Study Hall: Mizzou vs Kansas -- Go Pro, Cole

Well ... we actually did better than my prediction ... so there's that ...

Kansas 84, Mizzou 65

Mizzou
KU
Points Per Minute
1.63 2.10
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.89 1.16
Points Per Shot (PPS)
0.96 1.47
2-PT FG% 26.0% 50.0%
3-PT FG% 33.3% 47.4%
FT% 87.5% 73.1%
True Shooting % 41.4% 61.4%
Mizzou KU
Assists 5 18
Steals 9 4
Turnovers 5 23
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.80 0.96
Mizzou KU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 18 11
Offensive Rebounds 11 18
Difference -7 +7

Is This a Bad Shooting Team, or a Decent Shooting Team in a Funk?

We knew heading into last night that Kansas had one of the best FG% defenses in the country.  They play solid defense on the 3-point line, and obviously Cole Aldrich results in a black hole around the basket, meaning all you've got left to take are the 12- to 18-foot mid-range jumpers.  Mizzou took a ton of those last night ... and made almost none.  It's not hard to figure out why: nobody makes this shot anymore.  The only players I trust to take this shot with any regularity are Laurence Bowers (1-for-5 on 2-pointers yesterday), Mike Dixon (1-for-4 ... nice to get that first AFH experience out of the way, huh, Mike?), and Marcus Denmon (0-for-0), and they just couldn't find the range last night.  I would also trust Kim English to take this shot if he were to ever start going straight up on jumpers again, but he's not, so for the time being, I don't want him shooting at all.  But we'll get to that more later.

Toward the end of this post, we will take a look at Mizzou's stats for conference play.  It isn't pretty.  32.1% from 3-point range, 37.5% from inside 3-point range.  Last night's shooting hurt these numbers quite a bit (we are, after all, dealing with a sample size of just five games), but they were pretty bad before last night.  Is this a poorly-timed funk, or is this a poor shooting team?  I guess we'll see -- the numbers really are so bad that some regression (or ascension, really) to the mean will almost certainly occur -- but considering this was a fear of ours before the season began, let's just say that a huge red flag is waving right now.

One good thing may have happened in the second half last night, however.  After Mike Anderson had to all but beg his team to give it a shot, Mizzou started to penetrate a bit more, and they found some success, not necessarily in making buckets, but in getting to the line.  It's pretty easy to see who took this lesson to heart the most -- Justin Safford and Zaire Taylor shot 17 of Mizzou's 24 FTs -- and it is not a coincidence that a lot of this took place when Cole Aldrich was either out of the game or completely gassed, but it is a potential pathway to success against KU in the future ... if they can survive the first half, when Aldrich ISN'T gassed, anyway.

Rebounds

It's REALLY hard to have a rebounding margin of 14 when you're using expected rebounds.  Thanks to the sheer number of shots Mizzou missed (and the fact that, on average, about 67% of rebounds are of the defensive variety), you could have expected them to get outrebounded by a decent margin.  But using expected rebounds, they still could have broken even by simply grabbing the number an average team would grab.  They didn't quite do that.  That, and they couldn't keep Marcus Morris off the offensive glass.  Through four conference games, Mizzou was actually outrebounding opponents.  That changed quickly and dramatically.  Lucky for them, Oklahoma State is a terrible offensive rebounding team (though, strangely enough, they're an awesome defensive rebounding team), and Texas A&M (strangely enough), Colorado and Iowa State are not much better.  If they respond as well as last year's team to tasting blood in their mouth, they will come back with a nice effort on the boards over the next week or two.

Of course, if they would make some shots in the next week or two, that would also help.

Please Go Pro, Cole

I was exchanging e-mails with the LJW's Jesse Newell yesterday, and I mentioned yesterday that I was infinitely more scared of Cole Aldrich than Sherron Collins.  Nobody is more of a matchup nightmare for Mizzou than a quality, old-school big man who cleans up on the boards, blocks shots, and can score in the post.  Really, he's a matchup nightmare for anybody, but particularly a team that doesn't exactly load up on guys over about 220 pounds.  He tired in the second half, just like he did in Columbia last year, but he was so dominant in the first half that it didn't matter.  I am petrified of him, and I really hope Bill Simmons' words are true and he's a top five pick next June.

BUT ... and you knew there was a 'but' ...

(First a disclaimer: I am a bitter Blazers fan who still has nightmares of Shaq throwing Steve Smith, Damon Stoudamire, Greg Anthony, etc., into the stands for seven games in the 2000 Western Conference finals and getting away with it.  If there's anything my nerves are especially exposed to, it is big men throwing their weight around and not getting called for the fouls I, as a biased fan, feel they deserve.  That had to be said.)

BUT ...

When Aldrich goes up to block a shot with his left hand, while sticking his right forearm in the chest of the shooter, it is, by definition, a foul.  Every time.  Mizzou has played Kansas three times in the last 12 months, and he has gotten away with this multiple times every game.  I don't understand.  It is an easy call to make.  He's not hiding it, but he's still getting away with it.  He is a phenomenal defender and shot blocker who got plenty of perfectly clean blocks last night -- I even made a habit of rewinding to watch the block again just so I could prove to myself it was clean after my knee-jerk "CALL A F***ING FOUL!!!" reaction -- but at least twice (maybe three times ... I've already blocked some of the game out) in the first 12-15 minutes of the games, he got away with the forearm to the chest, and he should have had three fouls well before halftime.  It probably wouldn't have made any difference whatsoever -- anytime Tyrady Morningreed is making that many 3-pointers, KU is probably going to win no matter how much Sherron Collins is struggling -- but my stress level would have been much lower.

Aside from that, I thought the game was called quite fairly, which of course means plenty of bad calls each way -- but I still cannot for the life of me figure out why Aldrich gets away with what is now basically his patented move.  He is an excellent player, and I wish he was on my team, but he still gets that little piece of unfair advantage, and I had no choice but to rant about it.  It's my blog, and I'll cry if I want to, et cetera.

Anyway, the take-away message: Go pro, Cole.  You're ready.  Don't even think twice about it.

A Plea to Kim English: Go Straight Up.  I'm Begging You.

This will go straight to his head, but I'm going to quote The Beef from last night's first half thread:

I almost wonder...with all the "hours" he spends in the gym, do you think he developed the bad habit here via repetition?

You know how golfers have swing coaches?  I nominate RPT and myself to become, for just one day (or maybe a week), Kim English's shot coach.  I want to go with The Former Mr. Courvoissier and have him run around the court without a ball, just pulling up and jumping straight up.  From the top of the key, from the corner, from 16 feet all around the court.  He has developed the worst, most easy-to-spot habit in the world, and while I'm sure the Mizzou coaches have caught on, they have not yet done broken it.  He is, I assume, still spending hours shooting in the gym, and yet since the calendar turned to 2010, here are his shooting numbers:

2-pointers: 17-for-45 (37.8%)
3-pointers: 7-for-31 (22.6%)
TOTAL: 24-for-76 (31.6%)

Imagine Mizzou subbing out Kareem Rush and bringing in Randy Pulley.  That is, with only minor exaggeration, what has happened starting with the Georgia game, and as you might expect, Mizzou's offense has begun to slowly die on the vine because of it.  Random players have stepped up at random times, and Mizzou is still 3-2 in conference thanks to that (and good defense), but their leading scorer has pulled a complete and total disappearing act, and their ceiling is slowly sinking from "Potential 4-6 seed in the NCAA tournament" to "Potential 9-12 seed ... if that" because of it.

I love Kim English, just like everybody else.  He is a wonderful ambassador for the program, and he will always be remembered fondly for how he performed last March.  But he needs to fix the crystal clear kink in his shot, and he needs to do so as soon as humanly possible.  Three of Mizzou's next four game are at home, and none of the next four opponents rank better than 70th in the country in 3-point defense.  Now's the time for him to become Kimmeh again, instead of David Duval, or Steve Blass, or your fallen athlete of choice.  Until then, he is a major offensive liability, and I HATE saying that.

A Familiar Ray of Sunshine

Before we move to the player stats, I did want to point out that, if Mizzou can figure out a way to get better shots, they did find aspects of vulnerability in Kansas' game that they can exploit better than anybody else in the country.  Despite the fact that their press was almost completely ineffective, Mizzou forced 23 turnovers and dominated the BCI aspect of the proceedings.  This is a very good thing.  Mizzou's halfcourt defense was, believe it or not, rather effective.  The problem was that the press was not effective (more on that in a second), and Mizzou's missed shots and Aldrich's great outlet passes gave KU a ton of transition opportunities, where they were absolutely deadly.

I have to mention that nobody in the country breaks Mizzou's press better than KU.  Not even Kemba Walker.  They are full of great athletes (most of them were total stud recruits), and thanks to their residence in the Big 12 North, they get plenty of practice against Mizzou's style.  This is a lot like OU always ripping apart Texas Tech at home in football -- they have the athletes to cope with the style, and in their own backyard they are almost untouchable.  But KU was indeed vulnerable to poor passing in the halfcourt, and as with last year at Mizzou Arena, it wouldn't at all surprise me to see Anderson laying off the press and focusing on crazy-intense half-court D when KU comes to town in a few more weeks. If they can force the same number of turnovers in Columbia, and if they can at least just shoot poorly instead of atrociously, they'll give themselves a shot.

Mizzou Player Stats

Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Justin Safford 24.2 0.76 32 Min, 19 Pts (5-for-15 FG, 1-for-3 3PT), 7 Reb (3 Off)
Zaire Taylor 20.5 0.73 28 Min, 11 Pts (2-for-6 FG, 0-for-2 3PT), 3 Reb, 3 Stl, 2 Ast
Keith Ramsey 10.7 0.40 27 Min, 8 Pts (3-for-7 FG, 2-for-3 3PT), 6 Reb (3 Off)
Marcus Denmon 9.8 0.47 21 Min, 3 Pts (1-for-1 FG??), 2 Reb, 2 Stl
Kim English 4.7 0.24 20 Min, 9 Pts (3-for-13 FG, 1-for-4 3PT), 2 Reb
J.T. Tiller 3.9 0.18 22 Min, 8 Pts (2-for-11 FG), 5 Reb (3 Off)
Laurence Bowers 1.9 0.13 15 Min, 5 Pts (2-for-7 FG, 1-for-2 3PT), 3 Reb
Steve Moore -0.7 -0.10 7 Min, 0 Pts
Mike Dixon -3.9 -0.30 13 Min, 2 Pts (1-for-7 FG, 0-for-3 3PT)
Miguel Paul -4.4 -0.29 15 Min, 0 Pts (0-for-1 FG), 2 TO


* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game.  The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • And your trifecta winner is ... nobody.  Needless to say, voters didn't think much of the Safford-Taylor-Ramsey combo.
  • Justin Safford had one of the strangest games imaginable.  He was eaten alive by Cole Aldrich, dominated in every way you can be dominated, but seemingly every second that Aldrich wasn't on the court (and even sometimes in the second half when he was, but was tiring), Safford was himself quite dominant.  He attacked the rim, got to the line, made a couple (just a couple) of jumpers, and scored more hustle points than anybody else on the team.  If he brings the same effective attack to future games against opponents who don't have Cole Aldrich (or maybe Dexter Pittman or Ekpe Udoh), his level of play could rise, and he could help the Mizzou offense out quite a bit.  We'll see.
  • Also getting to the line: Zaire Taylor.  He has not at all found his jumper in conference play (aside, of course, from the ballsy 3-pointer against KSU), but he is attacking more effectively than any other Mizzou guard.  J.T. Tiller just doesn't have it on offense this year (not yet, anyway ... I always hold out hope), and Marcus Denmon doesn't attack quite as much as he should, but Taylor is using every trick he knows to get points on the board for Mizzou.
  • God bless you, Keith Ramsey, for almost single-handedly keeping Mizzou's FG% above 25%.
  • I liked that Laurence Bowers was doing his best to attack Aldrich when he could ... but it didn't work.  Oh, did it not work.
  • In all, Mizzou's frontcourt shot a paltry 10-for-29 from the field (34.5%).  But ... and you know what's coming ... that means Mizzou's backcourt shot 9-for-39.  NINE FOR THIRTY-NINE.  23.1%.  Yeah.  Saving all your makes for the game at Mizzou Arena, huh?  Good plan.

Just out of curiosity, let's take a look at KU's player stats too...

Kansas Player Stats

Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Cole Aldrich 22.4 0.75 30 Min, 12 Pts (4-for-5 FG), 16 Reb (2 Off), 7 Blk, 2 Ast, 2 TO
Marcus Morris 21.3 0.89 24 Min, 17 Pts (6-for-10 FG), 9 Reb (6 Off)
Tyrel Reed 13.3 0.70 19 MIn, 14 Pts (5-for-6 FG, 4-for-4 3PT)
Markieff Morris 13.0 0.68 19 Min, 9 Pts (3-for-4 FG), 11 Reb (3 Off), 3 Ast, 3 TO
Brady Morningstar 10.3 0.38 27 Min, 9 Pts (3-for-7 FG, 1-for-2 3PT), 5 Ast, 3 Reb, 3 TO
Xavier Henry 6.9 0.24 29 Min, 9 Pts (3-for-8 FG, 3-for-7 3PT), 7 Reb (3 Off), 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 5 TO
Tyshawn Taylor 1.3 0.10 13 Min, 7 Pts (2-for-5 FG), 3 Ast, 2 Reb, 4 TO
Thomas Robinson -0.3 -0.05 5 Min, 0 Pts, 2 Reb
Sherron Collins -4.0 -0.14 29 Min, 6 Pts (2-for-11 FG, 0-for-4 3PT), 2 Reb, 2 Ast, 4 TO
Jeff Withey 0.3 0.25 1 minute
Connor Teahan 0.0 0.00 1 minute
Elijah Johnson -0.5 -0.17 3 minutes


  • Nothing too surprising here, though a) Marcus Morris did more than we probably gave him credit for, and b) Sherron Collins did worse than I thought.  Seriously, if he had been even average, KU might have won by 35.  (Of course, if he had been playing better, Reed and Morningstar might not have gotten their six 3-point attempts, but I digress.)
  • I mentioned that one of the most scary parts of KU's team was their backcourt depth, and how even though Tyshawn Taylor is struggling (and to be sure, he was extremely average yesterday), the fact that Morningstar, Reed, Elijah Johnson or C.J. Henry are all capable of going off at some point (and that one of them does almost every game) gives Bill Self far too many options.  And as dominant as Aldrich and the Morrises were, the 23.6 AdjGS points (and 23 real points) contributed by Reed and Morningstar made up more than the final scoring margin.  Without them going off, Mizzou might have hung around a while despite the fact that they had no right to.

Mizzou Player Stats - Conference Play

Since I alluded to it earlier, here is a quick look at Mizzou's player stats through five conference games.

Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Laurence Bowers 14.1 0.62 22.8 MPG, 10.0 PPG (48.6% FG), 7.0 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.2 TOPG
Zaire Taylor 13.4 0.44 30.2 MPG, 10.4 PPG (30.6% FG), 3.2 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG
Marcus Denmon 10.3 0.43 23.8 MPG, 9.8 PPG (44.4% FG), 2.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Justin Safford 10.2 0.43 23.8 MPG, 11.0 PPG (36.0% FG), 5.6 RPG, 1.2 TOPG
Keith Ramsey 7.6 0.28 27.6 MPG, 6.0 PPG (55.6% FG), 5.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.4 TOPG
Kim English 4.7 0.21 22.2 MPG, 10.4 PPG (28.3% FG), 4.4 RPG, 2.2 TOPG
Mike Dixon 3.2 0.21 15.0 MPG, 5.2 PPG (26.1% FG)
J.T. Tiller 2.4 0.10 23.6 MPG, 6.4 PPG (25.7% FG), 1.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.6 TOPG
Miguel Paul 2.2 0.24 9.0 MPG, 3.0 PPG (50.0% FG)
Steve Moore 1.1 0.16 7.0 MPG, 0.6 PPG (0.0% FG), 1.6 RPG
  • You are seeing that correctly.  Two players shooting 50% or better (one of whom, Paul, has only scored in one conference game), two more in the 40s (Bowers, Denmon), two more in the 30s (Safford, Taylor), and THREE in the 20s (Tiller, Dixon, and Leading Scorer Kim English).  Again, some of these percentages are just too low to maintain, but ... how much?

Three Keys Revisited

From Sunday's preview.

The long ball.

If they miss a ton of 3's, or if KU makes a ton of 3's, I'm not really sure how Mizzou wins.

Judging by 2- and 3-point percentages, Mizzou didn't take enough 3's.  That said, they did still only go 6-for-18, which very obviously wasn't good enough.  But the bigger damage was done by KU going 9-for-19 from long-range.  Collins was 0-for-4 and reserve Connor Teahan was 0-for-1, meaning the rest of the team was 9-for-14.  OUCH.

R-E-B-O-U-N-D.

Yeah, Mizzou did not so much succeed at rebounding missed shots in this game.

The first ten minutes.

Technically, Mizzou did indeed survive the game's first ten minutes ... barely.  KU led only 19-13 at the 10:00 mark, but they were in the beginning of a stretch that saw them outscore Mizzou 35-17 over the last 12 minutes of the first half.  Remember how Mizzou led 8-3 at first?  Remember how fun that was?  Yeah, KU outscored them 47-22 the rest of the half.

Summary

Well, my prediction was 84-58, so Mizzou technically out-performed my expectations.  Hooray, right?  I would use this space to offer the perspective we at RMN usually try to dole out after losses, but every single person reading this already knows everything I'm about to say, so I'll just go with bullet points.

  • Mizzou is 3-2 in conference, a half-game out of second place.  This comes despite almost unsustainably poor shooting and three of five games having been played on the road (meaning, 6 of the remaining 11 are at home, including 3 of the next 4).
  • Mizzou was run off the court four times last season (vs Illinois, @KSU, @ATM, @KU), and every time they responded with ferocity.
  • Kim English just can't continue to play this poorly.  Can he?  I don't think he can.  I hope.  No, surely not.  There ... glad that's settled.
  • With a big man like Aldrich and fast guards capable of breaking the press with ease (not to mention great coaching -- Self has done what few coaches have done, or have the personnel to do: he has figured out a way to actually put more pressure on Mizzou with their tempo and long outlet passes, than what Mizzou is capable of putting on them), KU is simply too much of a matchup problem, especially in Lawrence.  I will always trade nice postseason runs for a blowout loss in AFH, no matter how annoying it is to sit through at the time, and if you are sane, you would make that same trade.
  • No matter what, Mizzou actually performed better at AFH than they did last year.  Which is ... something.

You could make a pretty good case that Mizzou is now entering its most important stretch of games.  Their final seven games are pretty brutal (four road games, plus visits from Texas and Kansas), and if they can avoid stumbling at home and take out Colorado in Boulder (not as easy a task this year), they will be 7-2 in conference when they head to Waco on February 13, having both all but clinched an NCAA Tourney bid and positioned themselves well for a Big 12 Tournament bye.  If they do slip up between now and Waco, however, the final stretch of games will have a few more postseason hopes riding on them than I would prefer.  Take care of business, guys.  And go straight up, Kimmeh.

(And go pro, Cole.)

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