One of the players who will lead the way is senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who led the team in scoring and was a first team All-ACC selection, and he discussed the team’s outlook with Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

And even though Anderson’s highlight-reel shot blocking was the thing that frequently fueled fast-breaks for U.Va. last season, Brogdon and [Anthony] Gill said they expect this year’s team to actually push the tempo even more.

“I think we’re going to be a team that gets out and runs more,” Brogdon said. “I think we’ll have three guards on the floor, most of the time, will be able to handle the ball as a point guard and get out in transition. I think we’ll play a lot faster.”

Brogdon and Gill are two of the team’s three returning starters with point guard London Perrantes being the other, and the Cavaliers also return most of their reserves from last year’s rotation. That experience will help them on both ends of the floor as they prepare for a run at a third straight ACC regular season title. And in theory it also allows them to extend themselves a bit more offensively than they did a season ago.