Study Hall: Mizzou vs KSU -- That was ... fun?

Your trifecta: Ramsey-Tiller-Moore.  RAMSEY-TILLER-MOORE.  This trifecta game is less winnable than the styrofoam airplane toss they used to have at Mizzou Arena.  And ... needless to say, when your trifecta is Ramsey-Tiller-Moore, a) you're probably not scoring many points in that game, and b) you're probably not winning.  Don't get me wrong -- I love the effort that this team (and those three guys in particular) gave last night, but with no English, Bowers, Denmon or Taylor in the trifecta, this team must have seen some offensive struggles.

K-State 63, Mizzou 53

Mizzou
KSU
Points Per Minute
1.33 1.58
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.76 0.91
Points Per Shot (PPS)
0.84 1.13
2-PT FG% 35.6% 38.5%
3-PT FG% 22.2% 23.5%
FT% 69.2% 61.8%
True Shooting % 38.6% 44.4%
Mizzou KSU
Assists 9 15
Steals 6 8
Turnovers 17 14
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
0.88 1.64
Mizzou KSU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 16 15
Offensive Rebounds 15 13
Difference -1 -2


Winning at each other's games

For the second time this season, Mizzou outrebounded Kansas State while KSU won the battle of the BCI.  In the end, this game was similar to the game in Mizzou Arena.  Neither team shot well, both teams beat one another at each other's games, and from the "it was a little too similar" department, the home team got the key calls.  That was some brutal officiating, but we'll get to that below.  I do think we need to get used to what we saw yesterday (and at the beginning of conference play).  Whereas certain styles lead to entertaining matchups, MU and KSU don't so much bring the best out of each other ... unless you love great defensive play.  There was plenty of that on display.

Glass half-full or half-empty

So Mizzou was thoroughly out-BCI'd, shot 36% on 2-pointers and 22% on 3-pointers ... and only lost by ten on the road to a top ten team.  There's something to be said for that. If you're a "glass half-full" type, you should find plenty of reason for optimism here -- four of Mizzou five best offensive players were rendered almost completely ineffective, and the fifth (Justin Safford) was hurt, and yet Mizzou led for almost the entire first half and still had some chances down the stretch.

Of course, the "glass half-empty" type would be quick to point out that Mizzou's offense was terrible without Justin Safford, and this late in the season, it would be much more reassuring to know that players like Marcus Denmon and Laurence Bowers aren't still capable of completely disappearing for an entire game.  It's clearly "two steps forward, one step back" with these guys, but at some point you'd love to see the bad games not quite ending up this bad.

But I'm a "half-full" kind of guy, so we'll ignore that last paragraph, eh?

Mizzou Player Stats

Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Keith Ramsey 23.2 0.63 37 Min, 10 Pts (3-for-6 FG, 4-for-6 FT), 8 Reb (4 Off), 2 Stl, 2 TO
J.T. Tiller 18.4 0.74 25 Min, 11 Pts (5-for-8 FG), 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 TO
Steve Moore 8.6 0.45 19 Min, 0 Pts (0-for-2 FG), 5 Blk, 3 Reb, 2 Ast
Miguel Paul 7.6 0.85 9 Min, 6 Pts (2-for-4 FG, 2-for-2 3PT)
Zaire Taylor 7.2 0.31 23 Min, 10 Pts (3-for-10 FG, 0-for-4 3PT, 4-for-4 FT), 5 Reb, 4 TO
Kim English 6.4 0.20 33 Min, 13 Pts (6-for-15 FG, 1-for-4 3PT), 5 Reb, 5 TO
Mike Dixon -6.9 -0.63 11 Min, 0 Pts (0-for-3 FG)
Marcus Denmon -7.9 -0.39 20 Min, 3 Pts (1-for-8 FG, 1-for-5 3PT)
Laurence Bowers -8.6 -0.37 23 Min, 0 Pts (0-for-7 FG), 7 Reb (2 Off)


* 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.

  • Ahh, Keith Ramsey.  We are going to miss you no matter what level of talent we are bringing in with our incoming recruiting class.  Ramsey not only did a lot of dirty work in finishing first in AdjGS for Mizzou ... he also tried to be assertive on offense when others (cough cough Bowers cough) were shrinking from the moment and, perhaps most importantly, he played a ridiculous 37 minutes.  In the end, it probably wouldn't have hurt Mizzou to give John Underwood a few minutes too -- what, he was going to play worse offensively than Bowers? No -- but to the extent that Mizzou still had a chance at the end (and didn't get blown off the court early in the second half during a KSU surge), Ramsey was the biggest reason why.
  • That's right, the third-place finisher in the trifecta scored ZERO POINTS.  On defense, Steve Moore has turned into an outright weapon, not only blocking shots but learning how to control his body so that he can body up with his counterpart and not foul.  He was a revelation on defense last night, altering so many shots.  (Of course, going after the shots took him away from the glass, where he grabbed only three boards in 19 minutes ... still not nearly enough for a guy his size.)

    And yet ... any advantage he brought to the table on defense was negated by the fact that Mizzou was basically playing 4-on-5 on offense when he was in the game.  He not only offered no offensive presence or presence, but he was a complete non-factor on the offensive glass, pulling down zero second change opportunities.

    Now ... I was all but ready to write off Moore a couple of months ago, and clearly with his improving defensive presence, he has value and a strong role to play on this team.  But he needs to spend this offseason figuring out how to both make a difference with his offense and attack the glass a little better than he has to date.  He has started to learn how to control his body better, and now (a bit paradoxically) he needs to get better at throwing it around.
  • It was all the best and worst of Miguel Paul on display.  He made two 3's, played solid defense and in general made sure that Mizzou paid as little as possible for the early foul trouble of J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor ... and he took a couple of ill-advised shots, and his one turnover led directly to a fast break opportunity.  (I'm not going to give him hell for the intentional foul that he committed because ... well, he didn't commit an intentional foul, no matter what the box score says.  Getting 80% ball is not an intentional foul.)  In the end, Mizzou held its own for the most part while Tiller and Taylor were out in the first half, and Paul was both the main reason why they held their own and the main reason they didn't actually expand their lead.
  • So basically, Mike Dixon, Marcus Denmon and Laurence Bowers combined for -23.4 AdjGS points, and yet Mizzou lost by only 10 on the road.  Again, if you want reason to be optimistic moving forward, here's one right here.  Denmon and Bowers in particular played as poorly as they are capable of playing, and yet Mizzou was just a couple of breaks from stealing this tough game.

Three Keys Revisited

From Friday's preview.

The Zebras

What drives me craziest about Big 12 refs isn't the missed/bad calls.  I understand that some of that is going to happen no matter what, especially against these two teams.  But after letting everything go in the gmae's first ten minutes, the refs suddenly started whistling anything whatsoever ... and then went back to swallowing their whistles late in the first half (when Mizzou was hacked at least three separate times on their final possession with no call) and early in the second half.  Then they got whistle-happy again later on.  Just ridiculous.  What is a foul with 18:00 left in the first half is what should be a foul at the end of the half, middle of the second half, and end of the game overall.  I don't understand why this is so difficult, but apparently it is.

One more comment/question about the refs: how in the hell does Mizzou commit just five more fouls than K-State and shoot fewer 3-pointers while shooting 21 fewer free throws?  Holy moly.  I mean, I realize that KSU was called for more hand checks and Mizzou was clearly called for more shooting fouls, but ... TWENTY-ONE.  On just five more fouls!  Mizzou shooters were probably trying a little too hard to draw fouls while shooting at times, but ... seriously, 21.  Damn odd.

In summary, like they did at Mizzou Arena (and like they probably always will in this series) the refs were inconsistent and frustrating, and after the first ten minutes, in which I thought Mizzou actually benefited from the officiating, the last 30 minutes went to the home team.  Again, one has to expect that with Big 12 officials in big-time home environments (and both Mizzou Arena and The Octagon clearly qualify as that), but that doesn't make it enjoyable ... and it doesn't change the fact that what was a foul at one point in the game, wasn't at another point, and then was again.  Maddening.

Who Gets Hot?

Who gets hot?  Nobody!

Kim English: 1-for-4 from 3-point range
Marcus Denmon: 1-for-5

Jacob Pullen: 2-for-7
Denis Clemente: 1-for-6

We officially learned last night that if nobody gets hot, the advantage will predictably stray toward the home team, and KSU's size advantage and physicality ended up winning the game for them.  Just a horrible shooting display by everybody involved, though.

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

For the second straight game, Mizzou beat KSU on the boards despite KSU's prowess there.  In all, Mizzou has begun to show consistent improvement on the boards (despite the fact that Steve Moore doesn't rebound like a big man should), and that's great to see.  Unfortunately, it didn't make an impact whether Mizzou won or lost, but it obviously kept them from losing by 20.

Summary

You all know I'm a "glass half-full" kind of guy, and here on the morning after the game, I find myself much more encouraged than frustrated about last night's game.  I always say that it's harder to accept closer losses than blowout losses because of the what-if factor, but Mizzou once again proved last night that a) they can play with heart and toughness, and b) strangely enough, they're harder to blow out than last year's team was.  They also have a lower upside, of course, but with only one week left in the season, Mizzou has been blown out just once all year, after seeing it happen four times last year.  They're a bit more adaptable, and that's encouraging to think about when looking toward the post-season, even if that also means they're a bit less capable of imposing their will and style on opponents.

Meanwhile, what does one make of K-State at this point?  I go back and forth.  On one hand, they're tough and physical, they have two guards that could carry the team to the Final Four if they get hot, and they play rock-solid defense.  On the other, their offensive success is predicated on getting to the free throw line (that well can easily dry up come tourney time against a good defensive team with the right officiating ... and not everybody calls games like Big 12 officials), and the same guards that could carry them to the Final Four could carry them to a first-round exit if they shoot like they did last night.  I simply cannot decide what they might do in the postseason; I know what they're capable of, but I'm not totally sure I trust them.  We'll see.  Either way, they've all but locked up a second-place finish in what has turned out to be very tough Big 12 conference, so they deserve kudos for that.

Later today (or tomorrow morning, if I'm slow), we'll take another look at how the Big 12 will play out during this final week.  Clearly Mizzou's odds of getting a first round Big 12 tourney bye took a hit yesterday, with Mizzou's loss, Texas' loss, and Baylor's ability to avoid upset in Norman, but obviously there's still plenty to play for, and as I've said many times, that wasn't a given this season.  It's great to see, and it's great that the team managed to keep the game tough and (relatively) winnable despite all the obstacles in their way.  Next up: Hilton Magic.

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