Mizzou Basketball: Beyond the Box Score?

That's right...in the absence of a football game to review from last weekend (I could just review OU-TT instead, but...I think you know what the stats say about that one), I'm going to dip my toe back into basketball stats...see what Mizzou's stats say about the team's prospects after five games...

With all the stats here, there is obviously a 'strength of schedule' qualifier.  60% of Mizzou's games thus far have been against complete and total cupcakes (Prairie View A&M, Chattanooga, THE STAGS OF FAIRFIELD).  But the other two games have been against a) a team that was ranked at the time (but isn't as good as their then-ranking) and b) a team that became ranked the week after they played (and has proven quite a bit now).  In other words, real teams.But all in all, the stats are obviously going to be inflated a bit, so keep that in mind.

Offense

For the season, Mizzou's averaging 86.0 PPG on 47% shooting.  Against the two "real" teams on the schedule, that's 77.0 PPG on 49% shooting.  Taking DeMarre Carroll's ridiculously hot shooting against USC out of the equation, those numbers obviously go down quite a bit.  We're obviously still dealing with small sample size here, but there is a WIDE range of FG %'s on this team right now.

Mizzou FG% and Points Per Shot
All Games vs XU, USC
Player FG% PPS PPG FG% PPS PPG
DeMarre Carroll 61.2 1.51 20.2 60.0 1.53 23.0
Leo Lyons 56.4 1.56 17.2 52.6 1.47 14.0
Matt Lawrence 37.8 1.14 8.4 20.0 0.60 4.5
J.T. Tiller 48.4 1.32 8.2 52.6 1.59 13.5
Marcus Denmon 34.4 0.97 6.2 25.0 0.75 3.0
Miguel Paul 41.7 1.17 5.6 42.9 1.00 3.5
Kim English 29.0 0.84 5.2 75.0 1.50 3.0
Keith Ramsey 57.1 1.50 4.2 50.0 1.38 5.5
Justin Safford 63.6 1.73 3.8 66.7 2.00 3.0
Zaire Taylor 30.0 0.95 3.8 50.0 1.33 4.0
ALL 47.0 1.28 86.0 48.7 1.32 77.0

Just think how good those numbers could be if we hadn't shot only 54% from the free-throw line against USC and XU!  DeMarre and Leo would both be up toward 1.75 points per shot.

Overall, Mizzou is averaging 1.17 points per possession right now, 1.15 in the two real games.  As a reference point...

Mizzou Points Per Possession, recent history

2007-08: 1.07
2006-07: 1.06
2005-06: 0.99
2004-05: 0.99
2003-04: 1.08

The last time Mizzou averaged as much as 1.10 points per possession was 1989-90, and we will obviously see this number fall as the season progresses.  It is, however, at least encouraging to see the per-possession numbers that high against the two real teams, especially considering that a) Xavier's a good defensive team, and b) we shot FTs like crap.

Now, because I'm me, we're going to look at another figure that I enjoy: Net Equivalent Points (NEP).  Really, it's the basketball version of the EqPts figure I love for my BTBS pieces in football.  It's an old-school Tigerboard measurement that I've been using for all the basketball data I can find.  The idea is simple enough: combine all basketball stats--rebounds, assists, turnovers, missed shots, etc.--into a useful point value.  Simple enough, right?

Just FYI: I've made some adjustments to the formula in the Tigerboard link to more closely match actual points scored.

Mizzou Net Equivalent Points
All Games vs XU, USC
Player NEP/Gm NEP/Min NEP/Gm NEP/Min
DeMarre Carroll 23.9 0.85 24.5 0.73
Leo Lyons 18.6 0.79 13.4 0.54
Matt Lawrence 6.5 0.34 0.7 0.04
J.T. Tiller 11.9 0.55 20.9 0.87
Marcus Denmon 8.8 0.50 5.6 0.30
Miguel Paul 5.7 0.39 3.8 0.28
Kim English 2.8 0.23 0.5 0.04
Keith Ramsey 4.9 0.45 5.7 0.57
Justin Safford 3.8 0.30 3.6 0.30
Zaire Taylor 10.67 0.38 8.2 0.26
Laurence Bowers
2.6 0.29 N/A N/A
Steve Moore -0.4 -0.09 N/A N/A

We'll return to this measure in a bit.

Defense

Let's use the same numbers to look at the defense.

PPS = Points Per Shot
PPP = Points Per Possession
PPG = Points Per Game

Opponents' offensive numbers
Season FG% PPS PPP PPG
2008-09 (USC, XU) 46.9 1.53 1.05 73.5
2008-09 (all) 43.1 1.29 0.94 69.2
2007-08 43.8 1.27 1.00 72.4
2006-07 43.7 1.29 0.99 71.9
2005-06 45.8 1.25 1.06 70.4
2004-05 43.7 1.24 1.02 66.3
2003-04 44.0 1.27 1.06 72.6
2002-03 40.8 1.12 0.98 67.7
2001-02 44.7 1.23 1.03 72.5
2000-01 43.2 1.21 1.01 72.8
1999-00 45.0 1.24 0.98 69.9

Being that we aim for so many steals and turnovers, the PPP number is probably the best indicator for Mizzou success, and while the overall 0.94 number is great, the 1.05 against real teams is not.  Then again, we always play a mixture of cupcakes and real teams, so over the course of the season, this number will probably end up close to the 1.00 that seems to be our Mike Anderson average.  Combined with offensive progression, though, that's a net gain.

Rebounding

In the recently-released College Basketball Prospectus 2008-2009, there was an interesting look at rebounding.  It said that on average, there's an offensive rebound 32% of the time on 3-pointers, 37% of the time on 2-pointers (surprising to me that offenses don't rebound 3-pointers more), and 18% of the time on free throws.  So looking at the types of missed shots can give you and idea of how many rebounds a team should have expected to have.

Mizzou Offensive Rebounding vs Expected Rebounding
All Opponents vs XU, USC
Team Exp. Off. Reb. Off. Reb. Exp. Off. Reb. Off. Reb.
Mizzou 72 82 25 25
Opponents 63 66 22 28

So against real teams, Mizzou is getting as many offensive rebounds as expected (and therefore opponents are getting as many defensive rebounds).  Meanwhile, the difference comes where opponents are grabbing 27% more offensive rebounds than they should be (and therefore Mizzou is getting 27% fewer defensive rebounds). Lack of size and a bit of inexperience (though not really in the frontcourt) are playing against Mizzou here, but obviously so is style of play.  Mizzou will never be an amazing rebounding team, but if they can get to where they're rebounding at the expected/typical level, that will be lovely.

On an individual basis, DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons are both averaging 0.12 defensive rebounds per minute, which isn't bad...but it also isn't great.  Linas Kleiza averaged 0.17 his sophomore year, and Arthur Johnson never averaged below 0.15 (nor did Travon Bryant).  Marcus Denmon is averaging a very encouraging and non-guardlike 0.11 against real teams, but otherwise this is clearly where the main deficiency lies.  The big men need to do more big man stuff on the defensive side of the ball.

Meanwhile, Keith Ramsey is a (warning: small sample size) offensive rebounding machine at 0.17 per minute.

Passing

Let's play with assist and turnovers, shall we?  I realize turnovers don't perfectly equate to passing, but here's where we're looking at them.

Here are the current Mizzou leaders in Assists Per Minute:

Zaire Taylor 0.16 (0.11 against real teams)
JT Tiller 0.15 (0.17)
Marcus Denmon 0.13 (0.08)
Miguel Paul 0.12 (0.11)
Laurence Bowers 0.11 (N/A)
DeMarre Carroll 0.09 (0.06)
Leo Lyons 0.09 (0.12!)
Justin Safford 0.09 (0.08)
Keith Ramsey 0.09 (0.10)
Kim English 0.07 (0.08)

Honestly, those are some well-rounded assist totals.  Team passing has improved so far this year.  And Leo has done an outstanding job of finding open teammates against real teams.  He hasn't been as aggressive with his shot, but he's also probably the #1 weapon teams gameplan for--he's doing a good job of taking what the defense gives him.

Mizzou is averaging 0.11 assists per minute overall and 0.10 against real teams.  Here is your recent history:

Mizzou Assists Per Minute
2008-09 (versus real teams): 0.10
2007-08: 0.08
2006-07: 0.08
2005-06: 0.06
2004-05: 0.06

Last time Mizzou averaged 0.10 assists per minute for an entire season: 1989-90.  Good company.

Meanwhile, turnover numbers are down as well.  Mizzou is averaging just 0.06 turnovers per minute overall, 0.05 against real teams.  Recent history?

Mizzou Turnovers Per Minute
2008-09 (vs real teams): 0.05
2007-08: 0.07
2006-07: 0.07
2005-06: 0.08
2004-05: 0.07
2003-04: 0.07

Last time Mizzou averaged under 0.07 turnovers per minute for an entire season: once again, 1989-90 (0.06).  So...yeah, good start.

40 Minutes of Hell

First of all, I want to start this section by pointing out that JT Tiller is averaging 0.19 steals per minute against major teams and 0.14 per minute overall.  In English, that means that Tiller is averaging a steal for every FIVE MINUTES of playing time.  Just what kind of defensive roll is he on?  I have data for every Mizzou season since 1980-81, and only one Tiger has ever averaged even 0.10 steals per minute (SPM) in at least 10.0 minutes of play per game: Reggie Smith in 1990-91 averaged 0.10.  So while I'm sure Tiller's run of theft won't last at this level, he could end up being Mizzou's steals king by the end of next year.  Just ridiculous defense by Tiller at this point, and it's leading to a lot of fast breaks and easy looks.

As far as the team as a whole, they are averaging 0.05 Steals Per Minute and forcing 0.10 Turnovers Per Minute thus far (0.06 SPM and 0.10 TOPM against XU & USC).  Where does that stand in comparison to recent history?

Mizzou Defense
2007-08: 0.04 SPM, 0.08 opp. TOPM
2006-07: 0.05 SPM, 0.09 opp. TOPM
2005-06: 0.03 SPM, 0.07 opp. TOPM
2004-05: 0.03 SPM, 0.07 opp. TOPM
2003-04: 0.03 SPM, 0.06 opp. TOPM

So they're right at the average for the Mike Anderson Years so far (a bit better).  On an individual basis, Tiller has been insane, but otherwise...

Returnees
DeMarre Carroll: 0.07 SPM, 0.05 in 07-08
Leo Lyons: 0.04 SPM, 0.03 in 07-08
Matt Lawrence: 0.02 SPM, 0.03 in 07-08
Justin Safford: 0.03 SPM, 0.04 in 07-08

Newbies
Zaire Taylor: 0.04 SPM (Stefhon Hannah in 07-08: 0.07)
Marcus Denmon: 0.06 SPM (Keon Lawrence in 07-08: 0.03)
Miguel Paul: 0.03 SPM (Jason Horton in 07-08: 0.05)
Kim English: 0.05 SPM (Marshall Brown in 07-08: 0.03)
Keith Ramsey: 0.02 SPM (Darryl Butterfield in 07-08: 0.05)

So if Denmon and English continue to steal minutes from Matt Lawrence, the thefts will go up.

Meanwhile, in other defensive numbers, Mizzou is blocking shots at the same rate as last year (1 every 20 minutes or so) and fouling at a slightly higher rate (0.11 per minute instead of last year's 0.10).

Aside from turnovers, obviously the other way to prevent points is to prevent good shooting, and...well, Mizzou hasn't done that just yet (again, XU and USC averaged 1.53 points per shot.  Last year opponents averaged 1.27.).

Who Should Be Playing?

Back to the NEP numbers for this part.  Thus far, Mike Anderson has done a pretty decent job of maximizing his team's production.  In other words, for the most part the guys getting the most minutes are the guys producing the most from an NEP perspective.  Two things I expect to see happen:

1) Marcus Denmon and, to a lesser extent, Kim English will start to take more and more of Matt Lawrence's minutes.  You don't necessarily need numbers to come to this conclusion.  Lawrence has done almost nothing (0.04 NEP/minute) against real teams, and while Denmon (0.30) and English (0.04) haven't been world-beaters, it's clear that when Lawrence's shot isn't falling, he doesn't have a lot to offer.  Denmon is finding a lot of different ways to contribute despite his shooting troubles.  Lawrence does pretty well in rebounding and passing, but he's no better than Denmon in that regard.

2) Miguel Paul might not overtake Zaire Taylor, but he'll at least get to where they're evenly splitting the minutes.  Against real teams, Taylor is averaging 0.26 NEP/minute, while Paul is at 0.28.  Overall, it's Taylor 0.38, Paul 0.39.  Obviously not a huge difference there, but it would behoove Anderson, clearly, to favor youth here, and eventually that will happen.

Also: Keith Ramsey should probably start playing more.  His free throw shooting will keep him out of crunch time, but the dude has been fantastic at the "little things" thus far, like passing and putbacks.  He's no better at the defensive rebounding than Carroll or Lyons, but like Safford he's an energy-and-hustle guy, and there will be minutes available for that in this system.

The Road Ahead

When Mizzou allows opponents to get a shot off, bad things happen for Mizzou.  And when they don't, there's a decent chance the opponent will get the offensive rebound.  Otherwise, Mizzou is beating expectations so far this season.  They are passing wonderfully, they are forcing a ton of turnovers (while not giving up the ball themselves), and they are producing (FT issues aside).  That is very encouraging considering how much freshmen are already playing.  Zaire Taylor doesn't do much for me, and I know that JT Tiller and DeMarre Carroll are playing over their heads right now, but there is still a lot more potential on this squad than in previous years.

Looking at the upcoming slate of games, you figure these numbers will continue to look good.  Of Mizzou's 10 remaining non-conference opponents, only three are from major conferences (California, vs Illinois, @ Georgia), and really only one of the non-major teams (Oral Roberts, MAYBE Murray State) has much of a pulse.  At worst, Mizzou is looking at rounding out the non-conference slate at about 8-2, which would put them at 12-3 heading into conference season.  I don't know what to think about the Big 12 yet--you have to know by now that when I know something, I'll be posting it here--but with a couple of iffy starters (Lawrence, Taylor) and a whole lotta youth on the bench, I'll take 12-3. 

And if those assist-to-turnover numbers continue (unlikely, but possible), big things could be in store for this team.

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