Missouri at N.C. State preview: Know your temporary rival

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

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I'll start with where I left off in the Illinois Study Hall piece (that nobody read because nobody's been around this week):

This, of course, makes the N.C. State game next Saturday an enormous one. Pomeroy has the Wolfpack projected to win by two; it's another virtual tossup. Figure out how to take that one, and you're almost certainly 12-1 heading into conference play. Lose, and you're still 11-2 and easily looking at 22-23 wins overall, but the "no quality non-conference wins away from home" thing will hurt Mizzou, either in terms of NCAA Tournament seeding, or in tourney inclusion at all. Losing in Raleigh wouldn't be a death knell, but it would be a black mark on the resume. So yeah, let's try winning it.

A loss to N.C. State would give Mizzou a giant "Yeah, but..." on the résumé, a black mark the Tigers won't have an opportunity to overcome. It's stilly to think of things in that way -- like, Missouri wins the SEC but is dinged a seed or two because "they don't have a decent non-conference win away from home" -- but that's the way these things work. This isn't a make-or-break game, but it's a big one.

N.C. State Wolfpack (9-2)


NC State
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
66.2
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.14 1.00
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.28 1.18
2-PT FG% 55% 44%
3-PT FG% 30% 27%
FT% 67% 79%
True Shooting % 56% 50%




NC State Opp.
Assists/Gm 13.7 9.4
Steals/Gm 5.2 5.9
Turnovers/Gm 10.6 12.6
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.78 1.21




NC State Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 10.9 12.1
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 12.1 11.9
Difference +1.2 -0.2

The Wolfpack are big but not very physical, efficient from the floor but pretty bad from 3-point range. They're a weird team, but since they got big Jordan Vandenberg back from injury, they haven't lost.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

NC State Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

NC St. Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 51 58 push
Effective FG% 50 17 MU
Turnover % 28 291 NC State big
Off. Reb. % 90 22 MU
FTA/FGA 317 42 MU big
MU Offense vs NC State Defense Ranks

MU Offense NC St. Defense Advantage
Efficiency 46 110 MU
Effective FG% 18 32 push
Turnover % 234 192 NC State
Off. Reb. % 87 165 MU
FTA/FGA 30 108 MU

Where the Pack are weakest

On offense, they are 274th in 3PT% and 281st in FT%, but that doesn't matter much because they don't get to the line and don't take many 3-pointers. Whereas Illinois was averaging 19.6 3-point attempts per game heading into Braggin' Rights, N.C. State is averaging just 14.7, which still seems like a lot but really isn't in college basketball.

Outside of the weird shooting distribution, other weaknesses include a thin bench (224th in Bench Minutes), a young roster (331st in Experience), and a predilection for fouling guards (351st in Def. FT%, which means they're either unlucky or sending really good shooters to the line). And on offense, they're 250th in Assists Per FG Made, which means guys are setting up their own shots (or grabbing putbacks).

Where they are best

They may be bad from the line and behind the arc, but they rank 11th in 2PT%. They get really good shots, which is strange considering how little they are fouled. They also don't turn the ball over (28th in TO%, though only 131st in Steal%). They're top-100 in offensive rebounding and 36th in Effective Height, and they don't allow you many good looks near the rim (80th in Def. 2PT%, 45th in Block%) or behind the arc (23rd in Def. 3PT%).

Some weird contradictions here overall. They foul guards, but they don't allow you to finish near the rim. They are big but don't rebound incredibly well considering their size. They get easy shots but don't draw fouls. Strange.

State's Season to Date

Games in italics were played without center Jordan Vandenberg, who missed the first four games with injury.

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    at No. 40 Tennessee (65-58)
    No. 117 Northwestern (69-48)
    No. 149 Eastern Kentucky (75-56)
    No. 159 Detroit (82-79)
    No. 163 East Carolina (90-79)
    No. 210 Florida Gulf Coast (82-62)
    No. 211 Long Beach State (76-66)
    No. 302 Campbell (81-66)
    No. 306 Appalachian State (98-77)
  • Losses
    at No. 37 Cincinnati (57-68)
    No. 127 N.C. Central (72-82, OT)

Both losses -- the okay one and the bad one -- came without Vandenberg, but with Vandenberg they've really only played one interesting team: Cuonzo Martin's Vols. And they won in Knoxville. Weird team, but potentially pretty good team.

Wolfpack Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
T.J. Warren (6'8, 215, So.) 22.7 0.67 33.8 MPG, 23.1 PPG (60% 2PT, 25% 3PT, 76% FT), 7.2 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 1.6 TOPG, 2.5 PFPG
Jordan Vandenberg (7'1, 245, Sr.) 10.6 0.46 23.3 MPG, 7.0 PPG (71% 2PT, 50% FT), 5.3 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 3.7 PFPG
Anthony Barber (6'2, 170, Fr.) 10.4 0.36 28.5 MPG, 12.0 PPG (51% 2PT, 35% 3PT, 74% FT), 3.9 APG, 2.6 RPG, 2.4 TOPG
Ralston Turner (6'5, 205, Jr.) 8.6 0.36 23.6 MPG, 9.4 PPG (52% 2PT, 39% 3PT, 57% FT), 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 2.8 PFPG
Desmond Lee (6'4, 200, Jr.) 8.1 0.28 28.8 MPG, 10.7 PPG (52% 2PT, 23% 3PT, 68% FT), 4.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.0 TOPG
Lennard Freeman (6'8, 245, Fr.) 7.4 0.28 26.3 MPG, 4.6 PPG (68% 2PT, 33% FT), 7.3 RPG, 1.2 APG
Tyler Lewis (5'11, 170, So.) 4.7 0.23 20.6 MPG, 5.2 PPG (40% 2PT, 18% 3PT, 81% FT), 3.8 APG, 1.7 RPG, 1.1 TOPG
BeeJay Anya (6'9, 325, Fr.) 3.0 0.25 11.9 MPG, 2.9 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.6 BPG
Kyle Washington (6'9, 225, Fr.) 2.5 0.16 15.4 MPG, 3.1 PPG, 3.4 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%: Warren (32%), Barber (24%), Lee (22%)
  • Highest Floor%: Vandenberg (63%), Warren (46%), Freeman (46%)
  • Highest %Pass: Lewis (73%), Barber (61%), Freeman (54%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Anya (65%), Warren (61%), Turner (48%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Anya (23%), Warren (18%), Freeman (17%)
  • Highest %T/O: Anya (12%), Washington (12%), Lee (8%)
  • Warren gets the attention, and justifiably so, because of his scoring ability. But Vandenberg's "little things" ability is huge. He averages just 7 PPG but 10.6 AdjGS points because of his work around the rim. He does foul a lot, and I'd like to think that's big, but Mizzou's bigs don't draw fouls (and we probably don't want them to with that free throw shooting), and State has another shotblocker in BeeJay Anya coming off of the bench anyway. It would have to be the guards driving to the rim, but they're probably just going to swat their shots as often as foul them.

Keys to the Game

  1. The whistles. Did your radar perk up at "They tend to foul guards"? Because it should have. Mizzou's guards tend to draw fouls. If the Tigers can generate an advantage here -- and if the game is called as basketball is supposed to be called this year, and not in the old-school style of Saturday's Braggin' Rights game, then they should -- that's pretty big. Even if they're getting fouled by guards instead of bigs, that's fine; the State backcourt isn't incredibly deep. Just draw fouls wherever, and against whomever, you can.

  2. The glass. State's a pretty good rebounding team, and Missouri's a really good rebounding team. That Illinois was able to slightly win the battle on the glass on Saturday was huge considering Mizzou was generating advantages elsewhere. If Johnathan Williams III can come up big, and if guys like Ryan Rosburg and Tony Criswell can at least neutralize some of State's general girth (there are two 245-pounders, a 225-pounder, a 215-pounder, and of course a 325-pounder in the rotation), that would be huge.

  3. How do you guard Warren? Warren's Usage Rate is off the charts; the offense runs through him. He takes 14 2-pointers, three 3-pointers, and five three throws per game, and despite shooting so much, he's also decent on the offensive glass. He scored one-third of State's points and grabbed eight boards against Tennessee, and while he has occasional turnover issues, that's not something Missouri is likely to take advantage of. So how do you stop Warren from killing you while avoiding sacrificing any sort of size or matchup advantage elsewhere?

    No really, I'm asking you.

Prediction

(There's a fourth key, but it was too obvious: Get production from somebody outside of the Big 3. That's a key to every damn game.)

Pomeroy projects a 75-73 State win, so this one's a tossup just like Illinois was. My hope was for the Tigers to win one of the two tossups, and ... well, there's only one left.

If the whistles are blowing the way Missouri wants them to, then Mizzou's Big 3 of Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross should have plenty of decent scoring opportunities, especially from the line. Like Missouri, State isn't an incredibly deep club, so the whistles could have more than one positive effect for the Tigers. But if this is another "call fouls like you used to call 'em" game, then the Tigers could be in trouble. Warren is going to get his points, and if State isn't in foul trouble, the Wolfpack could have the size necessary to beat Missouri on the glass.

This is a pretty big game, and State has enough contradictions that I'm struggling to get a read for it. The more whistles, the better for Mizzou. And the more rebounds, the better.

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