Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Back during the Arizona game - before the clusterfuck at the end -'s hoops guru, Will Whelan, got into an interesting twitter discussion with SI's Andy Glockner about the danger of Askia Booker having a hot first half.  The implication was that Ski, a volume shooter, will hoist up an extra pile of ill-timed, reckless shot attempts if he feels he's anywhere close to hot, and that those attempts have the potential to stall an offense if they're not falling.

While Booker ended up having a decent game (4-7 from outside, perfect from the line, and 18 points to go along with some shaky play in the collapse), the whole thing got me thinking about the machinations of all things Ski, and how his performances affect the team. He is, after all, the team's leading scorer, bringing nearly 15 points per game to the table.  Surely, the Buffs can't be afraid of using their leading scorer.  His offensive efficiency is over 100, for the love of Tad!
By now, I think everyone in BuffNation has gotten used to SkiSeason; the rainbow jump shots, the jump-back 10-footers, the floaters in the lane.  Many of his shot attempts raise both eyebrows and blood pressures, and there hasn't been a game gone by where I don't mentally scream "what the fuck?!" at one of his 25-foot heat-checks. He's essentially fearless, ready to pull the trigger at a moment's notice.  Upon reflection, I find kind of dig it, actually.

I'm fond of tweeting "SKIBALL" after one of his rainbow makes, and the exclamation is more on the nose than you might think.  In the game of skee - which, Dogma assures me, is God's favorite game - you always have the option of shooting at the tiny 100 holes in the upper corners.  Unless you play every day, it's damn difficult to hit that shot consistently, but, when you do, the tickets come flying out.  The flip side is, of course, that if you miss, the ball will rattle around before settling in the 10 hole at the bottom of the board (or, if you're drunk, you could miss the board entirely, cracking the plastic cover on your friend's lane).  It's high risk, high reward.  Such is life with both skee ball and SkiBall.  If you want the tickets, you're going to have to take some chances.  He's the BasketBuffs equivalent of Dave Kingman.

So, what about it?  If Ski is "feeling it," is he more likely to jack up shots?  Could a good first half hurt CU?  Surprisingly, not really.

His stats are split evenly between what I'd call good and bad performances.  He's been both above and below the 40% shooting mark seven times this season.  The difference between those seven games?  Only about one extra shot per contest. When he's under 40%, Ski has taken about 14 shots per game; when he's over, he has taken about 13.  Essentially, he's an aggressive shooter, whether he's making them or not.
When hot earlier this season, Ski carried the Buffs in Charleston.  From:
The difference then becomes how the Buffs fare in those games.  When Ski is over 40%, CU is 7-0, riding high, and looking to all the world like a top-25 team.  When he's under 40%, the Buffs are 3-4, and look disjointed on offense.  There's a full 18% shooting gap between his performances in wins and loses.  In victory, Ski shoots 47%.  In defeat 29%.  That's a massive drop off, speaking both to the style Ski plays, and the type of opponent CU has lost to.  A hot Ski is only going to make CU better, as he's going to take the same number of shots anyway.  It's essentially like riding out hot/cold streaks at the craps table.  Since he's taking those 13.5 shots per, regardless, the only real question is whether those shots are going to go in.  For CU, that's often a matter of winning or losing.

We think of Booker as mostly an outside shooter, and that is certainly a huge part of what makes him valuable, but he doesn't solely operate on the perimeter.  His slashes at the rim are a large component of his offensive game (he's taken twice as many two-point attempts as three-point attempts).  When opponents take away that component, turning him purely into a jump shooter, they limit both Ski and the Buffs.  Think of the teams CU has lost to.  Wyoming, Kansas, Arizona, and ASU all focused on cutting off transition and easy slashes at the hoop, forcing CU (and Ski) outside.  Percentages dropped, possessions were wasted through frustration, and loses followed.  It's a team-wide issue, but one that often manifests itself in ugly outside shots from Booker.
Good things happen when Ski is able to attack the basket.
In the end, I just think Ski takes a lot of "dumb" shots.  That's his game.  He takes them when he's hot, he takes them when he's not.  CU has to live with the good and the bad from "the Scrat."  When they're falling, CU wins.  When they're not...  Well, let's just hope they fall.  Coach Boyle isn't going to go up to him and say, "well, you've had a great first half, but we're going to shut you in the second because I'm afraid you'll start missing."  The team needs him to score, night in, night out, and needs to learn to play with his production waves.  With time, I believe he'll become more consistent (he's only a sophomore, remember), which will cure many of these ills.

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