Know Your D.C. Rival: Cincinnati

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Sometimes things don't quite come together as you expect.  So far, the 2010-11 season has been one of those 'times' for Missouri basketball.  The offense is incredible, but the defense can't stop allowing open 3-pointers.  The defense improves, and the offense regresses.  Rebounding comes, and rebounding goes.  Ten minutes of incredible play are followed by seven of what the hell is this?  As is our custom at Rock M, I'm sure we will analyze and over-analyze the causes for this inconsistency after the season has officially come to a close ... but for now, one thing is certain: one great weekend will erase a significant portion of the frustration.

Cincinnati (25-8)


Cincy
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
62.7
Points Per Minute
1.72 1.47
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.10 0.94
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.24 1.16
2-PT FG% 48.6% 44.8%
3-PT FG% 33.9% 32.2%
FT% 66.6% 69.7%
True Shooting % 53.2% 50.3%




Cincy Opp.
Assists/Gm 14.3 11.5
Steals/Gm 7.6 5.9
Turnovers/Gm 11.6 14.4
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.89 1.21




Cincy Opp.
Expected Off. Reb./Gm 12.2 11.6
Offensive Reb./Gm
13.1 9.9
Difference +0.9 -1.7

Cincinnati is ... well, they're a Big East team*.  They fit the stereotype pretty well in a lot of ways: they're pretty big, they're extremely physical, they're pretty deep, they get fouled (and foul) at a reasonably high rate, they rebound well, they're not particularly great from the field, but they grab enough second-chance opportunities to make up for it.  Like Missouri, they will attempt to wear you down with their own identity, and it often works.  (Over the last few weeks, it has certainly worked better for them than for Missouri, that's for sure. That's why they're a 6 and Mizzou's an 11.)

* Fun fact, by the way: if Missouri does manage to win this game and face UConn in the second round ... that would mean Mizzou has played five Big East opponents in the last three NCAA Tournaments**.  I realize that a lot of Big East teams make the field in a given year, but still ... the odds of that are not particularly high.

** Fun fact number two: while playing Big East opponent after Big East opponent is not a pathway to guaranteed success, how nice will it be to not have to play a Big 12 team?  One gets the impression that familiarity with Mizzou's style has been a problem for Mizzou the last couple of months ... especially considering Mizzou has not been particularly GOOD at their style of play.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

UC Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

UC Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 55 53 Push
Effective FG% 158 169 Push
Turnover % 69 9 MU
Off. Reb. % 10 313 UC Big
FTA/FGA 140 239 UC
MU Offense vs UC Defense Ranks

MU Offense UC Defense Advantage
Efficiency 28 15 Push
Effective FG% 58 42 Push
Turnover % 20 44 MU
Off. Reb. % 170 100 UC
FTA/FGA 258 108 UC Big

Where the Bearcats Are Strongest

It very much appears that Cincy's players know who they are and embrace it.  There is no offensive star, but this big (45th in Effective Height), deep (38th in Bench Minutes) team plays a lovely style of team offense (63rd in Off. A/FGM, five players between 8 PPG and 12 PPG) and team defense.  If Mizzou is careless with the ball (certainly a problem at times ... and very much not at other times), then Cincy will take advantage (31st in Def. Steal%).  And while they are not the best FG% defense Mizzou will have faced this year (Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois all rank higher), they are solid both outside (60th in Def. 3PT%) and inside (57th in Def. 2PT%) the arc.  This isn't a perfect defensive team, but they really don't have any one, specific weakness on that side of the ball.

Where They Are Weakest

It appears that Cincy's best offensive strategy might be the old chuck-and-chase philosophy.  Work the shot clock down, toss a ball at the rim, then grab the offensive rebound and either a) get fouled, b) stick in the putback, or c) do it all over again.  Cincy's bigs get fouled a lot (the primary reason why they rank 254th in Off. FT%, I presume), they don't shoot 3's very well (193rd in Off. 3PT%), and of their most frequent 3-point shooters (Dion Dixon, Sean Kilpatrick, Rashad Bishop, Cashmere Right, Larry Davis), none shoot higher than 39.0%.  (Making 3's at a 39% clip certainly isn't terrible, but you'd like for your leader to be higher than that.)

Perhaps the most exploitable weakness Cincy has comes in the steals department: in all, they don't turn the ball over a ton (69th in Off. TO%), but the turnovers they do commit are likely of the theft variety (158th in Off. Steal%).  Obviously ball control is main way to overcome a rebounding disadvantage, so this could be one key to Mizzou's success.

Results

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 12 Louisville, 63-54
    No. 31 Georgetown, 69-47
    at No. 31 Georgetown, 58-46
    at No. 33 Marquette, 67-60
    at No. 35 St. John's, 53-51
    No. 37 Xavier, 66-46
    No. 58 Seton Hall, 70-53
    No. 74 Rutgers, 72-56
    at No. 96 Providence, 93-81 (OT)
    vs No. 98 Dayton, 68-34
    No. 116 Wright State, 77-69
    No. 130 South Florida, 74-66
    vs No. 130 South Florida, 87-61
    vs No. 134 Oklahoma, 66-56
    No. 181 IUPU-Ft. Wayne, 65-59
    at No. 187 Miami (OH), 64-48
    No. 202 DePaul, 76-60
    at No. 202 DePaul, 71-68
    No. 258 Utah Valley, 92-72
    No. 265 Savannah State, 54-41
    No. 268 Mt. St. Mary's, 69-59
    No. 280 St. Francis (PA), 94-58
    No. 325 Georgia Southern, 99-54
    No. 328 Florida A&M, 76-51
    at No. 334 Toledo, 81-47
  • Losses
    at No. 5 Pittsburgh, 59-71
    at No. 10 Notre Dame, 58-66
    vs No. 10 Notre Dame, 51-89
    at No. 11 Syracuse, 52-67
    No. 17 Connecticut, 59-67
    No. 21 West Virginia, 55-66
    at No. 28 VIllanova, 61-72
    No. 35 St. John's, 57-59

Common Opponents

  • vs Oklahoma (66-56): The Bearcats took out the Sooners rather easily in Oklahoma City, holding the Sooners to 33% shooting and locking them off of the offensive glass (10 offensive boards in 36 missed field goal attempts).  There were 41 fouls and 52 free throw attempts ... which was pretty much the only reason either team scored over 50.
  • at Georgetown (58-46): Georgetown was without Chris Wright (sigh, how nice would THAT have been...) and shot an incredible 25% for the game (you thought 29% was bad?).  It was tied at halftime, but after the break Cincy shot 48%, Georgetown 17%.  Both teams had success on the offensive glass, and the Hoyas also had some success drawing fouls ... but it's pretty clear that if you can't shoot, you can't beat Cincy.
  • Georgetown (69-47): Schedule makers did Cincy a huge, odd favor -- the Hoyas and Bearcats played each other twice ... on February 23 and March 5.  So Cincy missed Chris Wright in both games (making this not as much of a "common opponents" situation).  In the rematch at Fifth Third Arena, Georgetown shot MUCH better: 32%.  Defensive rebounding was much more of a focus for both teams this time around, but the same thing played out: the game was even for quite a while (43-39 Cincy after 31 minutes) before the 'Cats pulled away.

Looking at Mizzou's common opponents alone, it should be rather clear what Cincinnati is going to try to do in this game.  They are going to try to slow the game down, leverage Mizzou into bad shots, clean up the defensive glass, wear Mizzou down, and hope that the offense begins to pick up more and more second-chance opportunities as the game plods forward.  And if Mizzou obliges with poor shooting the way Georgetown did, it will work.

Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Yancy Gates (6'9, 265, Jr.) 12.4 0.45 27.3 MPG, 11.8 PPG (52.1% 2PT, 16.7% 3PT, 59.0% FT), 6.8 RPG (9% OR, 21% DR), 1.3 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.4 TOPG
Dion Dixon (6'3, 190, Jr.) 10.6 0.39 26.8 MPG, 11.6 PPG (45.3% 2PT, 36.6% 3PT, 75.0% FT), 2.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.3 TOPG
Sean Kilpatrick (6'4, 215, RSFr.) 9.0 0.44 20.6 MPG, 9.9 PPG (47.7% 2PT, 39.0% 3PT, 73.3% FT), 3.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 TOPG
Cashmere Wright (6'0, 175, So.) 9.0 0.36 25.1 MPG, 8.9 PPG (47.2% 2PT, 35.2% 3PT, 74.1% FT), 3.8 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.1 TOPG
Rashad Bishop (6'6, 220, Sr.) 8.4 0.32 26.4 MPG, 8.1 PPG (43.2% 2PT, 35.8% 3PT, 81.5% FT), 3.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 TOPG
Ibrahima Thomas (6'11, 235, Sr.) 6.2 0.33 19.0 MPG, 5.7 PPG (56.9% 2PT, 10.7% 3PT, 58.2% FT), 5.3 RPG
Darnell Wilks (6'7, 205, Sr.) 4.0 0.27 15.1 MPG, 3.7 PPG (50.9% 2PT, 30.3% 3PT, 63.5% FT), 2.7 RPG, 1.2 APG
Larry Davis (6'3, 185, Sr.) 3.4 0.21 16.6 MPG, 4.7 PPG (43.9% 2PT, 34.5% 3PT, 71.4% FT), 1.1 RPG
Justin Jackson (6'8, 215, Fr.) 2.8 0.21 13.0 MPG, 2.6 PPG (52.1% FG, 30.3% FT), 2.5 RPG
Anthony McClain (7'0, 290, Sr.) 2.1 0.32 6.6 MPG, 1.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG
JaQuon Parker (6'3, 200, So.) 1.0 0.11 8.7 MPG, 1.5 PPG, 1.8 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%: Kilpatrick (25%), Gates (24%), Dixon (23%), Wright (21%).
  • Highest Floor%: Gates (42%), Wright (41%), Dixon (39%), Kilpatrick (39%), Thomas (39%).
  • Highest %Pass: Wright (66%), Wilks (57%), Bishop (52%), Jackson (52%).
  • Highest %Shoot: Gates (43%), Thomas (42%), Kilpatrick (39%), Davis (39%).
  • Highest %Fouled: Thomas (16%), Gates (15%), Dixon (12%).
  • Highest %TO: Jackson (12%), Wilks (8%), Thomas (7%).
  • Again, these are per-minute stats above, so while nobody's per-minute stats are all that great, take into account that they play a much slower pace than Missouri.  Yancy Gates' 0.45/minute would probably work out pretty closely with Laurence Bowers' 0.54/minute if they played the same pace.
  • Some Offensive Rebounding Rates for you:

    McClain: 14%
    Thomas: 13%
    Gates: 9%
    Jackson: 8%
    Kilpatrick: 7%


    They don't have one guy who will kill you on the glass -- it really does appear to be a team approach.  Meanwhile, Thomas and Gates are both quite solid on the defensive glass.  McClain and Parker too, for that matter.  McClain in particular is a matchup nightmare for Mizzou, but luckily he fouls at an even higher rate than Steve Moore.
  • The good folks at Down The Drive talk about Good Cashmere (Wright) vs Bad Cashmere, which a) sounds awfully familiar, and b) is backed up by the stats.  Wright is Cincy's Kim English, capable of complete brilliance (24 points on 9-for-13 shooting against West Virginia, 11 assists versus Providence) and awe-inspiring dunderheadedness (eight! turnovers versus St. John's, six points on 1-for-6 shooting with four turnovers versus Pittsburgh).  As much as we want to think that Missouri's own ups-and-downs will be responsible for the outcome of this game, Wright has had a few of his own.
  • Kilpatrick is another linchpin type -- in the last ten games, he has scored 0, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 18 and 19 points.  That's a 10.9 PPG average with a rather impressive standard deviation.  (It should also be noted that Kilpatrick appears to be a Denmon type -- though his points are all over the place, he hasn't taken more than 12 shots in a game in that span.  Like Denmon, he gets shut down by disappearing, not by shooting 5-for-21.
  • Want a lower standard deviation?  Look at Dion Dixon.  Yes, he has games of 0, 2, and 4 points in the last 11 contests, but he has also scored in double digits in seven of the last nine games.  He is a less-efficient, more high-volume shooter, and from his shooting guard role, he takes good care of the ball and has made 16 of 36 3-pointers (44.4%) in the last seven games.

Keys to the Game

  1. Be Yourself.  Both Cincinnati and Missouri attempt to wear teams down with their identity.  For Cincy, it is physicality and rebounding.  For Missouri, it is pace and hands.  Over the last 2-3 weeks, Cincy has been much, much better in inflicting their identity on opponents than Missouri.  But the Tourney is often a wonderful opportunity to hit the reset button.

    Mizzou has spent this season alternating between playing like a 3-seed and an NIT team.  Without even taking opponent into account, that alone makes this a very difficult game to predict.  Does the fresh, focused type of team that beat Clemson in the first round last year show up?  Or is it the lifeless, flustered squad who laid down for A&M last weekend?  Mike Anderson's history in the tournament is a very, very good one, but he's got his work cut out for him getting this team not only focused, but confident, by Thursday.  And if Mizzou shoots well and wins the BCI battle by a healthy margin, they can very easily win.

  2. Play Pissed.  Sunday evening, the NCAA committee announced that they felt the following teams were deserving of a higher seed than Missouri: Georgia, Penn State, Michigan State, Illinois, Florida State, Villanova.  Hot teams, cold teams, fast teams, slow teams, and, aside from maybe 'Nova, teams to which we have felt Missouri was superior much of the season.  Mike Anderson doesn't seem to be the type who plays the disrespect card very much, but ... we at Rock M clearly are.  And if "You're worse than Penn State and Georgia" doesn't zap this team's pride and give them the jolt they've been needing for a few weeks, nothing will.  If Mizzou comes out fast and effective, playing good, focused defense early on, we'll know they got the message.

  3. Cashmere Vs Kimmeh.  Cincy's most bipolar player versus Missouri's.  They don't play the same position, but they seem to be each team's linchpin -- when they play well, their teams are hard to beat ... and they only play well some of the time.  Whoever produces more for his team -- Cashmere Wright or Kim English -- will probably be playing in the second third round on Saturday.  (Here's to hoping Kimmeh finds fifth gear -- in a good way -- in front of his home crowd out east.

Prediction

This team just sucked the life out of me in recent weeks, to the point where I honestly do not know what team to expect on the court Thursday evening.  In the absence of a true gut feeling, I'm leaning on a streak: Mike Anderson has taken a team to the NCAA Tournament five times; in four of those tournaments, his team overachieved its seed.  As a 9-seed in 2004, they beat an 8 (Washington) and a 1 (Kentucky).  As an 11-seed in 2005, they whipped a 6 (LSU).  As a 3-seed in 2009, they knocked off a 2 (Memphis) to reach the Elite Eight.  And as a 10-seed in 2010, they knocked off a 7 (Clemson).  That's a pretty good track record.

The regular season may not have turned out as we had hoped, but now it's time for the real season to start.  With that in mind, I'll say Mizzou makes enough early shots and presses enough to get their press going a bit, and they advance to the second third round with a 76-67 win.  Play pissed, play smart, play confident, and play again on Saturday.

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