Study Hall: Texas Tech

Your Trifecta: Denmon-English-Dixon.  Almost a disappointingly normal one considering how odd this game was.  Your winner: ...nobody?  Really?  Damn ... would have figured somebody'd have guess this.

Well ... if we hadn't already, I think we've figured out what will eventually doom Missouri.  At some point in mid- to late-March (the later, the better), Missouri is going to lose an NCAA Tournament game because they couldn't make stops.  Last year, whether we were acknowledging it or not, we knew that eventually offensive droughts -- simply failing to put the ball in the basket -- would end Mizzou's season, and they did; this year, it is rather clearly going to be on the defensive side of the ball.  A few circumstances ganged up to make yesterday's defense particularly lackluster -- a super-quick Tech point guard, stellar press-breaking, and a late-arriving crowd* -- but no matter what, allowing 1.11 points per possession to a Tech team mostly without Mike Singletary is ... not encouraging.  I'm not saying Mizzou is doomed to lose early in the tourney by any means ... draw your own personal conclusions about that.  It's just that, whenever they do lose, we probably know how/why it will happen.  Defense is rather clearly this team's Achilles heel.

* When I was in school, I'd have been endlessly complaining about how the alumni seats were half-full when the game tipped yesterday.  Now that I've been in the work force for a while, I know just how difficult 6pm tip-offs are, especially when half of the fanbase lives 2+ hours away and has to fight the beginnings of rush hour traffic to get to Columbia by 6pm ... hell, I work about a half-mile (at most) from Mizzou Arena, and I wouldn't have gotten off of work early enough to drop the wife off and get back to the Arena before the game started.  I get it now ... and while 6pm tips are good for my bedtime ... let's make sure all future 6pm tips are on the road, ahem.

Mizzou 92, Texas Tech 84

Mizzou
Tech
Pace (No. of Possessions)
76.0
Points Per Minute
2.30 2.10
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.21 1.11
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.48 1.33
2-PT FG% 62.2% 50.0%
3-PT FG% 47.1% 46.2%
FT% 60.0% 61.%
True Shooting % 65.0% 56.4%
Mizzou Tech
Assists 18 13
Steals 9 8
Turnovers  14 17
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.93 1.24
Mizzou Tech
Expected Offensive Rebounds 11 13
Offensive Rebounds 10 15
Difference -1 +2

Give Tech Credit...

...they played at Mizzou's pace and lived to tell about it.  Granted, they temporarily fell apart a couple of times, mostly thanks to Mizzou's bench -- MU went on an 8-0 run at the 13:00 mark of the first half, and a 13-4 run at the 15:00 mark of the second half -- but they bounced back each time.  At the end of the first half, they actually seemed like the fresher of the two teams, which was off-putting in and of itself.  The pace seemed to suit Tech well, and power to them for that.

That Said...

...wow, is Mizzou's defense average at times.  When you read what guys like J.T. Tiller (at PowerMizzou) have to say, it's about pride, focus and dedication.  And to be sure, Tiller should know all about that.  But how much of it is also just plain, old defensive ability?  I hope it's about pride and focus because that is fixable.  But I fear that Mizzou's current perimeter defense, as we've been discussing all season, is what it is because of the discrepancy between Mizzou guards' offensive and defensive ability.  Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon are occasionally incredible on offense, and this is definitely a strong offensive team ... but how much improvement are they going to be capable of making?  (I'm not suggesting I know the answer here, by the way; I'd love to hear what others think on the matter.)

The Glass Makes No Sense

For the season, the correlation between the rebounding ability of a given Mizzou opponent and Mizzou's actual performance on the glass is much weaker than one would think.  Against teams like Kansas State, Texas A&M and Old Dominion, Mizzou rebounded their behinds off; against lesser rebounding teams (and for the season, Tech has certainly qualified as a lesser rebounding team), Mizzou gets outhustled and outrebounded.  It's annoying.  The good news, I guess, is that Mizzou probably won't be facing a lesser rebounding team in the NCAA Tournament, eh?

Most of the rebounding trouble followed the same script: Tech guard penetrates effectively and gets to the rim, random Mizzou big comes over to block guard's shot and fails, and the now-uncovered Tech big puts back the miss with ease.  I wish there were an easy way to chart and track how much of Mizzou's defensive trouble stems from the lack of Mizzou's ability to cut off drives.  Granted, I also wish I could track how many times a Mizzou big goes for blocks when he has no chance of actually getting the block.  Regardless, the work on the glass was less than inspiring.

Sloppy, Sloppy, Sloppy

Overall, Mizzou's offensive production was strong.  But this was only the second time in conference play that the Tigers committed as many as 14 turnovers.  Phil Pressey (five) was the primary culprit, and really, 14 turnovers isn't a devastating total over 76 possessions (especially considering how Mizzou's offensive aggression paid off at times), but still ... nine Tigers committed at least one turnover, and the performance was much sloppier than it needed to be.  A lot of the turnovers were of the 'unforced' variety that drives coaches insane.

It was especially sloppy during crunch time, when Mike Dixon (twice) and Pressey (twice) committed four turnovers in four possessions, allowing Tech to whittle an eight-point Mizzou lead to three.  Luckily, the defense stiffened up and didn't allow this game to become a complete disaster, but ... we've been reminded at random, and sometimes inopportune, times that Mizzou's primary ball-handlers are a freshman and a sophomore.

Before We Come Down Too Hard on Mizzou...

...we've got to acknowledge that their shooting performance was quite stellar.  Their 62.5% shooting on 2-pointers was their highest since shooting 70.5% against Northern Illinois.  Mizzou's guards were particularly effective -- Marcus Denmon went 7-for-8 on 2-pointers, Mike Dixon 4-for-6, Kim English 3-for-6, Matt "The Worst Guard Doug Gottleib Has Ever Seen, And It's Not Even Close" Pressey 1-for-2.  The mid-range and penetration games were both working, and ... well, hopefully that's not the last we see of that.  Mizzou plays Iowa State this weekend, and the Cyclones are quite possibly vulnerable to the same type of offensive aggressiveness we saw last night.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Marcus Denmon 21.4 0.67 32 Min, 20 Pts (9-13 FG, 2-5 3PT, 0-1 FT), 2 Stl
Kim English 16.0 0.67 24 Min, 16 Pts (4-8 FG, 1-2 3PT, 7-11 FT), 7 Reb, 2 Stl, 2 TO
Mike Dixon 10.8 0.57 19 Min, 13 Pts (5-8 FG, 1-2 3PT, 2-2 FT), 4 Reb (2 Off), 2 Ast, 2 TO, 5 PF
Laurence Bowers 8.0 0.57 14 Min, 10 Pts (4-8 FG, 2-2 FT), 4 Reb (3 Off), 4 PF
Phil Pressey 7.7 0.26 30 Min, 9 Pts (3-4 3PT), 4 Ast, 3 Reb, 5 TO
Justin Safford 7.4 0.37 20 Min, 8 Pts (4-8 FG), 2 Reb, 2 Ast
Steve Moore 6.9 0.53 13 Min, 2 Pts (1-1 FG, 0-1 FT), 4 Reb, 3 Blk, 2 Ast
Ricky Kreklow 6.4 0.34 19 Min, 7 Pts (3-4 FG, 1-2 3PT, 0-1 FT)
Ricardo Ratliffe 4.4 0.28 16 Min, 4 Pts (2-4 FG), 2 Reb (2 Off), 2 Off
Matt Pressey 1.8 0.14 13 Min, 3 Pts (1-4 FG, 0-2 3PT, 1-2 FT), 2 Ast
  • This is mean, but ... did Marcus Denmon play in the second half?  I mean, I know he did ("32 minutes" is what one would call a dead giveaway), but as Mizzou's offense was clamming up late in the game, Denmon was nowhere to be found.  This game was a unique reminder that a) Denmon can take games over to a ridiculous degree at times (he was incredible in the first half, and thank goodness for that), and b) he simply is not a high-usage player who is going to dominate the ball.  For better or worse, he ceded the game to Kim English and Mike Dixon in the second half.  But it's obviously hard to complain about a "9-for-13 for 20 points in a Mizzou win" line, so I won't too much.
  • Be! Aggressive! Be, be, aggressive!  We saw Good Kimmeh yesterday, attacking the rim (while staying mostly in control and committing only one charge), drawing contact, and figuring out how to generate points when the Mizzou offense was beginning to stagnate.  Plus, he raised his game on the glass, grabbing six defensive boards (four in the last two minutes) while the rest of the team was struggling in that regard.
  • I just wish we could bottle up this offensive version of Mike Dixon and actually save some of it for road games.  Granted, Mizzou needed every bit of his occasionally gorgeous offense yesterday, but still.  Once again, Dixon put together a pretty offensive line at home.
  • Don't ever do that again, Party Starter.  When Bowers missed the dunk with a minute left, then tried to draw contact on the offensive rebound, didn't get it, and floated a putback from the waist (which I didn't think had a chance of going in) ... for about 1-2 seconds there, I was completely convinced Mizzou was going to lose.  Then the awkward putback swished in and Mizzou pulled away with free throws.
  • Nice offensive games, really, from both Bowers and Ratliffe -- 6-for-12 shooting, five offensive rebounds in 30 combined minutes -- but ... ONE DEFENSIVE REBOUND BETWEEN THEM.  That is completely and totally unacceptable.  In 33 minutes, Justin Safford and Steve Moore combined for six defensive rebounds, which really isn't an amazing total either (Steeeeeve's 34% def. rebound rate, however, was quite nice) ... but it's better than zero.  Bowers and Ratliffe don't have to be great on the defensive glass, but they have to at least be mediocre, and yesterday evening they were not.  Again, a lot of this might have stemmed from penetration allowed by Mizzou's guards, but ... ONE! ONE DEFENSIVE REBOUND!  FOUR FEWER THAN MIKE DIXON AND PHIL PRESSEY!
  • Thank goodness for Mizzou's role players.  Without Ricky Kreklow, Safford and Moore, Mizzou doesn't win this game.  52 minutes, 17 points (8-for-13 shooting), seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, three blocks and just three turnovers.  Bottle that up and deliver it on the road, too, guys.
  • Clearly Matt Pressey heard Doug Gottleib talking bad about him (at one point blaming him for a bad possession ... when he was on the bench), and clearly it shook his confidence.  Yep.  That's the reason for his poor performance.
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Marcus Denmon 20% 64% 1.6 30% 65% 5% 0%
Kim English 29% 41% 3.0 21% 29% 42% 7%
Mike Dixon 27% 51% 3.3 49% 34% 9% 8%
Laurence Bowers 33% 45% 3.2 35% 47% 12% 6%
Phil Pressey 14% 40% 2.9 72% 12% 0% 16%
Justin Safford 21% 45% 2.7 57% 38% 0% 5%
Steve Moore 9% 53% 3.0 79% 7% 7% 7%
Ricky Kreklow 14% 54% 1.7 49% 34% 9% 8%
Ricardo Ratliffe 12% 55% 2.6 75% 25% 0% 0%
Matt Pressey 21% 30% 3.8 63% 21% 11% 5%

Two thoughts about this table:

1. Not enough %Fouled for my tastes.  Kimmeh almost drew enough contact for everybody, but despite holding a lead for the entire stretch run, Mizzou ended up drawing the same number of fouls (21) as Tech, and they ended up shooting fewer free throws.  Obviously offense wasn't the problem here, but that's still not enough contact.

2. For the season, Phil Pressey's %Pass figure is 72%.  Jason Horton's as a freshman: 67%.  Wesley Stokes': 56%.  Brian Grawer's: 68%.  Kendrick Moore's: 62%.  Melvin Booker's: 64%.  Reggie Smith's: 76%.  Prince Bridges': 67%.  In other words, it sure seems like Phil Pressey has the components of a "pure point guard" to me.  (For those who attended the game and, therefore, did not have to endure the telecast, you might not know what we're talking about here.  Be thankful.)  Freshman?  Yes.  Occasionally out of control?  Yes.  Streak shooter who loses his conscience from time to time?  Absolutely.  Pure point guard?  1000000%, yes.

Three Keys Revisited

From yesterday's preview.

Roberson Versus Pressey/Dixon

Let's turn this into "John Roberson & Javarez Willis Versus Phil Pressey & Mike Dixon."

Roberson & Willis: 66 minutes, 31 points (10-23 FG, 3-7 3PT, 8-11 FT), 6 assists, 10 turnovers, 2 steals (0.80 BCI)
Pressey & Dixon: 49 minutes, 22 points (8-12 FG, 4-6 3PT, 2-2 FT), 6 assists, 7 turnovers, 1 steal (1.00 BCI)

Tech's primary points had to shoot far more, and they therefore scored more too, but from a statistical perspective, Mizzou quite possibly won this battle.  I said yesterday that the goal was for Mizzou's guards to match whatever Tech produced -- either they play well defensively and aren't required to do as much offensively, or they get burned a lot but do some burning of their own.  This was rather clearly the latter, but ... at least Pressey and Dixon matched Roberson's and Willis' shooting efficiency and beat them in ball control (despite Pressey's five turnovers).  Could have been worse, I guess.

Hit the Glass

Mizzou did not, in fact, hit the glass.  And it almost cost them.

Show Up

In a subdued Mizzou Arena, Mizzou struggled with their focus, especially on defense.  The offense came and went in spurts, and the defense ... well, it mostly just went.  And again, it almost cost them.  Yes, Mizzou "showed up" enough to win, but that was not the most encouraging, exciting couple of hours spent at Mizzou Arena this season.

Summary

Two games through the most winnable three-game slice of the conference season, Mizzou has two wins.  The second one wasn't pretty or even remotely enjoyable, but it was a win.  Now comes an interesting test.  As much as anything, Mizzou's struggles on the road have been caused by iffy defense and no-shows on offense from Kim English and Mike Dixon.  Without English's and Dixon's offense yesterday, Mizzou would have lost to Tech; if the team had played at that level at Hilton Coliseum last night, they'd have probably lost to Iowa State too.  Lose in Ames, and 8-8 (or, technically, 7-9) becomes a solid possibility.

In other words, bring it on Saturday, guys.  You got away with one last night.  You won't get away with that on the road.

 

 

---

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.

Usage%: This "estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor" (via).  The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers.  The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team's offensive outcome.  As you would expect, someone like Kim English has a high Usage%, while Steve Moore has an extremely low one.

Floor%: Via Basketball-Reference.com: Floor % answers the question, "when Player X uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?".  The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Touches/Possession: Using field goal attempts, free throw attempts, assists and turnovers, Touches attempt to estimate "the number of times a player touched the ball in an attacking position on the floor."  Take the estimated touches and divide it by the estimated number of possessions for which a player was on the court, and you get a rough idea of how many times a player touched the ball in a given possession.  For point guards, you'll see the number in the 3-4 range.  For shooting guards and wings, 2-3.  For Steve Moore, 1.30.  You get the idea.

Anyway, using the Touches figure, we can estimate the percentage of time a player "in an attacking position" passes, shoots, turns the ball over, or gets fouled.

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