Study Hall: Mizzou 71, Texas A&M 62

Your Trifecta: English-Dixon-Denmon.Your winner: nobody! We had an English-Denmon-Dixon, there is no "close" in Trifecta.

First, some links:

A quick argument about semantics:

Now, I don't really care about this argument, simply because ... well ... even if Mizzou were getting lucky with official calls ... it's not like Mizzou hasn't endured plenty of awful calls itself over the years. Hell, part of Mizzou's athletics history has been defined by not only getting screwed by officiating, but getting creatively screwed (Fifth Down, Flea Kicker). So the bottom line here is that benefiting from bad calls is a lot better than losing because of them.

That said ... how in the world was yesterday's charge supposedly a bad call? I think we have completely ruined the word "flop" at this point. It is semantics, but there is, and has always been, a difference between selling a call and flopping. To me, flopping is trying to convince the ref that a foul occurred when it didn't. Flopping is cynical; flopping is what you see 116 times during a Serie A match. Selling a foul is not. There's certainly acting involved, and it certainly annoys the hell out of you when your opponent gets away with it (I absolutely loathed former Texas guard Royal Ivey for this very reason; Ivey's assistant coach at Texas, by the way: Frank Haith), but the bottom line is that Steve Moore beat David Loubeau to a spot on the court with 1:07 remaining in yesterday's game, and he took a full-on shoulder square in the chest. Did he sell the call? Absolutely. As A&M coach Billy Kennedy so kindly pointed out yesterday, Moore's got 30 pounds on Loubeau (not the 65 Kennedy suggested, but hey ... can't blame Kennedy for selling the point, right?), and there's no way Moore would have hit the ground that hard unless Loubeau hit him running full-speed. But guess what: it was still a charge. Sometimes you have to sell it to get the call, and I have absolutely no problem with that as long as there is a foul to sell.

The "Mizzou is getting all the calls!!!!" meme is a bit annoying even though, as referenced up top, I wouldn't really care even if Mizzou were getting all the calls. Scoreboard.

(And no, I'm not even going to touch on the issue of Doug Gottlieb taking to Twitter to moan and complain about officiating and/or troll "idiot" Mizzou fans while on the job as a basketball analyst, in between TV segments. From here on out, I suggest we all take heed of D-Sing's advice.)

Actual stats after the jump.

Mizzou 71, Texas A&M 62

Mizzou
A&M
Pace (No. of Possessions) 59.1
Points Per Minute 1.78 1.55
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.20 1.05
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.73 1.27
2-PT FG% 71.4% 59.4%
3-PT FG% 40.0% 29.4%
FT% 85.0% 90.0%
True Shooting % 71.3% 58.1%
Mizzou A&M
Assists 16 15
Steals 5 9
Turnovers 14 10
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.50 2.40
Mizzou A&M
Expected Offensive Rebounds 7 9
Offensive Rebounds 4 3
Difference -3 -6

Another Killer Stretch

With 15:32 remaining in the game, Elston Turner made a jumper (one of only two baskets A&M's most consistent scorer made all afternoon) to cut Missouri's lead to 34-32. Mizzou had come out of the gates slowly in both halves, and A&M had generated some solid momentum. After a 30-second timeout, here are Mizzou's next 16 possessions:

  • Marcus Denmon 3-pointer (37-32, 15:39)
  • Kim English jumper (39-34, 14:54)
  • Marcus Denmon 3-pointer (42-34, 14:12)
  • Kim English jumper (44-36, 13:30)
  • Kim English two free throws (46-36, 12:37)
  • Kim English offensive rebound, two free throws (48-38, 11:50)
  • Mike Dixon jumper (50-40, 11:08)
  • Kim English turnover
  • Phil Pressey layup (52-40, 9:25)
  • Mike Dixon layup (54-43, 8:33)
  • Mike Dixon jumper (56-43, 7:36)
  • Phil Pressey turnover
  • Mike Dixon two free throws (58-47, 6:18)
  • Kim English jumper (60-49, 5:05)
  • Mike Dixon 3-pointer (63-52, 4:08)
  • Mike Dixon two free throws (65-55, 3:13)

Sixteen possessions, 31 points, two empty possessions. A&M's offense had found its rhythm; they scored 23 points in the same span -- over 1.50 points per possession -- and saw their deficit grow from two to 10 points regardless. I feared an explosive offensive performance from the Aggies, and we certainly saw a solid one (1.05 points per possession for the game), but Missouri won because they have the most efficient offense in the country. We are so spoiled this year in that regard. There has been a point in almost every game this season (all but two, obviously) where I just find myself shaking my head and thinking, "This is ridiculous."

Good Mizzou On The Glass ... Sort Of

There were a combined seven offensive rebounds in this game, a strangely low amount even considering both teams shot well enough to limit overall offensive rebound opportunities. This points to a budding issue with the Tigers: they seem to be getting better on the defensive glass and worse on the offensive glass. In sum, that is probably a fair trade considering how well Mizzou tends to shoot (the Tigers, after all, do still rank first in overall Offensive Efficiency), but it's certainly an interesting development.

  • vs Texas Tech: -1 Expected Offensive Rebounds, +3 Expected Defensive Rebounds
  • at Texas: -5 Offensive Rebounds, -3 Defensive Rebounds
  • vs Kansas: -5 Offensive Rebounds, +3 Defensive Rebounds
  • at Oklahoma: -5 Offensive Rebounds, -2 Defensive Rebounds
  • vs Baylor: -3 Offensive Rebounds, -4 Defensive Rebounds
  • vs Oklahoma State: +0 Offensive Rebounds, +4 Defensive Rebounds
  • at Texas A&M: -3 Offensive Rebounds, +5 Defensive Rebounds
  • COMBINED: -22 Offensive Rebounds, +6 Defensive Rebounds

The last time Mizzou was on the plus side of the ledger in terms of expected offensive rebounds was January 21 at Baylor. Ricardo Ratliffe had 24 offensive boards in the seven games above, and the rest of the team combined had 31 (including deadball rebounds). They have fallen to 223rd in Offensive Rebound Rate and risen to 136th in Defensive Rebound Rate. Probably a fair trade, but still, you'd like to be really good at everything, right?

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Kim English 22.5 0.61 37 Min, 21 Pts (6-10 FG, 3-6 3PT, 6-8 FT), 6 Reb, 4 Stl, 3 TO
Mike Dixon 14.5 0.66 22 Min, 15 Pts (5-8 FG, 1-4 3PT, 4-4 FT), 6 Ast, 3 TO
Marcus Denmon 13.6 0.37 37 Min, 14 Pts (4-10 FG, 3-7 3PT, 3-4 FT), 6 Reb
Phil Pressey 12.4 0.34 36 Min, 13 Pts (4-5 FG, 1-2 3PT, 4-4 FT), 7 Ast, 5 TO
Steve Moore 4.4 0.22 20 Min, 2 Pts (1-1 FG), 2 Reb
Ricardo Ratliffe 1.4 0.06 23 Min, 4 Pts (2-5 FG), 6 Reb (2 Off), 2 TO
Matt Pressey 0.7 0.03 25 Min, 2 Pts (1-2 FG, 0-1 3PT)
Jarrett Sutton 0.0 0.00 0+ Min
  • Turnovers were an odd issue yesterday -- Mizzou's two point guards combined for 13 assists but gave away some gains with eight turnovers -- but A&M's gambling defense (they were stepping into passing lanes as much as possible) obviously opened them up to some issues as well. Mizzou suffered some turnoveritis, grabbed just four offensive rebounds ... and still averaged 1.20 points per possession on the road. So many ways to do you in. (To quote a sample from an old Snoop Dogg album, from before he was a cartoon character, "Six million ways to die: choose one.")
  • Ricardo Ratliffe, last five games: 46 points on 20-for-34 shooting (58.9%). His touch has disappeared on him, and unlike other members of the team, he simply cannot buy a call right now, shooting just 11 free throws (as we know from Twitter, Mizzou has clearly paid off the refs, ahem, but somehow it hasn't helped 'Cardo at all). His chances at the single-season FG% record are fading -- he is 'down' to 72.6% for the season -- but in the meantime, he has raised his game on the glass. In the same five games, he has averaged 8.0 rebounds per game (three offensive, five defensive). Through 22 games, he was averaging 14.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG; in the last five, he's averaged 9.2 PPG and 8.0 RPG. An odd shift. (Also: Mizzou is 5-0 in these games.)
  • Another fun "Last __ Games" tidbit: over the last six games, Mizzou almost has five players averaging in double-figures: Denmon 17.8 PPG, Dixon 15.8, English 13.3, P. Pressey 10.8, Ratliffe 9.8, M. Pressey 2.8, Moore 2.5.
  • And yes, Mike Dixon has averaged 15.8 points in six games ... shooting 65.5% from the field. He is 24-for-30 on 2-pointers (80.0%), 12-for-25 on 3-pointers (40.0%), and only 11-for-14 on free throws (78.6%). Bottle this up, Mike.

One more thing: I just cannot say how much I loved the fact that Frank Haith subbed in Jarrett Sutton for fouling purposes late in the first half. I know it is very much en vogue for us to make fun of all the ways Haith is 'far superior' to Mike Anderson (classic "My new girlfriend is so much [hotter, smarter, funnier, better in every way] than my ex!!!" behavior), but there is just no getting around how refreshing Haith's (and his staff's) tactical acumen has been. There are many benefits to a "system" like what Anderson runs; in a fully-defined system, you hone instincts, and you don't have to think too much on the court. You know what to do because that's what the system tells you to do. (And yes, that is a bit of an over-generalization.) Anderson's "system" brought Mizzou out of some serious basketball doldrums. A "system" is a strategy. But Haith and staff have taken Mizzou to a completely different level -- if they beat Kansas State, they will be 26-2 for the first time in their history -- in part because of tactics. Mizzou knew A&M was drawing up a play to advance the length of the court in six seconds, and they knew they had fouls to give, so Matt Pressey and Sutton assumed the backcourt duties, fouled with three seconds left, subbed Sutton out, and forced a bad shot at the buzzer. Just tremendous.

Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
English 28% 44% 2.5 22% 37% 31% 11%
Dixon 36% 53% 7.9 70% 16% 8% 6%
Denmon 20% 39% 1.9 29% 50% 21% 0%
P. Pressey 20% 51% 5.3 74% 9% 8% 9%
Moore 3% 100% 0.2 0% 100% 0% 0%
Ratliffe 19% 23% 1.0 0% 71% 0% 29%

To the checklist!

Marcus Denmon's Usage% needs to be 23% or higher. (No.)
Kim English's %T/O needs to be at 10% or lower. (No.)
Kim English's Floor% should be at 35% or higher. (Yes!)
Ricardo Ratliffe's %Fouled should be at least 10%. (No.)
Phil Pressey's Touches/Possession need to be 3.5 or better. (Yes!)
Mike Dixon's %Pass should be 55% or higher. (Yes!)
Steve Moore's Touches/Possession should be at least 1.0. (No.)

Just 3-for-7. It was an odd game, with Denmon only posting an average performance (and yes, "14 points on 4-for-10 shooting" is indeed 'average'), Mizzou turning the ball over like crazy, and Ratliffe being completely ineffective underneath. But, again, scoreboard.

Three Keys Revisited

From Friday's preview.

Road Things

Always. Offensive rebounds, fouls and Phil Pressey. All three of these things went Mizzou's way in their 70-51 win over A&M in Columbia -- Mizzou grabbed more offensive rebounds, fouled eight fewer times and got 10 points, four assists and three steals out of Flip. But those things usually go well for Mizzou in Columbia. The road is sometimes a different story.

Expected Rebounds: Mizzou +3
Fouls: Texas A&M 21, Mizzou 12
Phil Pressey: 36 minutes, 13 points (4-5 FG, 4-4 FT), 7 assists, 5 turnovers

Flip did get a bit careless with the ball at times, but we still got Mostly Good Flip, meaning Mizzou aced all three Road Things categories.

The Long Ball

A&M takes about 15 3-pointers per game, which is quite a few considering their slow pace. They have also been making about 39 percent of them recently. Both teams are relatively hot from long-range, so who stays hot tomorrow?

3-Pointers: Mizzou 8-for-20 (40.0%), A&M 5-for-17 (29.4%)

I feared the worst when Khris Middleton made his first 3-pointer of the game (just like Oklahoma State's Markel Brown did on Wednesday), but A&M made just four of their last 16; their primary 3-pointer shooters -- Elston Turner, Naji Hibbert and Zach Kinsley -- made just three of 13. Meanwhile, Phil Pressey, Marcus Denmon and Kim English made seven of 15, and that's despite taking a small handful of silly, shouldn't-have-done-that shots in the first half.

Denmon & Dixon vs. Turner & Middleton

A&M has two high-volume scorers for the most part -- Elston Turner and Khris Middleton -- with potentially a third (Loubeau) chipping in. Yes, a 3-point shooter like Naji Hibbert or Daniel Alexander could also get hot, but for the most part A&M can win if Turner and Middleton can outduel Mizzou's most high-volume scorers (Marcus Denmon and Mike Dixon). Without a victory in that matchup, it will be difficult (but not impossible) for A&M to generate the necessary offense.

Marcus Denmon & Mike Dixon: 29 points (5-7 2PT, 4-11 3PT, 7-8 FT)
Elston Turner & Khris Middleton: 22 points (5-11 2PT, 2-10 3PT, 6-6 FT)

Winner, winner. Denmon and Dixon won this scoring battle by seven in a game Mizzou won by nine.

Summary

A year after going 1-7 on the road in conference play, Mizzou now stands at 5-2; they got the opportunity to avenge one of their two losses and flipped the scoreboard by 25 points. On Tuesday, they get their next revenge opportunity against a Kansas State team that had been floundering a bit (2-4 in their last six) before scoring an enormous road upset of Baylor. Mizzou's newfound defensive rebound abilities will obviously be put to the test against this "chuck it at the rim, grab the rebound, and then start your offense" squad, but while one can certainly find reasons for concern, I just have to keep giving this wonderful team the benefit of the doubt.

---

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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