Coming into the season, Boo Buie was expected to be “thrown into the fire” as an incoming member of a program that lacks true scorers. Sure enough, it was a season full of ups and downs for the true freshman point guard, from stringing together back-to-back 25+ point games to being sidelined for five games due to a foot injury.
After his comeback, Buie solidified his role as a primary scoring guard and even earned a starting spot in the Big Ten Tournament. The former three-star recruit will look to improve on a successful freshman campaign and take on a larger role with the departure of Pat Spencer.
The following numbers are taken from KenPom.com.
Operating in the second-worst offense in the Big Ten, Buie was placed in a tough situation where he had to settle for some deep threes and wildly contested floaters. As a result, his efficiency on the court was quite disappointing. His 37.6% field goal percentage and 28.2% 3-point percentage were both below the team’s 41.6% and 31.2% average, respectively.
However, it is important to provide some context to Buie’s inefficiency on the court. His 110 attempts from beyond the arc was the second most on the team, only behind Miller Kopp. This brought down his overall efficiency significantly, though he could and should have shot the three ball at a better clip. Buie also had the highest usage rate on the roster at 27% which led to the freshman guard being the last resort on offense, often throwing up heavily contested shots out of necessity.
As the team’s starting point guard going forward, Buie must look for his teammates rather than attempting to take on the offensive load all by himself. His 21.7% assist rate is pretty low for a guard with a usage rate as high as his, ranking 308th in the nation.
Buie’s shot distribution can further explain his inefficiency on the court. There are several outliers when it comes to the guard’s shot selection, especially the percentage of assisted field goals. While shooting 26.3% of his shots in the 2-point range (excluding at the rim), Buie was assisted in only 4.2% of those shots. To compare, the team’s percentage on this statistic was 41.3%.
This shows that most of Buie’s 2-point shots were unassisted, further proving the point that he was taking more contested jumpers and floaters than anyone else on the team. This pattern remains consistent with his shots at the rim and 3-point shots, assisted on 17.1% and 67.7% of his attempts when the team’s average was 48.6% and 84.1%, respectively. Not only did Buie shoot more pullup threes than anyone but Spencer, but he also drove to the rim the most.
As a 6’2’’ guard, it makes sense for Buie to rely on pullup jumpers and floaters. His percentages have not looked pretty so far, but that can definitely be improved through experience and a better offensive system. The problem remains with his shots at the rim, where he attempts 30.6% of his field goals. Up close, Buie converts 52.6% of his looks, well below the team’s average of 59.2%. The ability to drive efficiently is crucial for a guard to get better looks, but it seems that Buie is focusing far too heavily on forcing those opportunities where they may not really be present.
When it’s all said and done, Buie had a good season where he showed glimpses of a legitimate offensive weapon. His 26 point scoring outburst against Michigan State to singlehandedly keep the ‘Cats within striking distance was arguably the most impressive performance by anyone on the team this season.
Coming back from a possibly season-ending foot injury to earn a starting role in the second half of the season showed that Buie can be the guy going forward. His impressive shot-making abilities from anywhere on the court kept him respected on the offensive end, and this was only his true freshman season, after all.
It is difficult to ignore the percentages, and while some of the blame can go to Chris Collins’ offensive system, Buie has to shoot better. With a questionable shot selection and a low assist rate, he needs to make better decisions on offense rather than relying on isolation. On the defensive end, Buie was a liability who often got lost and committed some costly fouls. He has the physical tools to be at least average on defense, and hopefully that will come with experience.
Strength and conditioning will be huge for Buie on both ends of the court. As he gets stronger, he will be able to drive to the rim at a better rate, thus getting more efficient shots from everywhere else on the court. On the defensive end, he will be able to hold his ground against older, stronger guards and become less of a liability on that end.
Buie has to continue working on his three-point shooting as well, given his reliance on three pointers and his low percentages from beyond the arc. His quick release is definitely a strength but consistency only comes with practice.
The Bottom Line
With the departure of Pat Spencer, Buie will have to take on an even larger offensive role. He will expected to be Northwestern’s leading scorer alongside Kopp and the leading passer as well, even with reinforcements coming in the backcourt. Buie has shown glimpses, but not yet proven anything on the Big Ten stage. With the continuous development of the young Northwestern team, Buie has to keep pace and take a big step forward next season.