Study Hall: Iowa State

Your Trifecta ... is an upset!  Bowers-Denmon-Ratliffe.  Your winner: someone!  Team takes the honors.  We'd have also had a winner if it was the Denmon-Bowers-Ratliffe Trifecta I was expecting.  (And let's be honest, why wouldn't you be picking these three players in SOME order in road games?)  Man oh man ... Mizzou wins a road game ... somebody wins the Trifecta ... could yesterday have been any better??

First, some links:

Well, I just about got the scoring margin correct (I had Mizzou 81-74), but the game was, as a whole, a little slower than I expected.  (And honestly, I think Mizzou slowed things down as much as Iowa State, which was confusing.)  But no matter how it came about, this was just about the "Iowa State keeps things much closer, but Mizzou makes the plays to win in the end" game I expected.  I know we wanted to cruise to an easy victory -- and it would have been great for the blood pressure -- but road games are hard.  Just ask No. 2 Texas, No. 4 Pittsburgh, No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 9 Georgetown, No. 14 Villanova, and No. 17 Texas A&M, all of whom either lost or barely won road games against unranked opponents yesterday alone.

Mizzou 76, Iowa State 70

Mizzou
ISU
Pace (No. of Possessions)
69.0
Points Per Minute
1.90 1.75
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.10 1.02
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.38 1.06
2-PT FG% 57.1% 54.5%
3-PT FG% 23.1% 27.3%
FT% 79.2% 44.4%
True Shooting % 58.0% 50.0%
Mizzou ISU
Assists 17 19
Steals 5 4
Turnovers 16 14
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.38 1.64
Mizzou ISU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 11 13
Offensive Rebounds 13 14
Difference +2 +1

Attacking the Rim

For five straight games, from the K-State game to Colorado No. 2, Mizzou shot under 50% on 2-pointers.  Too many jumpers, too high a degree of difficulty.  When your defense is struggling with occasional lapses, you need as many high-percentage, easy baskets as possible to compensate, and Missouri wasn't getting them.

Well, that has begun to change.  In the last four games, Mizzou has shot 59.5%, 52.3%, 62.2% and 57.1% on 2-pointers.  Mizzou is attacking the rim more frequently, and with better results.

How are they doing it?  Well, for starters, Marcus Denmon apparently got tired of hanging around on the perimeter.  In his last four games, he is an incredible 19-for-22 (86.4%) on 2-point shots.  19-for-22!  He went 7-for-8 in each of his last two games and was a combined 5-for-6 in the two before that.  He has adapted to teams' overpursuit of him on the outside, and he is driving more. He has both gotten to the rim and pulled up for a short jumper with startling effectiveness.  It is the main reason his scoring average is heading back up.  After scoring 27 against Nebraska and 19 against Texas A&M, Denmon scored over 15 points just once in the next seven conference games, averaging just 12.3 points per game in the process.  The last two games?  20 and 25 points.  He seems to be in the process of making the 'opponents have adjusted to you, now you have to adjust to their adjustments' shift that all great players make.

It's not just Denmon, however.  Laurence Bowers is shooting 64% on 2-pointers (23-for-36) in the last four games -- he too has been playing to his strengths (particularly that little 8-12 jumper) more, and passers have been finding him cutting to the basket at a higher rate as well (including twice early in the first half yesterday); Justin Safford has gone 14-for-25, Ricardo Ratliffe 12-for-20.  When four of your most frequent 2-point shooters (Denmon and the three bigs) are making 2's at a 66% clip, you're doing something right.

Now just imagine where Mizzou would be if Kim English and Mike Dixon hadn't combined for 16-for-43 shooting (37.2%) in that time, eh?  But no major complaints -- English is 6-for-11 in the last two games, and Dixon was 7-for-14 in the last three games until yesterday's 0-for-6 stinker (for which he somewhat made up by going 6-for-6 from the free throw line).

Is Missouri taking more 2-pointers?  Not really.  In the last four games, 70.6% of Mizzou's field goal attempts have come from inside the 3-point line; in the first eight conference games, it was 68.4%.  In that aforementioned five-game stretch of horrid shooting, it was 67.5%.  Basically, over the course of a game, that three-percent difference is about one to two extra 2-pointers.  But the 2-pointers they are taking are of a much higher quality.

Odd

Mizzou vs Big 12 Teams Not Named Iowa State: 10.8 turnovers per game
Mizzou vs Iowa State: 17.0 turnovers per game

Unlike the game at Mizzou Arena, this game didn't have a ton of possessions to blame for high turnover numbers.  This was just a sloppy performance, particularly in the first half.  By my count, Mizzou got called for four travels in the first half, and they threw three outlet passes out of bounds after defensive rebounds. (The most creative: Justin Safford grabs a defensive rebound and turns to whip the ball to Mike Dixon at the free throw line extended.  Unfortunately, Dixon is instead about a foot away from Safford, and the 90 mph fastball bounces off of Dixon's chest and out of bounds.)

I'm not sure what it is about Iowa State this year, but they seemed to 'force' more unforced errors out of the Tigers than other teams have.  Considering Mizzou went 2-0 in these games, I'll just chalk this up to a 'fun with small sample sizes' issue.

Just Throwing This Out There

Free Throw Shooting: Mizzou 79.2%, Iowa State 44.4%
Justin Safford: Six points, two offensive rebounds in 13 second-half minutes.

Previous scapegoats came through yesterday, even with Safford averaging just one point per shot and Mizzou missing three of four free throws with around 25-40 seconds left.  With the sloppiness that they were showing at times, Mizzou needed Safford to play well and the free throws to fall, and for the most part, they did.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Laurence Bowers 23.8 0.92 26 Min, 16 Pts (7-9 FG, 2-2 FT), 7 Reb (4 Off), 3 Ast, 2 Blk
Marcus Denmon 22.2 0.65 34 Min, 25 Pts (9-14 FG, 2-6 3PT, 5-8 FT), 4 Reb
Ricardo Ratliffe 13.6 0.49 28 Min, 10 Pts (3-6 FG, 4-4 FT), 10 Reb (6 Off), 2 Ast, 3 TO
Justin Safford 5.7 0.31 18 Min, 8 Pts (4-8 FG, 0-1 3PT), 3 Reb (2 Off), 2 TO
Kim English 5.3 0.18 29 Min, 8 Pts (3-7 FG, 0-2 3PT, 2-4 FT), 5 Reb, 3 Ast, 4 TO
Mike Dixon 3.9 0.19 20 Min, 6 Pts (0-7 FG, 6-6 FT), 3 Ast, 2 Reb
Phil Pressey 2.1 0.09 23 Min, 3 Pts (1-3 3PT), 3 Ast, 2 Reb, 3 TO
Matt Pressey 1.0 0.08 13 Min, 0 Pts (0-1 FG), 2 Reb
Steve Moore -1.0 -0.17 6 Min, 0 Pts
Ricky Kreklow -2.6 -0.86 3 Min, 0 Pts, 2 TO
  • This was one of the more prototypical "Good Bowers" games of his career.  Marcus Denmon threw in the most points by far, but in a game where everybody was turning the ball over and Missouri was struggling on defense for small stretches, Bowers was near-perfect -- 78% shooting, 2-for-2 from the line, four offensive rebounds, three assists, three defensive rebounds, two blocks and zero turnovers.  He did not dominate the ball by any means, nor should he have, but his game was the perfect example of taking nothing off the table.  Bowers committed none of Mizzou's 16 turnovers, he averaged almost two points per field goal attempt, and he created four extra Mizzou possessions on the glass.  Just awesome.  I didn't expect him to pass Denmon on the Trifecta list, but ... just awesome.
  • Denmon also took little off the table.  He grabbed four defensive rebounds (as many as Bowers and Safford combined), he barely missed from inside the 3-point line, and he got to the line a lot.  Granted, he was only 2-for-6 from 3-point range and 5-for-8 from the line, but this was still a wonderful overall performance.

    My only qualm is the same as it always is for Denmon: with about four and a half minutes left and Mizzou up four points, good ball movement resulted in Denmon being wide open near the left corner.  He had an open 3, but he pump faked and his man went flying by; so he stepped forward and had an open 12-footer if he wanted it ... and instead, he dribbled back toward the top of the key and made a tough pass to Kim English.  Eventually, the ball was knocked out of bounds, and the possession would end with a missed jumper by English.  Denmon has done more to win games for Mizzou than any other player on the team ... but he still needs one percent more Clarence Gilbert in him.  JUST one percent, please ... but one percent.  When you've got the dagger in your hand and an open shot ... take it.  Don't worry about sharing the wealth or getting teammates involved -- you've earned the right to have the dagger in your hands, and you still forget to use it sometimes.

    (Again, this is but a minor qualm.  I adore the adjustments he's made in his game recently.)
  • In one of the postgame articles, it is mentioned that Ricardo Ratliffe didn't play a lot in the second half, despite some incredible offensive rebounding, because Justin Safford was on a roll.  In most games, I would be a little queasy about that; but in this game, Ratliffe and Safford were basically extensions of each other.  The only difference was that Ratliffe got fouled a bit more.  For the game, they grabbed eight offensive rebounds in 46 minutes, shot 7-for-14 from the field, and gave Mike Anderson some options by (mostly) staying out of foul trouble.  It was a nice game, and I thought Ratliffe might have a slight chance at the top of the Trifecta with his six offensive rebounds.  Alas, his three turnovers (he and Safford combined for five) knocked him out of contention.
  • One slightly alarming trend from Phil Pressey: in the last three games, he has taken one single 2-point shot.  He continues to make three's and dish the ball, but he could be becoming a bit too one-note for my liking.  Either he's not penetrating as much, or he's always dishing when he does.  Make sure you don't become too predictable, Flip.
  • In his last two games, Matt Pressey has played 26 minutes and scored three points on 1-for-5 shooting.  He has three assists to one turnover, and he's pulled down three defensive rebounds, but his confidence appears to be lagging.  Thanks a lot, Doug Gottlieb.
  • Nine minutes of nothingness from Steve Moore and Ricky Kreklow.  And as seems to typically be the case, Mizzou's bench was lackluster away from home, to say the very least.
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Laurence Bowers 19% 73% 3.2 62% 32% 6% 0%
Marcus Denmon 27% 52% 2.4 21% 50% 25% 4%
Ricardo Ratliffe 19% 40% 2.6 49% 25% 14% 12%
Justin Safford 27% 37% 2.6 37% 50% 0% 13%
Kim English 22% 32% 3.3 55% 22% 11% 12%
Mike Dixon 26% 28% 4.6 57% 23% 17% 3%
Phil Pressey 13% 28% 3.0 74% 13% 0% 13%
Matt Pressey 4% 27% 1.6 86% 14% 0% 0%
Steve Moore 0% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Ricky Kreklow 33% 0% 2.0 0% 0% 0% 100%
  • I mentioned Denmon's single bout with passivity above, but it should be noted that he either shot or got fouled 75% of the time he took action of some kind. That's pretty good and quite aggressive.  And since it's Marcus Denmon, he of course barely turned the ball over to boot.  (Can you tell I feel guilty for mentioning his one questionable possession above?)
  • Only two players had their %Shoot measure higher than their %Pass measure -- Denmon and Safford.  That alone does not guarantee good ball movement, but it hints at it, at least.
  • I really am starting to believe that Mike Dixon is the backup shooting guard, and Matt Pressey is the backup point, and not the other way around.

Three Keys Revisited

From Friday's Preview.

Mizzou Versus Circumstance

If Mizzou begins to fall into the same road traps that have plagued them at times -- iffy defensive rebounding, too many fouls (which is, admittedly, not entirely in their control), settling for jumpers, etc. -- then Iowa State could knock them off.

"Iffy Defensive Rebounding": Iowa State was plus-1 in terms of expected rebounds.
"Too Many Fouls": Mizzou committed just 16 fouls all game.
"Settling for Jumpers": Only 13 of Mizzou's 55 shots (24%) were 3-pointers, and Mizzou shot 57.1% on 2-pointers.

For all their problems yesterday, Mizzou did not struggle in too many of the ways they typically struggle on the road.  Granted, they still allowed Iowa State to shoot 54.5% on 2-pointers themselves, and they were probably a bit lucky that ISU shot 6-for-22 on 3-pointers (they missed a couple of open ones ... though who doesn't, I guess).  They didn't suffer from lack of effort, though it could certainly be said that they were still their own worst enemy.

Tempo

The more total possessions, the better Mizzou's chances.  Even if it results in some silly, sloppy play at times ... run.

Against an Iowa State team with a nearly empty bench due to injuries and plain old lack of depth (not counting Andrew Mitchell, who came in simply to commit a foul late, ISU played just seven guys, and five players logged at least 31 minutes), Mizzou seemed to go out of their way not to push the tempo early on.  They were succeeding enough in their half court offense over the first ten minutes or so that it's almost excusable ... but it's confusing.  Because of tempo, Mizzou ran Iowa State out of Mizzou Arena a while back.  But against an even thinner ISU team this time around, they really didn't.  Some credit, of course, goes to Iowa State -- they allowed only five Mizzou steals, and 14 turnovers certainly isn't awful against this team.  But between milked shot clocks and errant outlet passes, Mizzou was the cause of the slower tempo as much as Iowa State.  It wasn't really the reason the game was so close, but it was just confusing, is all.

English and Dixon

Player | Home AdjGS/min Avg | Away AdjGS/min Avg | AdjGS/min at ISU
Kim English | 0.44/min at home | 0.14/min on the road | 0.18 at ISU
Mike Dixon | 0.51/min at home | 0.30/min on the road | 0.19 at ISU

Both players contributed something yesterday -- English pulled down a team-high five defensive rebounds and had three assists, while Dixon went 6-for-6 from the line, including four makes in the last 16 seconds.  By all means, they contributed to the win.  But between English missing two freebies with 30 seconds and committing four turnovers, and Dixon going 0-for-7 from the field, both players were still much closer to their typical road form than their home form.  The game might have been as close at the end had they played more like their home selves in the first 39.5 minutes.  It makes some sort of logical sense that players would do better at home than on the road ... but English and Dixon are completely different guys in road gyms.  Luckily, of course, they've only got two more road games to go; then it's all home games and neutral sites after that.

Summary

For some strange reason, it finally hit me last night that this season is almost over.  I obviously knew that Mizzou had played 12 conference games and everything ... but until I heard Mike Anderson's "we've got two weeks left" quote on KOMU last night, it wasn't really clicking that ... holy crap, we've got two weeks left until the postseason!

So little has been decided regarding Mizzou's tourney seed, either in the Big 12 tournament or the NCAAs.  They've got two interesting home games remaining against Baylor (who look a bit more beatable after yesterday's home loss to Tech, obviously ... though Mizzou also almost lost to Tech at home this week) and Kansas, and they've got two road games remaining against teams (Kansas State and Nebraska) who have a) been pretty inconsistent in 2010-11 and b) knocked off top five teams at home in the last week.  Anywhere between 1-3 and 4-0 won't really surprise me.  A 1-3 finish could mean an 8- or 9-seed in the NCAA's.  A 4-0 finish would mean a 3-seed in the Big 12's and a 4-5 seed in the NCAA's.  It's all up in the air.  And with the way Mizzou has played recently, I don't know whether to be optimistic or pessimistic.  The offensive shot selection is extremely encouraging, but the vulnerability to quickness on the perimeter (which, thankfully, ISU did not have much of yesterday) is frightening.  All I know for sure is that Mizzou just won a road game, and the next two weeks are going to get crazy.

 

 

---

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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