Know Your West Texas Rival: Texas Tech

There is one more hurdle for Mizzou to clear to prove that their ceiling is as high as some are starting to believe: the road.  While it's certainly easy to make a case (Ken Pomeroy makes it easy) that Mizzou is better than both Texas Tech and Oklahoma, their two road opponents this week, I would be somewhat satisfied with a 1-1 split this week.  I'm greedy and want 2-0, of course, but Mizzou is almost rather due a slip, and if they can go take a win from Lubbock tomorrow, that makes for a pretty low-pressure OU game on Saturday.  ("Low-pressure" as it relates to Mizzou's NCAA tourney hopes ... if they're aiming for more than that in the conference race, then they need to take both of these games.

Texas Tech: 12-3

Tech Opp
Points Per Minute
1.95 1.77
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.08 0.98
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.35 1.21
2-PT FG% 49.9% 45.6%
3-PT FG% 33.7% 33.2%
FT% 73.1% 68.7%
True Shooting % 55.8% 51.5%
Tech Opp
Assists/Gm 13.9 11.0
Steals/Gm 6.8 7.3
Turnovers/Gm 14.9 15.9
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.39 1.16
Tech Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds 187 201
Offensive Rebounds 177 182
Difference -10 -19


Ken Pomeroy Stats

Tech Offense vs MU Defense Ranks
Tech Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 88 7 MU
Effective FG% 124 17 MU big
Turnover % 135 1 MU big
Off. Reb. % 117 282 Tech big
FTA/FGA 18 186 Tech big
MU Offense vs Tech Defense Ranks
MU Offense Tech Defense Advantage
Efficiency 39 121 MU
Effective FG% 30 103 MU
Turnover % 81 143 MU
Off. Reb. % 77 175 MU
FTA/FGA 243 231 push

Eight of Tech's top ten in the rotation are 6'3 or taller, and perhaps most importantly for Tech, this is a very experienced team.  This, along with the fact that many of Tech's contributors were heavily involved in last season's two Mizzou-Tech matchups, gives the Red Raiders more than a fighting chance tomorrow night.  They played Mizzou well in Columbia and for a while in the Big 12 Tournament, and they play a style of ball that is built to succeed at home.  (They play fast -- faster than Mizzou, actually -- they draw a ton of fouls, and they block shots.)

Where the Fightin' Knights are strongest

  1. They get to the line.  This is not a 3-point heavy team -- only John Roberson attempts more than three 3's per game.  But they pass and drive, and led by Mike Singletary and D'Walyn Roberts, they draw a sick amount of fouls.  Needless to say, the 24 fouls Mizzou committed at home on Saturday don't fill me with confidence that this will be a nice, easy, light-on-the-whistles affair.

    If Tech isn't getting to the line, theirs is a rather average offense.  But I'm thinking they'll get to the line.

  2. They're experienced.  Of their top eight players, six are juniors and two are seniors.  Plus, their major contributors have gotten plenty of exposure to Mizzou.  John Roberson played 78 of 80 minutes in the two Mizzou-Tech games last year, acquitting himself relatively well.  He scored 23 points (albeit on 6-for-21 shooting), with 11 assists, 10 turnovers, and 7 steals.  Not great, but he didn't get eaten alive.  Meanwhile, Mike Singletary scored 31 points in 58 minutes (with 6 turnovers), and D'Walyn Roberts ... well, he played 28 minutes, scoring 11 points (and 3 turnovers).

    Beyond Tech's big three, another major contributor is a newbie -- JUCO transfer David Tairu, who is averaging 12 PPG.  Two other JUCO transfers fill in the rotation, meaning Tech will have an impressive SEVEN seniors on next year's squad ... but on the flipside, they could be pretty damn stout next year.

Where the Red Raiders are weakest

  1. They turn the ball over too much.  Needless to say, when you're taking on the #1 turnovers defense in the country, you probably want to rank higher than 135th in offensive turnover percentage.  Roberson and Singletary combine for six turnovers per game, which means really about 8-10 against Mizzou, and Tairu has yet to face the Tigers.  Once again, you can see how officiating could play a role here -- if Mizzou is getting called for the slightest of physical play, they could be fighting an uphill battle.  But if they're allowed to play a bit more physical, they could rack up the takeaways.

    (And it would help if Mike Dixon weren't called for four fouls in six minutes this time...)

  2. They give up a lot of offensive rebounds (considering the opposition).  On the surface, Tech's defensive rebounding figures seem alright -- opponents have grabbed 19 fewer offensive rebounds than typical rebounding percentages would expect.  However, their strength of schedule has been quite poor, and they haven't really played any good offensive rebounding teams (at least, that's what the Pomeroy numbers suggest).  Mizzou has turned themselves into a rather stout offensive rebounding team, and if they're snatching up second chances, that will give them a second path to victory if their 3's aren't falling.

Tech's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    #56 UTEP (86-78)
    #85 Washington (99-92, OT)
    #115 Stanford (100-87)
    #155 Texas A&M-CC (66-59)
    at #167 TCU (80-70)
    #178 Oregon State (64-60)
    at #195 Stephen F. Austin (63-61)
    #213 Samford (74-53)
    #241 South Dakota (88-49)
    #255 Lamar (77-54)
    #267 McNeese State (76-75)
    #287 Northwestern State (94-75)
  • Losses
    at #48 Oklahoma State (52-81)
    at #52 New Mexico (75-90)
    at #62 Wichita State (83-85)

Two ways to look at these results:

Optimistic: Tech has played four teams in Ken Pom's Top 70, and they've gone just 1-3, getting beaten easily by New Mexico and demolished by Oklahoma State.  Mizzou's in the top ten. Do the math.

Pessimistic: Tech's 1-3 on the road, but at home they've been beyond stout.  Their win over Washington doesn't look as impressive as it did at the time, but they're unbeaten at home.

Tech Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
John Roberson (5'11, 165, Jr.) 14.4 0.41 35.2 MPG, 13.0 PPG, 5.5 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 2.7 TOPG
Mike Singletary (6'6, 217, Jr.) 14.1 0.45 31.2 MPG, 15.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 3.3 TOPG
D'walyn Roberts (6'7, 200, Jr.) 12.0 0.49 24.3 MPG, 8.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG
David Tairu (6'3, 180, Jr.) 11.9 0.52 22.9 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 3.4 PPG, 1.1 TOPG
Nick Okorie (6'1, 195, Sr.) 7.5 0.34 22.2 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.9 TOPG
Darko Cohadarevic (6'9, 242, Sr.) 6.9 0.33 20.7 MPG, 7.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.0 TOPG
Brad Reese (6'6, 189, Jr.) 4.3 0.24 18.1 MPG, 6.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 BPG, 1.2 TOPG
Theron Jenkins (6'6, 211, Jr.) 3.7 0.34 11.1 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.0 TOPG
Robert Lewandoski (6'10, 240, So.) 1.6 0.17 9.6 MPG, 1.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG
Wally Dunn (6'4, 194, Jr.) 1.2 0.31 3.8 MPG, 1.7 PPG
Mike Davis (6'2, 185, Fr.) 0.5 0.08 7.1 MPG, 1.4 PPG, 1.1 RPG
Corbin Ray (6'7, 225, So.) -0.1 -0.02 6 minutes

* 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.

  • Four main contributors and a ton of role players -- this is a team built to challenge Mizzou.  They've got depth and a lot of different players ready to pick up the scoring slack.  The unanswered variable here is athleticism.  That's great if you have depth, but it doesn't really matter if only 1-2 people can handle the pressure and John Roberson has to play 38-40 minutes again.  Roberson will eventually wear down -- he very much did in the second half of the Big 12 Tourney game last year -- and Mizzou will get a chance to pull away late.  That said, Pat Knight has expressed admiration for Mizzou's length and athleticism, and it's clear that he's trying to build a team in an at least somewhat similar model, playing fast and building around a bunch of 6'4 - 6'7 guys.
  • Yes, they have a player named Darko.
  • Yes, they play only one freshman, and barely at that.

Keys to the Game

  1. The Zebras.  Sorry, but it's true (again), and you know it.  By midseason last year, Mizzou found the perfect balance of physical and non-physical play, and how the refs called games became less of an issue.  I don't think we're there yet.  With experience and backcourt depth, we should get there, but until then I have the feeling we've got at least a couple more games in which the fouls flow like water.  Judging by Tech's strengths, this is very likely one of those games.  If Tech is getting to the line constantly, they'll be pretty tough to beat.  Part of that is on Mizzou to know where the line between fouls and non-fouls are; part of that is on the refs to set the line and not stray from it.  The most annoying aspect of Big 12 officiating (all officiating, really, but Big 12 in particular through the years) is, what is or isn't a foul with 17:00 left in the first half isn't the same as 17:00 left in the second half or 2:00 left in the game, and it is so annoying to watch.

  2. Kimmeh vs. the Linebacker's Son.  Here's your challenge, Kim English: match whatever Mike Singletary does.  That's it.  Mizzou proved on Saturday that they don't need an A-game from The Former Mister Courvoissier to beat good teams, but if he's matching Singletary's production, I don't really see how Tech wins.  If Singletary isn't deriving an advantage, then who is?  Roberson and Okorie versus Tiller, Taylor, Denmon and Dixon?  Roberts (a Bowers clone) versus Bowers and Safford?  Darko going off against Ramsey?  It all seems rather unlikely -- Singletary is the major variable, and therefore so is Kimmie.

    (And yes, I just called Kimmeh four different names in that last paragraph.)

  3. Twelve Minutes to Four Minutes.  We know how Mizzou losses tend to play out, especially in conference play.  The teams feel each other out for a while, then with about 10-12 minutes left in the first half, the home team catches fire and goes on a run, the crowd gets into it, and as the half begins to come to a close, Mizzou finds themselves down 16.  Early-season losses don't necessarily follow the script -- Mizzou was close to Vandy and Richmond for most of the game, while they were the ones blowing leads against ORU this year and Xavier last year -- but once conference play begins and Mizzou's style falls into place, this is the way they typically lose.  It happened in all four conference losses last year -- Mizzou was down big in the first half to Kansas, ATM, K-State and Nebraska -- and Tech has most of the components to make a similar run (the one thing they're missing: multiple 3-point bombers that light the crowd on fire during a run).  If Mizzou is ahead or close at the first half's final TV timeout, they are in control of the game.

Prediction

I keep oscillating between two scenarios:

Scenario #1: Tech gets to the line a ton and gets one or two of Mizzou's scorers into foul trouble, Roberson makes a couple of 3-pointers, and Tech makes the patented mid-first half run.  Mizzou is down 20 at some point and cuts the lead to about 4-6 with four minutes left, but Tech makes their free throws and wins a high-scoring (and high-FT) affair.  Tech 92, Mizzou 84.

Scenario #2: Tech doesn't control the ball well enough to make a run and simply isn't athletic enough to handle Mizzou's style for 40 minutes.  The game is tied (or near-tied) at halftime, and Mizzou makes a run and goes up 7-8 in the second half before pulling away late (assuming they make their free throws, ahem ... good luck figuring out if they will or not -- there doesn't seem to be any logic for when they are good or bad from the line).  Mizzou 83, Tech 71.

Right now, I'm 55% confident in Scenario #2, but I should make very clear that Tech really is a team built to play Mizzou well right now, and Mizzou is possibly due a setback.  A loss wouldn't be the end of the world, and it could very well happen ... but it's not like my picks mean anything, right?  And why would I care if I get it wrong?  Therefore I'm obviously going with Scenario #2.  As if there were any doubt.

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