Know your Lexington Rival: Colorado State

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

LEAVE YOUR TRIFECTA PICKS IN COMMENTS.

Well ... time to put up or shut up, I guess.

Colorado State Rams (25-8)


CSU
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
63.4
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.15 0.99
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.29 1.19
2-PT FG% 49.0% 45.3%
3-PT FG% 33.2% 33.7%
FT% 71.3% 67.5%
True Shooting % 54.3% 51.4%




CSU Opp.
Assists/Gm 13.1 9.4
Steals/Gm 4.9 5.0
Turnovers/Gm 10.8 11.1
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.67 1.29




CSU Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 11.1 10.9
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 14.4 8.1
Difference +3.3 -2.8

Of the teams Missouri has played this season, Colorado State is perhaps most similar to Tennessee: average from the field, average in ball control, average on defense, punishing on the glass. CSU has even better percentages than Tennessee on the glass, and perhaps that goes part of the way toward explaining why the Rams are in the field and Vols are not, but in general we basically know what to expect here: halfcourt defense and flying bodies.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

CSU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

CSU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 7 48 CSU
Effective FG% 153 65 MU
Turnover % 17 298 CSU big
Off. Reb. % 2 50 CSU
FTA/FGA 24 32 push
MU Offense vs CSU Defense Ranks

MU Offense CSU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 13 97 MU
Effective FG% 67 157 MU
Turnover % 133 316 MU big
Off. Reb. % 7 1 push
FTA/FGA 200 188 push

Where the Rams are weakest

They don't turn you over (316th in Def. TO%, 329th in Def. Steal%), they don't force you to take bad shots (137th in Def. 2PT%, 177th in Def. 3PT%), and they don't block your shots (321st in Block%), which makes sense because they're not big (264th in Effective Height). They neither take, nor make, many 3-pointers (301st in 3PA/FGA, 191st in 3PT%), and they barely use their bench (308th in Bench Minutes). This makes them seem like they're a pretty limited team, and I guess they are, but their strengths are really strong.

Where they are best

They don't turn the ball over (17th in Off. TO%, 17th in Off. Steal%), they get to the line a ton (24th in FTA/FGA), and they make their free throws at a reasonable rate (127th in FT%). The reason they get to the line so much? In part, it's because of their disturbing ability to pull down offensive rebounds (second in OR%).

CSU is also ridiculously experienced (third in Experience). Granted, Missouri was third in Experience last year, so this isn't exactly a slam-dunk guarantee of success, but it certainly isn't a bad thing.

In general, when you've got an experienced team that is definitively good at some things and obviously less-than-good at others, it clarifies things for you quite a bit. The Rams know what they are (and are not), and that's more than a lot of teams in this field can say.

CSU's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 26 San Diego State (66-60)
    No. 34 UNLV (66-61)
    at No. 39 Denver (60-53)
    No. 47 Boise State (77-57)
    at No. 85 Washington (73-55)
    No. 81 Evansville (79-72)
    No. 88 Air Force (79-40)
    at No. 88 Air Force (89-86)
    at No. 96 Fresno State (74-63)
    No. 96 Fresno State (74-67)
    vs. No. 96 Fresno State (67-61)
    No. 107 Wyoming (65-46)
    at No. 107 Wyoming (78-56)
    No. 114 UTEP (62-58)
    No. 119 St. Bonaventure (85-64)
    No. 144 Montana (72-65)
    at No. 161 Nevada (73-69)
    No. 161 Nevada (77-66)
    No. 240 Cal State Bakersfield (78-58)
    No. 244 Northern Colorado (85-69)
    vs. No. 261 Portland (70-53)
    No. 262 North Florida (83-55)
    Chadron State (93-50)
    Adams State (80-55)
  • Losses
    at No. 17 New Mexico (61-66)
    No. 17 New Mexico (82-91)
    at No. 26 San Diego State (72-79, OT)
    at No. 34 UNLV (59-61)
    vs. No. 34 UNLV (65-75)
    at No. 47 Boise State (65-78)
    at No. 48 Colorado (61-70)
    at No. 193 UI-Chicago (55-64)

Average Score, Colorado State vs. Top 50 (4-7): Opponent 68.3, CSU 66.7 (-1.6)

Aside from the strange loss to UIC, CSU has been pretty well-defined in this regard, too: They beat the teams clearly inferior to them, and they split with the others. The Rams were 21-1 versus teams ranked outside the Top 50, they were 3-1 at home against the Top 50, and they were 1-6 away from home against the Top 50. It's hard to take much away from this other than the fact that this is a really consistent squad. And when your biggest strength is your ability to clean up missed shots, this makes some sense; you've got a clear path to victory even when your shots aren't falling.

CSU Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Colton Iverson (6'10, 261, Sr.) 16.4 0.55 29.7 MPG, 14.7 PPG (60% 2PT, 59% FT), 9.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 2.0 TOPG, 2.5 PFPG
Pierce Hornung (6'5, 210, Sr.) 13.9 0.45 31.1 MPG, 8.7 PPG (56% 2PT, 40% 3PT, 64% FT), 9.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 TOPG
Dorian Green (6'2, 192, Sr.) 12.2 0.37 32.6 MPG, 12.8 PPG (49% 2PT, 35% 3PT, 78% FT), 3.8 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.8 TOPG
Greg Smith (6'6, 221, Sr.) 9.8 0.39 25.2 MPG, 11.1 PPG (48% 2PT, 38% 3PT, 69% FT), 5.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.7 TOPG
Wes Elkmeier (6'3, 168, Sr.) 8.5 0.27 31.3 MPG, 12.7 PPG (39% 2PT, 36% 3PT, 90% FT), 2.2 APG, 1.7 RPG, 1.5 TOPG, 2.7 PFPG
Daniel Bejarano (6'4, 202, So.) 6.2 0.28 22.1 MPG, 6.1 PPG (45% 2PT, 31% 3PT, 70% FT), 5.5 RPG
Jon Octeus (6'4, 170, So.) 3.3 0.17 19.3 MPG, 4.5 PPG (40% 2PT, 21% 3PT, 80% FT), 2.5 RPG, 1.3 APG
Gerson Santo (6'9, 210, Jr.) 1.8 0.25 7.1 MPG, 2.1 PPG, 1.3 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%: Iverson (24%), Smith (23%), Elkmeier (23%)
  • Highest Floor%: Hornung (47%), Iverson (45%), Green (42%)
  • Highest %Pass: Green (60%), Hornung (58%), Octeus (55%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Santo (57%), Bejarano (44%), Smith (42%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Iverson (23%), Smith (18%), Santo (17%)
  • Highest %T/O: Smith (9%), Iverson (8%), Santo (8%)
  • Iverson is the clear star, but wow, is Pierce Hornung one of the more unique, underrated players in the country. The only Mizzou player I can think to compare him to would be Mike Sandbothe (1985-89)*: minimal presence within the flow of the offense (i.e. low Usage Rate), terrifying presence on the glass, extreme doer of The Little Things™. Hornung is actually three inches shorter than Sandboth and is a better rebounder, though. Like I said ... unique.

    * Yes, Hornung and Sandbothe share certain other characteristics, too. A) If you can find a better comparison from Mizzou's past, I'm all ears. B) At least I didn't call Hornung a Wes Welker Type.
  • Greg Smith: Also a ferocious rebounder, at least on offense.

    Offensive Rebound Rate
    Smith 26%
    Hornung 16%
    Iverson 13%

    Defensive Rebound Rate
    Iverson 25%
    Bejarano 20%
    Hornung 19%
    Smith 18%

    I guess Iverson is too busy taking shots to rebound too many of them on the offensive side of the ball, but these stats alone clue you in a bit as to how CSU's offense flows. Iverson draws a double team, shoots reasonably frequently (one every three minutes or so), and the man whose defender left him for double-team crashes the glass hard. And on the defensive end, it's a full-team rebounding effort with Green and Elkmeier waiting in the wings for the outlet pass.
  • If a 3-pointer is going up, the odds are good that it's coming from either Green, Elkmeier or Bejarano; the three attempted 75 percent of CSU's 3s this year. They combined to take about 11 per game (ahh, college basketball, where 'only' attempting a 3-pointer every 2-3 minutes is considered paltry) and made a decent 34 percent.

Keys to the Game

  1. Hit the Glass. Let's not think too hard about this one. When the rebounding numbers (for both teams) are this absurdly high, it has to be the key to the game even if it's obvious. Whoever wins the expected rebounding battle will have a very, very good chance of winning the game.

  2. Make the Shots They Give You. There's one sure way to win even if you aren't winning on the glass: Make shots. You don't have to rebound misses if you don't miss. If Mizzou's bipolar jump-shooters -- Phil Pressey, Laurence Bowers, Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross -- are knocking down the shots they are given (and they should get some decent looks), Mizzou could have too much offense for CSU. We know they can shoot lights out, and we know they don't always do so. In wins versus "real" teams, these four have shot 45% from the field. In losses, they've shot 38%. That might not seem like a huge difference, but these four have taken 61 percent of Missouri's shots this year. If they combine to take about 36 shots, the difference between 45% and 38% could be about five points. In what is projected as a dead-even game, five points could make all the difference.

  3. Flipadelphia. Honestly, the Iverson-Oriakhi matchup is going to draw a lot of attention, especially considering how well Oriakhi has played of late -- at least 10 points on 80+% shooting in five of his last six games. But this Missouri team is impacted most directly by the play of Phil Pressey. His play, of course, is dictated by others -- if Brown, Ross or Bowers are making jumpers, he sits back and dishes, but if the jumpers aren't falling, he shoulders more of the scoring load -- but his personality is this team's personality. And needless to say, his play in the final minutes of what will probably be a close game will be the most heavily parsed of any player on the court.

Prediction

Pomeroy says Mizzou 74, Colorado State 73. My gut says Mizzou shoots jumpers well enough to build a hair more space than that. We'll say Mizzou 78, Colorado State 71, but we're not saying that with much confidence.

This team has all the potential in the world. We know this. And its play this weekend will define, or redefine, everything that has happened in the last four months. The Tigers could overcome its (somewhat self-inflicted) adversity, beat CSU, throw a scare into Louisville (or do better than that), and redeem themselves quite a bit. Or, they could bow out to a good CSU squad and force us to deal with months of what-ifs from this frustrating season. If you say you know what's going to happen, you're lying.

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