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You think Missouri is a hard team to figure out this year? Take an extended gander at Texas A&M. Here's a team that ranked 130th in Ken Pomeroy's rankings following a dreadful end to non-conference play -- the Aggies beat No. 321 Texas A&M-CC by just 12, lost to No. 129 Southern U., beat No. 204 Army by just six, and beat No. 334 Houston Baptist by just eight. Two games into conference play, they had risen to 76th. They destroyed Arkansas at home, then handed Kentucky a 12-point loss at Rupp Arena.
Were they just playing possum in non-conference play? Had the switch been flipped? Not really. They've lost five of their last six and have fallen back to 95th as of this morning. The losses have been mostly acceptable -- in overtime to Kentucky, by one at Alabama, by four at LSU (Mizzou can relate), by 21 at Florida -- but a seven-point home loss to Georgia was baffling, as is the fact that it took them until overtime to put away No. 227 Mississippi State.
Texas A&M Aggies (13-8)
|Pace (No. of Possessions)
|Points Per Possession (PPP)
|Points Per Shot (PPS)
|True Shooting %||53.2%||50.6%|
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
|Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm||10.2||10.7|
Bill Kennedy's second Aggie team slows the game down and basically hopes that its iffy shooting ends up better than your iffy shooting, its all-or-nothing ball-handling trumps your all-or-nothing ball-handling, and its owning of the offensive glass means more than yours. Their strengths are their weaknesses, and the result of this has been one weird damn season.
Ken Pomeroy Stats
|A&M Offense vs MU Defense Ranks
|A&M Offense||MU Defense||Advantage|
|Off. Reb. %||40||47||Push|
|MU Offense vs A&M Defense Ranks
|MU Offense||A&M Defense||Advantage|
|Off. Reb. %||11||214||MU big|
Where the Aggies are weakest
For starters, they don't draw fouls, and they don't create easy looks for themselves. The Aggies rank 229th in FTA/FGA (as you see above), but they also rank 158th in 2PT% and 201st in Off. Block%). The passing is not where it needs to be (233rd in Assists Per FG Made, 248th in TO%, 204th in Steal%), and it shows.
Defensively, there are quite a few strengths and weaknesses. The Aggies are careless on the defensive glass (214th in Def. Reb. %), which is inexcusable considering they're rock solid on the offensive glass. They allow you a lot of decent looks from 3-point range (283rd in 3PA/FGA, 152nd in Def. 3PT%), and those looks often come via pass (280th in Def. Assists Per FG Made). Expect quite a bit of "Pressey flips to Ross/Brown in the corner for 3..." We'll see if that's followed by a "Splash!" or not.
A lot of the Aggies' inconsistency can be explained by one word: Youth. A&M just isn't very experienced (204th in Experience). They aren't very deep (18th in Bench Minutes) or big (138th in Effective Height), either.
Where they are best
The Aggies do pull down a lot of second-chance opportunities, and they are pretty good at hitting 3-pointers (100th in 3PT%), when they take them, anyway (308th in 3PA/FGA). They don't take many 3's overall, but it's worth noting that when they were smoking Arkansas and Kentucky, Elston Turner and Fabyon Harris made 12 of 25 from 3-point range. Since then, Harris has made a decent eight of 20, but Turner has made just seven of 35.
On defense, A&M is strangely good at forcing turnovers (68th in TO%) without fouling (67th in FTA/FGA). Freshman guard Alex Caruso is one of the best pick-pockets in the country (fifth in Stl%). He is also A&M's best passer (and, perhaps, worst shooter).
A&M's Season to Date
- Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
at No. 17 Kentucky (83-71)
No. 59 Stephen F. Austin (62-54)
No. 62 Arkansas (69-51)
No. 75 Louisiana Tech (71-59)
vs. No. 104 Washington State (55-54)
No. 128 Northwestern State (78-65)
No. 204 Army (61-55)
at No. 212 Houston (70-59)
at No. 227 Mississippi State (55-49, OT)
No. 265 Troy (83-65)
No. 321 Texas A&M-CC (66-54)
No. 328 Prairie View A&M (81-59)
No. 334 Houston Baptist (67-59)
No. 1 Florida (47-68)
No. 17 Kentucky (68-72, OT)
vs. No. 39 St. Louis (49-70)
vs. No. 57 Oklahoma (54-64)
at No. 81 Alabama (49-50)
No. 118 Georgia (52-59)
at No. 122 LSU (54-58)
No. 129 Southern (51-53)
Average Score, A&M versus Top 50 (1-3): Opponent 70.3, A&M 61.8 (-8.5)
Average Score, A&M vs. Top 51-150 (5-5): A&M 59.5, Opponent 56.7 (+2.8)
Average Score, A&M versus Top 151+ (7-0): A&M 69.0, Opponent 57.1 (+11.9)
Not a huge range here. A&M has been competitive in two of four games versus Top 50 teams but has struggled to create any sort of distance between itself and iffy teams. In seven wins versus teams ranked 200th or worse, only two were by more than 12 points. Part of that is because of a dreadfully slow pace (it's easier to blow a team out with 70 possessions than 60), but part of that is also because of sheer inconsistency, youth and iffy play.
A&M Player Stats
|Elston Turner (6'5, 212, Sr.)||14.1||0.41||34.1 MPG, 15.7 PPG (47% 2PT, 38% 3PT, 83% FT), 3.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.0 TOPG|
|Fabyon Harris (5'11, 172, Jr.)||10.0||0.36||27.9 MPG, 11.0 PPG (47% 2PT, 42% 3PT, 85% FT), 2.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.5 TOPG|
|Kourtney Roberson (6'9, 234, So.)||9.3||0.40||23.3 MPG, 6.7 PPG (59% 2PT, 55% FT), 6.6 RPG|
|Ray Turner (6'9, 230, Sr.)||9.2||0.41||22.8 MPG, 9.8 PPG (55% 2PT, 63% FT), 6.1 RPG, 1.6 TOPG, 2.9 PFPG|
|Alex Caruso (6'5, 176, Fr.)||7.0||0.31||22.9 MPG, 5.0 PPG (46% 2PT, 21% 3PT, 66% FT), 3.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 2.1 TOPG, 2.5 PFPG|
|J'Mychal Reese (6'1, 173, Fr.)||4.3||0.15||29.1 MPG, 7.0 PPG (41% 2PT, 35% 3PT, 73% FT), 2.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 2.4 TOPG|
|Andrew Young (6'8, 241, Jr.)||2.9||0.23||12.9 MPG, 3.1 PPG (37% 2PT, 74% FT), 3.1 RPG|
|Jordan Green (6'5, 183, So.)||2.5||0.18||13.8 MPG, 2.9 PPG (41% 2PT, 22% 3PT, 70% FT), 1.5 APG, 1.4 RPG|
|Jarod Jahns (6'6, 202, Sr.)||2.1||0.16||13.1 MPG, 1.7 PPG (57% 2PT, 20% 3PT, 70% FT), 1.7 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%: E. Turner (27%), R. Turner (24%), Harris (22%)
- Highest Floor%: Roberson (44%), R. Turner (41%), Harris (40%)
- Highest %Pass: Caruso (68%), Green (64%), Reese (55%)
- Highest %Shoot: R. Turner (52%), Young (46%), Roberson (43%)
- Highest %Fouled: R. Turner (27%), Roberson (19%), Young (19%)
- Highest %T/O: Young (14%), R. Turner (12%), Roberson (10%)
- Elsotn Turner is obviously the biggest name on the team thanks to his 40-point effort versus Kentucky. But a) he's in a bit of a shooting slump right now, and b) focusing on him ignores that each of A&M's top five players is pretty good. As you see, three of the top four average at least 0.40 Adj. GS points per minute, which is pretty good considering the pace. (For reference, at a higher pace Laurence Bowers averages 0.60 per minute, Alex Oriakhi 0.54, Keion Bell 0.43, Phil Pressey 0.35, Earnest Ross 0.35 and Jabari Brown 0.31, and I should really post full-season numbers at some point.)
- There are some high-volatility players here, guys who bring a lot to the table and take a lot off of it. Ray Turner is an excellent scorer but commits a ton of fouls and turns the ball over like crazy. Alex Caruso is a brilliant ball thief and solid passer, but he also commits a ton of fouls and isn't a reliable shooter. J'Mychal Reese is a better scorer than Caruso and a decent passer, but he is also a turnover risk.
- Yes, Ray Turner is still on the damn team somehow. This Ray Turner.
I still can't even be mad about that. That was amazing.
Keys to the Game
- Splash. Looking at A&M's defensive stats and knowing Missouri's tendencies, it is pretty likely that Mizzou will end up taking 20-25 3-pointers in this game. They will be open enough to take, and lord knows this team is willing to take them. So ... uh ... make them. Mizzou's 3-point percentage has been hilariously variant in SEC play. The Tigers made 60% against Alabama, 11% against Ole Miss, 41% against Georgia, 22% against Florida and South Carolina, 52% against Vanderbilt, 28% against LSU and 38% against Auburn. Reach that 38% mark, and you'll probably win.
(Looking at you, Earnest Ross. You're allowed to make them on the road, too.)
- Full team = Full ability to avoid the slump. As incredible as this sounds, this is Mizzou's first road game with a full-strength squad. The Tigers were missing Tony Criswell against UCLA, Laurence Bowers against Ole Miss and Florida and Keion Bell against LSU. Though they are not enormous contributors, Mizzou could possibly have won both the UCLA and LSU games with Criswell and Bell. You think that may have changed the outlook of the season a bit? 18-3 (6-2 in conference) sounds a hell of a lot better than 16-5 (5-3).
Ole Miss started the game up 19-6, then locked the game down with a 9-0 run in the second half (the rest of the game: Mizzou 43, Ole Miss 36). Florida began the game up 15-2, then locked the game down with a 10-2 run in the second half (the rest of the game: Florida 58, Mizzou 48). LSU went on an early 11-0 run, then boosted a shrinking lead with a quick 7-0 run in the second half (the rest of the game: Mizzou 70, LSU 55). With a healthy starting lineup and a full bench, the Tigers have no excuse for the type of lapses that have murdered them recently. They simply cannot let it happen again ... and they especially can't let it happen twice a game.
- Dip into that bench. A&M's bench is pretty dreadful. With players like Ray Turner and Alex Caruso more than willing to get into foul trouble, and with A&M content to play at a snail's crawl, it would benefit Missouri greatly to attack these players, pick up the pace, get Turner and/or Caruso into foul trouble, and force Billy Kennedy to go to his bench more than he cares to. If R. Turner and Caruso are each allowed to cross the 25-minute mark, A&M is a much, much better team.
(Meanwhile, it would be fantastic if Alex Oriakhi were to not get into foul trouble on the road for once.)
Ken Pomeroy projects a 65-64 Mizzou win. I say I don't bet against a streak. Mizzou is full-strength, and that should help dramatically, but the Tigers still face the burden of proof. Show me you're over your road woes, Mizzou. A&M 62, Mizzou 58.