Study Hall: Tech -AND- Know Your Rival: A&M

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 09: A Missouri Tigers holds a sign during the first round game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2011 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Sprint Center on March 9, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Hey, look!  It's a catch-all post so we can clear the way for another four live threads today!

Your Trifecta: Denmon-Dixon-English.  Your winner: somebody!  MUPete takes the prize for his continued faith in Kimmeh.  Now ... LEAVE YOUR TRIFECTA PREDICTION FOR TONIGHT!

At this point in the season, you are not going to learn anything new about your team.  Lord knows we did not learn anything about Mizzou last night that we didn't already know.  They are an exciting, flawed team capable of brilliant stretches ... and capable of three careless turnovers in a minute in crunch time.  The goal at this point probably shouldn't be to secretly hope the team figures everything out and becomes a perfect team; it's too late for that.  The goal is to win as many games as possible with this flawed team, no matter how ugly they are.  We can complain about how ugly the last few minutes were if we want ... but we could also be like Villanova fans, complaining about how ugly the last few minutes were in a loss.  Survive and advance, survive and advance.

Mizzou 88, Tech 84

Mizzou
Tech
Pace (No. of Possessions)
74.4
Points Per Minute
2.20 2.10
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.18 1.13
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.31 1.47
2-PT FG% 46.2% 39.4%
3-PT FG% 46.7% 37.5%
FT% 82.6% 86.1%
True Shooting % 57.1% 57.7%
Mizzou Tech
Assists 19 16
Steals 8 5
Turnovers 10 17
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.70 1.24
Mizzou Tech
Expected Offensive Rebounds 14 13
Offensive Rebounds 11 15
Difference -3 +2

Fouls and Rebounds

It really is fascinating to see who Mizzou struggles with on the glass and who they don't.  Tonight's opponent, Texas A&M, is one of the better rebounding teams in the country, and Mizzou hung with them on the glass all game long a couple of months ago.  Tech, on the other hand, is a middling rebounding team, and they trounced the Tigers on the boards in both meetings.  I wish I could explain it, but I really can't.  Mizzou showed plenty of effort yesterday in attempting to push the pace (until Tech went out of their way to slow things down in the second half), but they just could not keep up on the glass.  That, and Tech's incredible free throw advantage, kept the Red Raiders in the game.

So ... the following is not a complaint about the officiating.  It's more marveling than complaining (especially since Missouri won): has anybody ever, ever, seen a game in which one team attempts nine more 3-pointers (24 for Tech, 15 for Mizzou) ... and 13 more free throws (36 for Tech, 23 for Mizzou)?  I just cannot put the pieces together as to how that happens.  Tech obviously grabbed enough second-chance opportunities that maybe that put Mizzou out of position defensively ... but it was just the damnedest thing.  Laurence Bowers, the Tiger big man least likely to get into foul trouble, played just 14 minutes because of fouls.  Ricardo Ratliffe managed 23.  Steve Moore had three fouls in 15 minutes, though that's actually not bad for him.  In the end, Mizzou committed 24 fouls ... at least half of which were shooting fouls.  It was ... interesting.  And of course, Tech took advantage by barely missing from the line.  They were 14-for-15 in the first half, 17-for-21 in the second.  Mizzou's own 19-for-23 performance saved the day in an odd, odd game.

On the Bright Side...

We can wonder about the late-game malfunctions if we want, but for the game as a whole, Mizzou's ball handling was magnificent.  They produced three more assists, three more steals and seven fewer turnovers than the Red Raiders.  Add that to stellar shooting (especially after the first 10-12 minutes of the game), and you've got yourself a victory despite the rebounds and fouls.  And hey ... as long as we're talking silver linings ... Laurence Bowers should be rather well-rested for tonight!  So Mizzou's got that going for them...

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Marcus Denmon 21.7 0.59 37 Min, 20 Pts (8-16 FG, 3-9 3PT, 1-2 FT), 5 Ast, 5 Stl, 3 Reb, 3 TO
Mike Dixon 17.0 0.59 29 Min, 17 Pts (4-9 FG, 1-1 3PT, 8-9 FT), 4 Ast, 3 Reb, 2 TO
Kim English 12.7 0.44 29 Min, 15 Pts (4-10 FG, 2-3 3PT, 5-6 FT), 5 Reb, 4 Ast, 3 TO, 4 PF
Ricardo Ratliffe 10.5 0.46 23 Min, 9 Pts (3-5 FG, 3-4 FT), 3 Reb (2 Off), 2 Blk
Steve Moore 7.3 0.49 15 Min, 6 Pts (3-4 FG), 2 Reb
Justin Safford 6.8 0.25 27 Min, 10 Pts (5-10 FG, 0-1 3PT), 4 Reb
Laurence Bowers 4.3 0.31 14 Min, 4 Pts (2-5 FG), 6 Reb (4 Off), 4 PF
Phil Pressey 3.1 0.22 14 Min, 5 Pts (1-3 FG, 1-1 3PT, 2-2 FT)
Matt Pressey 1.9 0.19 10 Min, 2 Pts (1-4 FG), 3 Reb, 2 Ast
Ricky Kreklow 0.6 0.31 2 Min, 3 Reb
  • On SportsCenter this morning, they showed Denmon making a couple of 3's, and the guy doing the show said something to the effect of "He's got no conscience, but he's got range."  Uh huh.  Granted, Denmon showed less conscience in this one than normal (his 16 field goal attempts were six more than anybody else ... which certainly didn't get in the way of Mizzou's FG%'s), but I'll just say this: in one of Mizzou's final possessions, they worked the shot clock down to nearly zero with the ball in Denmon's hands ... and then he passed it, and the possession ended with Justin Safford having to force a 19-footer and failing.  We still need a little less conscience from you, Marcus.  That said ... 20 points on 16 shots, five assists, five steals and three rebounds?  Yeah, that's not bad.
  • For the second straight game, Mike Dixon drove to contact.  It was lovely to see.  Because of that, he managed 17 points in just nine field goal attempts, a wonderful total for a guard.  Plus, Kimmeh actually got into the act in the second half, which was even better.  He attempted six free throws of his own.
  • Also: RICARDO RATLIFFE WENT TO THE LINE ON TWO DIFFERENT OCCASIONS!!!!!1!
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Denmon 25% 43% 3.6 59% 32% 3% 6%
Dixon 24% 45% 3.9 56% 21% 18% 5%
English 25% 39% 3.8 57% 24% 12% 7%
Ratliffe 13% 54% 1.7 42% 35% 23% 0%
Moore 12% 70% 0.7 0% 100% 0% 0%
Safford 19% 42% 1.7 35% 59% 0% 6%
Bowers 20% 33% 2.3 50% 42% 0% 8%
P. Pressey 13% 39% 0.9 0% 65% 35% 0%
M. Pressey 18% 34% 4.2 75% 25% 0% 0%
Kreklow 23% 27% 9.2 85% 15% 0% 0%
  • Zero assists, steals and rebounds (and therefore some shooting guard-esque percentages) for Flip Pressey, who really wasn't dialed in in this game.  That said, he did manage to hit a huge three and two even larger free throws in the final two minutes. I'll take that.  Hopefully he still has plenty in the tank for A&M tonight.
  • Interesting %Pass figures.  Only Matt Pressey was over the 65% "likely point guard" threshold, but in the end, five players (six including Kreklow and his two-minute performance) were at 50% or higher.

Three Keys Revisited

From yesterday's preview.

What's My Motivation?

Last year, Mizzou was about three steps slow against Nebraska, and it cost them dearly.  Will they make the same mistake twice in a row?  Follow rebounds, steals and open 3-pointers to figure out who won this game.

Expected Rebounds: Tech +5
Steals: Mizzou +3
3-Pointers: Mizzou 47%, Tech 38%

The hustle stats broke even in the end despite Tech's rebounding edge.

Who Steps Up?

With two guys playing like complete stars, Mizzou doesn't need huge performances from the rest of the team.  They just need something better than terrible performances.

Perhaps the most important stat of the night: no Tiger ended up with a negative AdjGS score.  That makes such a huge difference.  Everybody on the team contributed something, from Dixon's and English's free throws, to Safford's and Moore's key first-half buckets, to Ratliffe's nine points and two blocks, to Flip's five huge points, to M. Pressey's early jumper and dimes.  It almost wasn't enough -- Mizzou was one more silly breakdown from losing -- but ... almosts don't matter right now.

'Cardo's Second Wind

Nobody's regression has been more stark and sudden than Ricardo Ratliffe's.  'Cardo looked phenomenal against Baylor, registering 11 points (5-of-7 shooting) and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes.  Since then: 12 points (6-for-17 shooting) and eight rebounds in 66 minutes.  Yuck.

Nice start, Ricardo.  Nine points on five field goal attempts and a pair of offensive rebounds was a solid bounceback effort from the past three miserable games.  Pulling down one defensive rebound in 23 minutes is still inexcusable, but we're getting somewhere, at least.

Summary

No, it was not aesthetically pleasing.  Yes, it was much more nerve-wracking than it needed to be.  And yes, it was a very, very important win, one Mizzou accomplished while getting very little from one of their two recent stars, Laurence Bowers.  If Mizzou can claw out a win tonight, they might be able to avoid the 8-9 NCAA Tournament game to which we've resigned ourselves recently.  Style points don't matter now, just wins.

NOW ... on to tonight's game...

 

A&M Since Last Time


A&M
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
57.6
Points Per Minute
1.56 1.60
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.04 1.06
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.25 1.24
2-PT FG% 48.0% 48.6%
3-PT FG% 31.5% 36.0%
FT% 66.1% 68.8%
True Shooting % 52.3% 53.9%




A&M Opp.
Assists/Gm 10.7 10.7
Steals/Gm 5.7 4.9
Turnovers/Gm 11.2 11.3
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.47 1.38




A&M Opp.
Expected Off. Reb./Gm 10.9 10.5
Offensive Reb./Gm
10.7 9.9
Difference -0.2 -0.6

So ... I can't decide ... is A&M a great bad team or a terrible good team?  Since Missouri faced them on the tail end of a long winning streak (story of Mizzou's season, having to make trips to Boulder, College Station, Austin, Stillwater and Manhattan at precisely the wrong time), the Ags are 7-6, having beaten mediocre-to-bad teams and lost to good ones (and mediocre ones on the road).

In a lot of ways, A&M and Mizzou are the same team.  Mizzou actually has superior Pomeroy rankings in quite a few categories, but a) A&M's timing has been better (they took out KSU in January and didn't have to make a return trip, and they had their sustained slump -- four losses in five games -- in late-January instead of Mizzou in late-February), and b) A&M's been better in close games.  In Big 12 play, the Aggies are 5-1 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime, Mizzou 1-2.  (By the way, Mizzou is a better-than-you-probably-expected 4-3 in such games for the season.)  Looking back at their mid-February stretch, the season could have gone sour very easily but didn't -- they played five consecutive games decided by five points or less or in OT and won four.  If you believe in senior leadership, then A&M is a solid supporting case -- their primary crunch-time ball-handler is senior cheap-foul-drawer-extraordinaire B.J. Holmes.  Mizzou's?  Sophomore Mike Dixon and freshman Phil Pressey.

(One other note: LOOK AT THAT PACE. Sllllllloooowwwwww.)

Ken Pomeroy Stats

A&M Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

A&M Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 74 43 MU
Effective FG% 150 145 Push
Turnover % 185 8 MU Big
Off. Reb. % 11 310 ATM Big
FTA/FGA 23 203 ATM Big
MU Offense vs A&M Defense Ranks

MU Offense A&M Defense Advantage
Efficiency 27 37 Push
Effective FG% 46 63 Push
Turnover % 25 117 MU Big
Off. Reb. % 165 55 ATM Big
FTA/FGA 268 123 ATM Big

Boy, the advantages and disadvantages couldn't be more pronounced, could they?  Shooting is a complete push, Mizzou dominates in terms of ball-handling, and A&M grabs more rebounds and draws more fouls.  Because shooting and ball-handling have slightly more impact, Mizzou has a slight advantage overall, but this game will clearly be decided simply by who maximizes their well-defined advantages and minimizes their disadvantages.

Results Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 24 Kansas State, 64-56
    at No. 59 Colorado, 73-70 (OT)
    No. 77 Iowa State, 71-66
    at No. 83 Oklahoma State, 67-66
    No. 111 Texas Tech, 66-54
    at No. 111 Texas Tech, 70-67
    No. 146 Oklahoma, 61-47
  • Losses
    at No. 2 Kansas, 51-64
    No. 5 Texas, 49-69
    at No. 5 Texas, 60-81
    at No. 45 Nebraska, 48-57
    No. 67 Baylor, 74-76 (OT)
    at No. 67 Baylor, 51-58

The primary reasons A&M finished ahead of Mizzou in the standings are simple: a) they beat Mizzou in College Station (B.J. Holmes drew the fouls that Phil Pressey could not) and didn't have to make a return trip to Columbia, and b) they figured out ways to win in College Station and Stillwater when Mizzou could not.  They won three tight road games by three points or less.  That does indeed make quite the difference.

Player Stats Since Last Time

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Khris Middleton (6'7, 215, So.) 12.7 0.39 32.2 MPG, 13.7 PPG (44.5% 2PT, 31.3% 3PT, 77.8% FT), 5.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 3.0 TOPG
B.J. Holmes (5'11, 175, Sr.) 10.9 0.34 32.3 MPG, 9.6 PPG (50.0% 2PT, 40.8% 3PT, 73.3% FT), 3.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.6 TOPG
Nathan Walkup (6'7, 210, Sr.) 10.5 0.42 25.1 MPG, 8.5 PPG (59.3% 2PT, 33.3% 3PT, 44.8% FT), 5.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 SPG
David Loubeau (6'8, 203, Jr.) 10.2 0.37 27.7 MPG, 11.9 PPG (51.2% 2PT, 76.0% FT), 4.7 RPG, 1.6 TOPG
Kourtney Roberson (6'9, 230, Fr.) 6.6 0.49 13.5 MPG, 5.5 PPG (55.8% 2PT, 52.8% FT), 3.4 RPG
Dash Harris (6'1, 175, Jr.) 4.1 0.14 29.4 MPG, 5.1 PPG (40.5% 2PT, 17.6% 3PT), 2.5 APG, 2.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.0 TOPG
Ray Turner (6'8, 220, So.) 3.6 0.29 12.5 MPG, 3.8 PPG (50.0% FG, 61.9% FT), 2.5 RPG
Naji Hibbert (6'6, 200, So.) 2.3 0.11 19.9 MPG, 3.4 PPG (31.3% 2PT, 26.1% 3PT, 62.5% FT), 1.5 RPG, 1.1 APG
Andrew Darko (6'1, 175, Sr.) 2.3 0.24 9.6 MPG, 2.6 PPG, 1.1 RPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls.  It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Middleton (28%), Loubeau (25%), Roberson (22%).
  • Highest Floor%: Roberson (44%), Walkup (43%), Holmes (42%).
  • Highest %Pass: Harris (61%), Holmes (58%), Hibbert (52%).
  • Highest %Shoot: Loubeau (58%), Turner (46%), Roberson (44%).
  • Highest %Fouled: Roberson (26%), Turner (23%), Loubeau (20%).
  • Highest %TO: Loubeau (11%), Middleton (9%), Darko (9%).
  • Middleton is still a good player, but his numbers have trailed off quite a bit since when Mizzou played them last.  He is turning the ball over quite a bit (three turnovers per game at their pace is almost like four at Mizzou's pace), and he's only shooting 40.5% from the field.  He's still drawing a decent number of fouls, but things haven't come nearly as easily to the sophomore since January.
  • I am absolutely terrified of what Kourtney Roberson might become in a couple of years.

Last Time

Mizzou shot very well (thanks, Flip) and basically broke even on the glass in College Station.  They forced more turnovers, but they couldn't overcome the fouls disadvantage in the end, and A&M made one more play than Mizzou in the clutch.  It's not hard to see the game playing out on similar terms this time around.

Keys to the Game

  1. Heat Check.  Between Marcus Denmon, Mike Dixon and Phil Pressey (and I guess Kim English) for Mizzou, and Khris Middleton and B.J. Holmes for A&M, this game will feature lots of players who can get hot at a moment's notice.  Whichever of these players can carry their team's scoring load for the longest period of time will put themselves in very good position to make the semis.

  2. Play Your Game.  A&M plays slow, draws fouls and crashes the boards.  Mizzou plays fast and controls the ball.  Want to find out who won?  Look at total possessions, free throws and rebounds.

  3. Whistles.  I always hate putting this one on here, but ... let's face it: Bowers, Ratliffe, Moore and Safford have all faced serious foul issues in recent games.  If A&M is able to thin Mizzou's bigs out and hit the glass even harder, Mizzou is in trouble.  And if Dixon and English are driving to contact and attacking and aren't getting the calls, I'm not sure how they score enough points to win.  In the heat of the moment, we always complain about fouls and no-calls, and a lot of that is simply being a fan.  But while Mizzou survived despite Tech shooting so many more free throws ... it will be hard to do the same against A&M.

Prediction

First things first: I do not think there will be much hangover from last night.  That's more of a fan thing than a players thing, I think.  The game did not go to overtime, Mizzou survived, they all got good sleep last night (presumably), they're all 19-22 years old ... they'll be fine.  I think.  In the end, I'm picking A&M because of the matchups, not fatigue.  Mizzou overcame their rebounding and foul disadvantages in College Station in January and almost pulled off what would have been a huge road win ... but those disadvantages feel more pronounced in recent games, and that is, to say the least, a problem.  I'm hopeful for tonight, but I still think the safest bet is on something like a 68-61 A&M win.  As always, prove me wrong guys...

 

 

---

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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