2009-10 Season Wrap-up (Part Six): What Mattered Most?

Part One: The Team Stats
Part Two: The Player Stats and Style Doppelgangers
Part Three: More Doppelgangers - The Scorers
Part Four: More Doppelgangers - The Distributors
Part Five: Final Doppelgangers - The Backup Bigs (and Sutton)

Back in early February, I took a look at What Mattered Most to Mizzou, splitting out their stats into wins and losses and checking out the major differences.  Mizzou played in 11 more games after that, and I thought it would make sense in this series to see what may or may not have changed in Mizzou's general DNA since then.

As with last time, the data below comes only from 'real' games, i.e. road games or games against major conference opponents.  In said games this year, Mizzou went 15-11.

Wins Versus Losses

Mizzou Wins
Mizzou Losses
Opp. Mizzou
Points Per Minute
2.01 1.66 1.55 1.78
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.16 0.96 0.94 1.08
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.35 1.17 1.02 1.37
2-PT FG% 49.8% 44.7% 39.0% 49.7%
3-PT FG% 38.8% 31.8% 30.5% 36.4%
FT% 73.0% 70.4% 73.2% 73.6%
True Shooting % 57.3% 50.4% 45.6% 56.8%
Mizzou Opp. Mizzou Opp.
Assists/Gm 16.1 10.7 11.0 12.9
Steals/Gm 10.0 6.3 9.0 5.7
Turnovers/Gm 13.4 18.9 10.3 17.2
BCI 1.95 0.90 1.95 1.08
Mizzou Opp. Mizzou Opp.
Exp. Off. Rebounds/Gm 12.7 13.2 14.5 11.1
Off. Rebounds/Gm 13.7 14.3 11.9 13.2
Difference +1.0 +1.1 -2.6 +1.1

Pace in Mizzou's wins: 70.7 possessions.
Pace in Mizzou's losses: 65.9 possessions.

As we saw against teams like West Virginia and Kansas State, part of this was a concerted effort to slow Mizzou down, but part of this was also Mizzou slowing itself down in an effort to keep their opponent off the offensive glass.  So even while they were allowing the same +1.1 offensive rebounds per game in losses as in wins, a lot of that was due to a necessary change in Mizzou's strategy that backfired in other areas.

In losses, Mizzou was just a wretched shooting team.  They went from a decent 49.8% on 2-pointers to a staggering 39.0%, they went from a more than acceptable 38.8% on 3-pointers to 30.5%.  They actually did a decent job of avoiding hurling up 3-pointer after 3-pointer in losses -- 31% of their FG's were 3's in losses, 34% in wins -- but they just couldn't get the ball in the hoop no matter what shots went up.  Plus, they were a much worse rebounding team.  They were 3.6 expected offensive rebounds worse on offense, and their OR% (Offensive Rebounding %) was only 29% (it was a very healthy 38% in wins).

Now, some of this can be associated with the style of opponent that tended to beat Missouri.  Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia and Kansas State are all big, stout rebounding teams, and those four teams accounted for five of Mizzou's final six losses (the other: a torrid-shooting Nebraska team).  There were games against lesser rebounding teams that beat Mizzou simply because the Tigers couldn't buy a bucket (Oklahoma, Richmond, Oral Roberts), but for the most part you can credit Mizzou opponents for at least some of Mizzou's shooting struggles.

(One other note: Mizzou's bigs' offensive rebounding rates were almost identical in wins and losses -- the drop-off in OR% came from the guards -- Kim English had a 5% OR% in wins, 2% in losses, J.T. Tiller 7% and 4%, Marcus Denmon 5% and 3%.)

One other theme from the above data table that I have to point out (because it will come up again in a bit): Mizzou turned the ball over 3.1 more times per game in wins than losses.  It really does appear that unbounded aggression meant good things for Mizzou, even if it also meant more mistakes.

Player Stats

Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Laurence Bowers (Wins) 12.1 0.54 22.4 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 SPG
Laurence Bowers (Losses) 11.2 0.46 24.2 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.0 APG, 0.8 SPG
-- Diff +0.9 +0.08
Kim English (Wins) 9.2 0.38 24.3 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.8 TOPG
Kim English (Losses) 6.9 0.26 26.7 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.3 TOPG
-- Diff +2.3 +0.12
Marcus Denmon (Wins) 12.1 0.55 22.2 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.7 APG
Marcus Denmon (Losses) 4.5 0.23 19.4 MPG, 5.6 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.6 APG
-- Diff +7.6 +0.32
Keith Ramsey (Wins) 9.9 0.36 27.9 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.4 TOPG
Keith Ramsey (Losses) 8.7 0.31 28.2 MPG, 5.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 1.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.0 TOPG
-- Diff +1.2 +0.05
Zaire Taylor (Wins) 9.6 0.37 26.3 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.9 SPG
Zaire Taylor (Losses) 8.7 0.27 31.6 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.7 SPG
-- Diff +0.9 +0.10
J.T. Tiller (Wins) 8.9 0.38 23.3 MPG, 9.1 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.4 TOPG
J.T. Tiller (Losses) 9.2 0.34 27.3 MPG, 9.6 PPG, 2.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 2.2 TOPG
-- Diff -0.3 +0.04
Justin Safford (Wins) 6.5 0.31 21.2 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.5 TOPG
Justin Safford (Losses) 10.9 0.48 22.7 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.7 TOPG
-- Diff -4.4 -0.17
Mike Dixon (Wins) 6.9 0.41 16.9 MPG, 8.1 PPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 RPG
Mike Dixon (Losses) 3.3 0.26 12.6 MPG, 5.1 PPG, 0.9 APG, 0.6 RPG
-- Diff +3.6 +0.15
Miguel Paul (Wins) 3.4 0.30 11.4 MPG, 3.2 PPG, 1.5 APG
Miguel Paul (Losses) 0.2 0.02 7.7 MPG, 1.3 PPG, 0.6 APG
-- Diff +3.2 +0.28
Steve Moore (Wins) 0.8 0.09 9.5 MPG, 0.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.7 BPG
Steve Moore (Losses) 1.3 0.14 9.3 MPG, 0.4 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG
-- Diff -0.5 -0.05

When I wrote the first What Matters Most piece in February, there was a 5.0-point difference between Marcus Denmon's performance in wins and losses.  In the season's final month-plus, the difference only became more exaggerated.  In wins, Denmon shot 47.8% from the field (56.0% on 2-pointers / 42.9% on 3-pointers / 73.3% on FTs); in losses, a horrid 35.0% (36.4% / 34.2% / 58.3%).  No matter what shots he took, they clanged off the rim at an alarming rate.

Not only that, but he was also invisible on the glass in losses (5% OR% and 11% DR% in wins, 3% and 6% in losses) and even less effective in the ball-handling department (3.0 BCI in wins, 1.4 in losses).  Bottom line: he was an all-conference caliber player in wins, and a downright bad player in losses.  Mizzou's average margin of defeat was 8.9 points, and if you believe the AdjGS concept, Bad Denmon was worth 7.6 of those points by himself.  I said it in the original What Matters post, we all said it about 100 times between then and now, and I'll say it one more time: if Denmon figures out how to harness his good game and bring it a higher percentage of the time, Missouri's ceiling increases exponentially.

The other significant difference in wins and losses came from the backup point guards, Dixon and Paul.  They combined for 10.3 AdjGS points in wins, 3.5 in losses, a 6.8-point difference.  Again, do the math.  Mizzou was +14.1 in wins, -8.9 in losses, a difference of 23.0 points.  Denmon, Paul and Dixon alone were 14.4 points different in wins and losses.  Just an astounding difference.  Without those three contributing, Kim English shot (and missed) more, Zaire Taylor had to step out of his more comfortable "distributor and instigator" role and into more of a scoring position (with varying results), and Justin Safford ended up trying to take up the slack significantly, potentially beyond his general level of effectiveness.  With the backup guards went Mizzou's chances of winning.

The New Stats

So none of this analysis is too different than what we discussed in the last What Matters Most post.  What mattered to Mizzou then didn't really change.  But since we've introduced some new (for RMN) stats recently, let's see what they might tell us.

(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.


Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Kim English (Wins) 29% 33% 2.60 25.1% 50.0% 16.7% 8.2%
Kim English (Losses) 31% 30% 2.91 27.3% 48.8% 15.0% 8.9%
-- Diff -2% +3% -0.31 -2.2% +1.2% +1.7% -0.7%


Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Marcus Denmon (Wins) 24% 44% 2.92 45.5% 39.8% 11.1% 3.6%
Marcus Denmon (Losses) 19% 30% 1.79 32.8% 47.8% 9.8% 9.6%
-- Diff +5% +14% +1.13 +12.7% -8.0% +1.3% -6.0%


Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Zaire Taylor (Wins) 15% 41% 2.65 61.8% 24.3% 9.7% 4.2%
Zaire Taylor (Losses) 18% 32% 2.80 55.1% 30.6% 9.9% 4.4%
-- Diff -3% +9% -0.15 +6.7% -6.3% -0.2% -0.2%


Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
J.T. Tiller (Wins) 24% 39% 4.68 65.5% 19.4% 8.7% 6.4%
J.T. Tiller (Losses) 23% 37% 3.05 48.9% 31.9% 11.3% 8.0%
-- Diff +1% +2% +1.63 +16.6% -12.5% -2.6% -1.6%


Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Mike Dixon (Wins) 22% 43% 2.70 47.3% 35.6% 9.5% 7.6%
Mike Dixon (Losses) 25% 35% 2.92 44.2% 43.6% 9.3% 3.0%
-- Diff -3% +8% -0.22 +3.1% -8.0% +0.2% +4.6%


Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Miguel Paul (Wins) 14% 46% 3.13 71.7% 19.2% 3.9% 5.2%
Miguel Paul (Losses) 15% 27% 2.36 54.9% 26.1% 11.5% 7.5%
-- Diff -1% +19% +0.77 +16.8% -6.9% -7.6% +2.3%

There was a delicate balance at play with the Mizzou guards in 2009-10.  When Kim English was shooting more and looking like a scorer, when Marcus Denmon was more involved in both passing and driving more, J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor were able to sit back and basically play dual points, and things clicked pretty well.  You can see from the wins stats how Taylor and Tiller were best utilized -- Taylor would set the play, direct traffic, and get everybody in place from a 'non-attacking' position, then he'd give it to Tiller, the more attacks-based of the two.  Tiller would then seemingly make the pass that got things rolling.  And if English was wearing his scorer's cap, good things would happen.  But if English's shot was off and he was becoming less passive, and if Denmon was bringing nothing to the table, then Tiller and Taylor both had to become scorers, and that wasn't the role either one of them were meant to play.

Other notes:

  • In general, turnovers were bad for the backcourt, but for Mike Dixon, they signified and aggressiveness and unwillingness to just pull up for (missed) jumpers.  We know from the previous stats that this team went to a new level when Dixon and Paul were bringing something to the table, but how they did that was completely different.  The more aggressive Paul was -- shooting more, getting fouled more, turning the ball over more -- the worse things usually went.  He was best as a Taylor-esque table setter.  But Dixon, on the other hand, had some Tiller in him.  When he was instigating instead of just shooting, good things happened even if it meant a few more turnovers.
  • Meanwhile, Denmon's win-loss splits were almost literally a simple matter of Good Denmon versus Bad Denmon.  When he was playing well, it all went well: good shooting (56% / 43% / 73%), good passing (0.23 assists per possession), good rebounding (5% OR, 11% DR), good ball-handling (3.0 BCI, virtually no turnovers), everything.  When he was playing well, he was an all-conference level performer.

    And when he was playing poorly, he brought almost nothing to the table.  Terrible shooter (36% / 34% / 58%), bad passer (0.10 assists per possession), non-existent rebounder (3% OR, 6% DR), iffy ball-handling (1.4 BCI), everything.  This wasn't a "he needed to be more/less aggressive" thing -- it was simply a "he needed to actually play" thing.
  • These numbers really do suggest that Kim English is at his best when primarily looking to score.  This gives a little extra credence to the Chievous doppelganger from a few days ago. When he was shooting and slashing more, he was passing less, but he was also turning the ball over less.  When he wasn't scoring -- either because he was shooting poorly or for other reasons -- he was aimless.  He's not meant to be a Zaire Taylor type -- he's meant to score, and needs to spend this offseason learning both a) how not to be liability if he's not scoring, and b) how to steal free points wherever possible.  It really is what separates him from the Chievous type.


Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Laurence Bowers (Wins) 22% 45% 2.39 36.0% 41.4% 16.8% 5.8%
Laurence Bowers (Losses) 19% 39% 1.90 39.0% 51.2% 3.7% 6.0%
-- Diff +3% +6% +0.49 -3.0% -9.8% +13.1% -0.2%

Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Keith Ramsey (Wins) 14% 42% 1.67 46.2% 28.5% 10.3% 14.9%
Keith Ramsey (Losses) 11% 38% 1.42 48.7% 33.8% 9.9% 7.6%
-- Diff +3% 4% +0.25 -2.5% -5.3% +0.4% +7.3%

Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Justin Safford (Wins) 22% 37% 2.46 42.5% 39.1% 9.9% 8.5%
Justin Safford (Losses) 26% 38% 2.26 19.9% 55.0% 20.9% 4.2%
-- Diff -4% -1% +0.20 +22.6% -15.9% -11.0% +4.3%

Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %TO
Steve Moore (Wins) 7% 29% 1.31 63.8% 18.6% 5.2% 12.4%
Steve Moore (Losses) 4% 29% 1.03 67.9% 20.2% 11.9% 0.0%
-- Diff +3% 0% +0.28 -4.1% -1.6% -6.7% -12.4%

Here's a dynamic that could potentially be very interesting to follow next year: when Mizzou was winning this season, Laurence Bowers was shooting/getting fouled 58.2% of the time, Justin Safford 49.0% of the time.  When they were losing, Bowers was shooting/getting fouled 54.9% of the time, Safford 75.9% of the time.  With no Keith Ramsey, obviously Bowers and Safford will be sharing the court a lot more next season, and how they balance things offensively could be interesting.  Anecdotally, we know that a lot of Safford's aggressiveness was due to necessity -- he usually tried to step up when nobody else was.  So maybe the Bowers-Safford balance will be dictated as much by English, Denmon, and others as himself, but regardless, a nice balance will be needed between these two players.

Other notes:

  • For the bigs, turnovers clearly weren't an issue.  For three of four, Mizzou won more when they turned the ball over more, and for the other (Bowers), turnovers were the same either way.
  • I do think Steve Moore still needs to get to at least the 11%-13% Usage mark to be effective.  He doesn't have to do more than that, but he has to at least exist on the offensive end.
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