We now prepare to enter Rock M Nation's busiest month. The football season continues to cruise along, but now we've got basketball to talk about and prepare for as well. With exhibition games right around the corner, it is time to begin previewing the 2010-11 Mizzou Basketball Season! (Newer Rock M readers should know that while football is the first love for both RPT and me, we cover basketball with every bit as much energy and enjoyment.)
The best place to start this season is to recap where we finished last season. In April, we completed a ten-part 2009-10 Season Wrap-up series. Below, you will find links for and blurbs from each piece. Tomorrow, we look at the present and future. Today, we look at the past.
Where the Tigers got better
Yes, Mizzou was a worse overall team in 2009-10 than in 2008-09. That was almost unavoidable. However, there was improvement in some facets of the game, and all three areas below forecast well for the future.
Despite the fewer rebounds (or, in a roundabout way, maybe because of them), Mizzou forced more turnovers this season. Here is a look at Mizzou's top eight regulars from this season and last, and their Steals Per Possession:
Steals Per Possession 2008-09
J.T. Tiller 0.20
DeMarre Carroll 0.16
Zaire Taylor 0.15
Marcus Denmon 0.15
Keith Ramsey 0.13
Leo Lyons 0.12
Matt Lawrence 0.12
Kim English 0.10
Zaire Taylor 0.20
J.T. Tiller 0.19
Keith Ramsey 0.17
Mike Dixon 0.17
Kim English 0.16
Laurence Bowers 0.14
Marcus Denmon 0.12
Justin Safford 0.12
Two of the three new members of the 2009-10 rotation were better thieves than their predecessors (Bowers > Lyons, Dixon > Lawrence), and Taylor, Ramsey and English all improved considerably with another year under their belt. Mizzou's top three per-possession steals leaders from 2009-10 are gone in 2010-11, but it certainly doesn't seem unheard of that Bowers, Denmon, and maybe others will improve their hands in 2010-11 -- this seems like an area where year-to-year improvement is relatively common.
(And hey, if they only tread water in this regard while grabbing a couple more defensive rebounds, that's fine too.)
Style Doppelgangers - The Bigs
What's a Style Doppelganger? A) It's something that probably only interests me. B) It's what is derived when I compare a current player's per-possession and per-touch numbers to players in Mizzou's past. I ran a ton of correlations between current and past statistics and found that Mizzou has had plenty of players similar to the current ones on the team. We're going to distribute these players into a series of posts. Today: next year's likely starting bigs.
Player MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG TOPG Laurence Bowers 22.5 10.2 5.7 1.2 1.1 1.4 1.1
Usage% Versatility 2PT% 3PT% FT% FTA/FGA 3PA/FGA Floor% 21% 4.06 57.2% 40.0% 65.1% 0.33 0.10 46%
OffReb% DefReb% 0.12 0.16
Touches/Poss. %Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO 2.28 39.8% 41.9% 12.3% 5.9%
For a double-digit scorer, Bowers was a pretty good sharer of the ball. He touched the ball pretty often for a "big man," and he almost never forced the issue. His "fouled" rate probably needs to improve in the future -- he's never going to be a mauler like a Kalen Grimes (31%) or (26%), but if he could just get to the 17% range like a Buck Grimm or DeMarre Carroll, then even with only 65% free throw shooting, he could pretty easily get into the 12-13 PPG range while still passing a good amount.
In all, I'm not sure I see Bowers becoming a "go-to" option for the Missouri offense, but when you think about it, this team doesn't really need go-to options from their bigs. Bowers' passing rate was almost exactly where DeMarre Carroll's and Leo Lyons' were in 2008-09, but if he can just draw a little more contact at times, he'll be what Mizzou needs -- he's a good passer, and his turnover rate is outstanding, so there's a lot to build on here.
Style Doppelganger: Nathan Buntin (1987-88)
Player MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG TOPG Kim English 24.1 14.0 3.4 1.1 1.3 0.1 2.1
Usage% Versatility 2PT% 3PT% FT% FTA/FGA 3PA/FGA Floor% 31% 3.73 41.3% 37.0% 72.5% 0.33 0.46 34%
OffReb% DefReb% 0.04 0.12
Touches/Poss. %Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO 2.87 28.1% 48.7% 14.4% 8.7%
It should surprise absolutely nobody that English's Usage% was easily Mizzou's highest this year; it's pretty clear that he's the go-to offensive option (when he's on, anyway), and he really, really wants to be The Man on this team. It should be noted, however, that he is still team-focused enough to succeed in this system. He does not fit the profile of some of Mizzou's true gunners -- players like John Woods (62%), Mark Atkins (54%) and Matt Lawrence (54%) had much higher %Shoot figures than English did in 2009-10. He also drove and got fouled more than the typical gunner, and his turnover rate for this style of player wasn't bad either.
You'll notice that his Floor% of 34% was much lower than Bowers' 46%. This is to be expected from the more long-range based shooters. When 3-pointers get involved, your Floor% is going to go down, as the 3 is a high-risk, high-reward shot. His points-per-individual-possession figures were just as high as Bowers', but obviously 3's aren't tremendously efficient.
Style Doppelganger: Derrick Chievous (1985-86)
I'll give you a second to tamp down either your "HOLY CRAP FINAL FOUR 2010-11" excitement or "HOW DARE YOU COMPARE THESE TWO" rage.
So the sophomore most similar to Kim English's style was Derrick Chievous, the most explosive scorer in Mizzou history. I find this interesting to say the least. Chievous was a more efficient scorer, averaging 18.8 PPG and 1.48 points per shot (English: 1.20) as a sophomore. The 3-pointer wasn't in existence at the college level until Chievous' junior year, and with a smidge more size than English, Chievous drove more, took more mid-range shots, and with superior body control, got fouled a rather insane amount. It was the nature of the mid-1980s game as a whole, but Chievous in particular was outstanding at it.
Chievous' per-touch splits: 29% pass, 43% shoot, 20% fouled, 8% turnover. The per-touch styles for these two lanky East Coasters are EXTREMELY similar, with the only difference coming in the %Shoot and %Fouled figures. Now, this obviously doesn't say that English can match Chievous' productivity ... but watching some film of Chievous and how he was able to draw contact while maintaining body control and shot accuracy wouldn't be a bad idea, especially since they have almost exactly the same body type -- Chievous was a lanky 6'7, 190 or so.
(Chievous was also an incredibly good rebounder, especially for his size, so if some of that rubbed off on Lord Baltimore too, I wouldn't object.)
Player MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG TOPG Mike Dixon 16.6 7.5 1.1 1.6 1.0 0.0 0.9
Usage% Versatility 2PT% 3PT% FT% FTA/FGA 3PA/FGA Floor% 21% 2.38 54.1% 35.5% 85.7% 0.25 0.38 43%
OffReb% DefReb% 0.01 0.07
Touches/Poss. %Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO 3.04 54.1% 33.1% 7.4% 5.4%
For better or worse, Mike Dixon appears to shoot quite a bit for a point guard. Sometimes that's a good thing -- when Mizzou's offense was stagnant against West Virginia, Dixon lit a major spark and almost brought Mizzou even with the Mountaineers. But it wasn't quite always a good thing -- in an attempt to find a similar spark in two games against Kansas, he shot 3-for-13 in 25 combined minutes. Plus, he only had multiple assists once in conference play -- he had two against Oklahoma State. He is young, and he still needs to learn how to balance the "scorer" and "distributor" pieces of being a good point guard (and Mizzou is best served with him at point guard -- we've already got Denmon and English on the wings). I'm obviously optimistic that he can eventually find that balance, but it is extremely possible that Mizzou is a more hot-and-cold team next year while he gets his footing as a (likely) starter.
(Plus, now he has to deal with the high expectations that come with outstanding performance in the NCAA Tourney.)
Style Doppelganger: Lee Coward (1986-87)
Player MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG TOPG Steve Moore 10.1 1.1 1.6 0.4 0.4 0.9 0.5
Usage% Versatility 2PT% 3PT% FT% FTA/FGA 3PA/FGA Floor% 8% 0.90 36.4% 0.0% 75.0% 0.44 0.08 31%
OffReb% DefReb% 0.03 0.14
Touches/Poss. %Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO 1.30 56.7% 23.1% 9.2% 10.9%
I will be honest: I expected nothing out of Steve Moore this year. Despite being a semi-honorary Truman Patriot (I know what seems like about half the Truman Classes of 1996-98 and went to Santa-Cali-Gon three times as a rite of passage ... mmm, giant turkey legs, funnel cake, and As Seen on TV display booths), I was completely unable to see him making a serious contribution, especially as a sophomore. But while he clearly wasn't a star, he more than proved his worth, especially when blew out his ACL.
While he is still a little too limited (to say the least) offensively, Moore spent the first half of the season seemingly learning what is and isn't considered a foul, then absolutely wrecked shop defensively in the season's final seven games, starting with the Colorado game in which Safford went down.
Here are Moore's averages for those seven games: 14.0 MPG, 2.3 BPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.6 SPG. Plus, he drew what seemed like about one charge per game. He was invaluable on defense. Now ... he clearly still had some gaping holes in his game -- he went 1-for-5 from the field and scored just two points (that's right, he had more steals than points), and considering Safford's absence led to the need for somebody else to step up offensively, Moore's complete invisibility on that side of the ball led to 4-on-5 offense and negated a lot of his positive defensive impact. Moore doesn't need to average 10 PPG or anything to be important, but he at least needs to be a threat to score once a half. Get him to 4-5 PPG, and with that defense, he could be an incredible weapon for Mizzou.
Style Doppelganger: Mike Sandbothe (1985-89)
The New Stats... (See Part Two of the Wrap-Up series for definitions of the below stats.)
Offense Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO Mizzou (Mizzou Wins) 40% 2.68 50.0% 32.1% 10.8% 7.1% Mizzou (Mizzou Losses)
34% 2.33 42.3% 39.8% 11.2% 6.7% -- Diff +6% +0.35 +7.7% -7.7% -0.4% +0.4% Offense Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO Opponent (Mizzou Wins) 34% 2.23 40.1% 36.7% 11.2% 12.0% Opponent (Mizzou Losses) 38% 2.46 44.7% 30.5% 14.8% 10.1% -- Diff -4% -0.23 -4.6% +6.2% -3.6% +1.9%
So basically Mizzou scored on 6% fewer possessions in losses (one fewer time every 17 possessions), while opponents scored on 4% more (one more every 25). Really not a huge difference if you think about it, but over the course of a game it obviously adds up. Their possessions involved 15% fewer touches in losses, while opponents' averaged 10.3% more.
Mizzou was infinitely more effective in the passing game in wins (as mentioned before, they lost only once when their %Touch was over 50%), but surprisingly their %Fouled was also higher in wins. How does this happen considering Mizzou went to the line almost eight more times per game in wins? This suggests that the issue wasn't "driving and getting fouled" as we suggested at times, but ball movement. When Mizzou was winning, they were both passing more and making more aggressive passes. They were turning the ball over more, but it was balanced by higher assist rates and easier buckets.
Nolan vs Anderson: First Four Years
First Four Years at the Second Job Nolan Richardson Mike Anderson
Arkansas' 5 previous years:
1986-87: 19-14 (1-1 NIT)
1987-88: 21-9 (0-1 NCAAs)
1988-89: 25-7 (1-1 NCAAs)
Mizzou's 5 previous years:
2008-09: 31-7 (3-1 NCAAs)
2009-10: 23-11 (1-1 NCAAs)
It bears repeating that Richardson took over a program in much greater health than the one Anderson took over, and he landed a McDonald's All-American (Ron Heury) in his first full recruiting class. After two years of treading water (it happened for both coaches at both schools), Anderson has gone 54-18 (0.750 win%) the last two years, with four NCAA Tourney wins. Richardson, meanwhile, managed a slightly lesser record (46-16, 0.742) and only one NCAA Tourney win in Years 3-4. The health of each program was obvious in both cases, but one can still make a damn strong case that Anderson's program is in better shape moving forward than Richardson's was after four seasons.
That's startling to think about considering what came next for Richardson -- in Year #5 (1989-90), Arkansas broke into the big-time, going 30-5 and blazing through Princeton, Dayton, North Carolina and Texas on the way to the Final Four (for more highlights from that season, click here). This began a rather sickening six-year span at Arkansas -- from 1989-90 to 1994-95, Arkansas went 175-36 (0.829, 4-2 against Mizzou, for what it's worth), and their year-by-year tourney success went as follows: 1990 Final Four, 1991 Elite Eight, 1992 Second Round, 1993 Sweet Sixteen, 1994 NCAA Champion, 1995 Runner-Up. Damn.
In other words, if Anderson wants to keep up with his mentor, he's going to have to kick it up a notch rather quickly.
Bill C.: Tap Into Your Chievous
In one of the more entertaining SI profiles ever written, Derrick Chievous said the following:
"It's all tricks in college," he says. "As you can see, I'm not the biggest dude in the world. If they throw your ass down a couple of times, you've gotta pop the J. I find a way to get fouled. It's the easiest points you'll get. Three pointers? I don't bomb 'em from way out. I score, go to the line for a little rest, then shoot the free throw."
Thanks to Twitter (#FollowKimmie!), we know what Kim English's main area of focus is for this summer -- mid-range and ball-handling. Sounds good. However, do not underestimate the importance of free points and a little body control. Along with a nice mid-range jumper, if you can master the art of drawing contact as you go up, you can quite easily up your scoring average by 2-3 points per game while improving nothing else. Easier said than done, obviously, but all I'll say is this: you have complete access to virtually any film the athletic program has, and I bet there's quite a bit of Derrick Chievous film lying around some where. Watch it, watch it again, then have Tyler Stone ride your hip every day in pick-up games and start experimenting.
RPT: Eat a sandwich. Or two. Or twelve.
Whatever Steve Moore was eating before he got to Mizzou, let's get Underwood on that diet. I know that bulk isn't the end-all, be-all for his future success, especially since he showed fairly deft use of his limbs in rebounding in limited time last season. But I'd feel at least a little bit more comfortable if he and L'Damian Washington downed a full Sams Club palate of BEEFCAKE 4000 before the next athletic year.
Nobody's projections changed more than Mizzou's in the last month. With the signings of Ricardo Ratliffe and Matt Pressey, suddenly the TIgers are pretty sickeningly deep. I set it up so that the primary minutes to go Dixon-Denmon-English-Bowers-Ratliffe, with Pressey-Pressey-Mitchell-Safford-Moore serving as the second team, but we'll see. Obviously and/or Ricky Kreklow (plus Kadeem Green, if he qualifies) could have something to say about that, as could Safford (who started most of last season) and Mitchell (who potentially has the highest ceiling of anybody).
(6'8, 205, Jr.) 0.54 0.52 13.0 (6'3, 185, Jr.) 0.45 0.46 12.2 Ricardo Ratliffe (6'8, 225, Jr.) N/A 0.44 11.6 (6'6, 200, Jr.) 0.41 0.43 11.0 Mike Dixon (6'1, 175, So.) 0.40 0.38 8.2 (6'8, 220, Fr.) N/A 0.35 6.0 (6'8, 230, Sr.) 0.37 0.36 5.3 Matt Pressey (6'2, 185, Jr.) N/A 0.38 4.4 Phil Pressey (5'10, 160, Fr.) N/A 0.28 3.3 (6'9, 264, Jr.) 0.13 0.25 2.6 TOTAL 80.1
77.3 DIFFERENCE +2.8
Other rotation candidates: John Underwood (6'9, 208, So.), Ricky Kreklow (6'5, 185, Fr.)
I've said this already, but I absolutely love the lack of pressure on Mitchell at this point. With little contribution from him or any freshman, Mizzou is the only team whose point total is projected to improve outright. Exciting.