Know Your Rival: Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks

That's right...the busiest time of the season is upon us.  Not only is football still going hot and heavy (though not as hot as if we still had a shot at the North title, I guess), but the 2009-10 basketball season starts tonight.  Let's take a look at Mizzou's first opponent, Tennessee-Martin.  Technically the Skyhawks have played a game already in 2009-10 (they got whomped by SIU), but I figure we can glean more from taking a look at least year's team more than just one game this year.


2008-09
UT-Martin: 22-10

UTM Opp
Points Per Minute
1.96 1.74
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.13 1.01
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.26 1.23
2-PT FG% 52.0% 48.8%
3-PT FG% 33.4% 33.5%
FT% 73.7% 66.2%
True Shooting % 55.3% 52.9%
UTM Opp
Assists 14.6 13.5
Steals 8.3 6.3
Turnovers 12.8 16.3
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.79 1.22
UTM Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds 411 401
Offensive Rebounds 432 404
Difference +21 +3
  • Where the Skyhawks were decent:  Honestly, the Skyhawks were a pretty strong ball control team last year, with a solid BCI and the ability to play some solid pressure defense, forcing 16.3 turnovers per game.  They also rebounded quite well.  Of course, they have to replace three starters from last year's squad, including an absolute stud in guard Lester Hudson, who parlayed a 27.5 PPG, 4.2 APG, 7.9 RPG (!), 2.3 SPG season into getting drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics.  Without him and two other contributors, you figure UT-Martin will at least take a solid step back at the beginning of the season ... and a 28-point loss to SIU certainly doesn't dissuade that notion.
  • Where the Skyhawks were less than decent: When they weren't forcing turnovers, their defense was only so-so.  And if they averaged 12.8 turnovers per game against mostly sub-par competition and with Lester Hudson, then that spells trouble (and at least 20-25 turnovers) against Mizzou.
Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Delrico Lane (6'1, 190, Sr.) 9.2 0.32 28.7 MPG, 5.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.9 APG, 2.3 SPG, 2.5 TOPG
Marquis Weddle (6'1, 185, Jr.) 7.6 0.26 29.3 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.7 TOPG
Benzor Simmons (6'5, 215, Jr.) 6.3 0.36 17.6 MPG, 6.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG
Reuben Clayton (6'3, 180, Jr.) 4.9 0.29 16.7 MPG, 5.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.2 TOPG
M.J. Brown (6'0, 170, So.) 3.2 0.28 11.2 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 1.8 APG
Andres Irarrazabal (6'7, 235, Jr.) 2.1 0.31 6.9 MPG, 1.9 PPG, 1.2 RPG
Dominique Mpondo (6'10, 265, Sr.) 1.5 0.22 7.0 MPG, 0.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG
Daron Hood (6'7, 225, Jr.) 1.1 0.30 3.6 MPG, 0.8 PPG
Cataurius Taylor (5'10, 185, Jr.) Newbie
Terrance Coleman (6'4, 170, Fr.) Newbie
Zach Jones (6'6, 190, Fr.) Newbie
Marquis Richardson (5'8, 180, Fr.) Newbie
Ron Spencer (6'9, 215, Fr.) Newbie

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls.  It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Clearly if you are going to compete with Mizzou, you need depth and experience in the backcourt, and the good news for UT-Martin is that they still seem to have that even without Hudson.  Delrico Lane and Marquis Weddle are going to be tasked with picking up the scoring slack significantly, but they are certainly experienced.
  • The bad news, of course, is that they have almost no experienced size whatsoever.  I'm curious what Dominique "Mount" Mpondo can do in his senior season -- I'm a sucker for gigantic JUCO transfers -- but you'd figure if he had any talent whatsoever, he'd have averaged more than seven minutes per game last year.  In all, UTM returns three players 6'7 or taller, but they combined for just 17.5 minutes and 3.6 points last year.  They'll probably do better this year without Hudson around to take all the shots, but still.

Keys to the Game

  1. Make some 3's.  As has been mentioned numerous times now, Mizzou's Achilles Heel could be long-distance shooting this year.  If Kim English or Marcus Denmon were to get hot tonight, I wouldn't complain.  It's not a full-blown concern yet, but it could become one soon.  Which leads us to...

  2. Kim English.  He's spent the last eight months as the most recognizable student on the Mizzou campus, entertaining folks on Twitter, Facebook, etc., and becoming a ridiculously good ambassador of both Mizzou and the athletic program.  Now it's time for him to produce.  None of us need to put any more pressure on him than what he's putting on himself at the moment, but with two exhibition games high in turnovers and low in field goal percentage, it's time for Kimmeh to relax and adjust to being the face of the program.

  3. Rebound.  Mizzou barely out-rebounded a tiny Northwest team last week, and while we know that a team in this system will rarely out-rebound bigger opponents (they will more than compensate with BCI), it's still important that the boards not become a liability against lesser opponents.

Prediction

UT-Martin was a solid team in 2008-09, and while they could be just as solid this year, they probably aren't right now.  As much as we might miss last year's seniors, the Skyhawks are going to probably miss Lester Hudson more at first, and Mizzou should be able to take advantage of a UTM team with no go-to scorer and little low-post presence in riding to an easy 25-point win.  We'll say 84-59 Mizzou.

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