2014 National Invitation Tournament: Southern Miss at Missouri preview

Southern Miss has one of the strongest identities Mizzou has seen all year. The Golden Eagles are thick, tough and aggressive; they hit the glass hard, and they get in your face on defense. They also can't shoot very well and give you open shots if you can handle their pressure. They aren't tall, and they aren't short (six of their top nine are between 6'4 and 6'7), and they don't really play like anybody Missouri has faced in 2013-14.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles (28-6)


USM
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
64.7
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.12 0.97
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.38 1.29
2-PT FG% 52% 49%
3-PT FG% 35% 34%
FT% 68% 64%
True Shooting % 56.5% 53.6%




USM Opp.
Assists/Gm 13.9 13.2
Steals/Gm 8.2 5.8
Turnovers/Gm 13.5 15.9
Ball Control Index (BCI) (Assists + Steals) / TO 1.64 1.20




USM Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 9.8 9.7
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 12.6 9.6
Difference +2.8 -0.1

Ken Pomeroy Stats

USM Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

USM Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 75 154 USM
Effective FG% 127 98 MU
Turnover % 312 314 push
Off. Reb. % 10 127 USM big
FTA/FGA 11 111 USM big
MU Offense vs USM Defense Ranks

MU Offense USM Defense Advantage
Efficiency 29 72 MU
Effective FG% 96 184 MU
Turnover % 230 9 USM big
Off. Reb. % 59 86 MU
FTA/FGA 12 281 MU big

Where the Golden Eagles are weakest

Again, they're not tall. Nobody on the team is taller than 6'7, and Southern Miss ranks 335th in Effective Height. That doesn't stop them from rebounding well (they have four guys at least 220 pounds), but it prevents them from blocking shots and gives you occasional good looks near the basket (if you have someone who can take advantage of that, anyway).

Beyond stature, the Eagles' biggest issues are that they can't shoot, they turn the ball over like crazy, and they foul a ton. This team gets pretty far with its toughness -- this strikes me as a poor man's version of those 2000-03 Kelvin Sampson teams at Oklahoma -- but is almost as much a football team as a basketball team.

Southern Miss ranks 193rd in FT% and 167th in 3PT% on offense; not only don't they make 3-pointers with regularity, they don't take many, either. Granted, Mizzou can turn anybody into Creighton when it comes to 3-point defense, but only three USM players average even two 3-point attempts per game. Meanwhile, the USM offense ranks 312th in TO% and 160th in Steal%. Between the 3-point offense and turnover issues, the Eagles aren't built to take advantage of either one of Mizzou's biggest defensive weaknesses. That doesn't mean they won't, but they aren't guaranteed to.

Defensively ... again, they foul. Constantly. They are 281st in FTA/FGA, and they have five players averaging at least 2.4 fouls per game. And if they don't force a turnover, they're giving up a pretty good shot -- they're 199th in 2PT% allowed (262nd in Block%) and 351st in 3PA/FGA. Maintain your poise, and you will score on Southern Miss.

(They're also 350th in Assists Per FG Made on defense, but ... well, Mizzou doesn't believe in assists, so that's not really an issue.)

Where they are best

Donnie Tyndall has raided the JUCOs to put this roster together; of the 13 players listed on the roster, seven came from a JUCO. That, of course, means there are all sorts of upperclassmen on the team: Southern Miss ranks 21st in Experience. They also go 10 deep and rank 89th in Bench Minutes, though that's at least partially due to necessity (i.e. foul trouble).

On offense, the things they do well, they do very well: They're 10th in offensive rebounding and 11th in FTA/FGA (drawing fouls). They're also 44th in Assists Per FG Made, which paints the picture of a team that grabs offensive rebounds and quickly finds an open shooter.

Defensively, USM doesn't press, necessarily, but the Eagles pressure -- they're ninth in TO% and 18th in Steal%. And while they foul a ton, they foul bad free throw shooters (i.e. bigs): they're 1st in opponents' FT%.

Southern Miss' Season to Date

Postseason results in bold.

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 38 Louisiana Tech (80-71)
    at No. 53 North Dakota State (70-69)
    No. 62 Georgia State (75-65, OT)
    No. 99 UTEP (77-68)
    at No. 99 UTEP (64-56)
    at No. 105 Rhode Island (77-64)
    No. 110 Toledo (66-59)
    No. 134 Drexel (66-49)
    No. 179 Charlotte (81-64)
    at No. 180 Old Dominion (75-60)
    No. 182 Morehead State (74-60)
    at No. 188 DePaul (75-68)
    No. 224 FIU (78-66)
    vs. No. 226 UALR (74-60)
    at No. 230 North Texas (74-64)
    at No. 245 East Carolina (60-46)
    at No. 246 FAU (60-49)
    No. 253 Marshall (60-57)
    at No. 265 South Alabama (66-59)
    No. 283 Tulane (78-47)
    at No. 283 Tulane (68-51)
    vs. No. 291 Coppin State (88-74)
    No. 307 Jackson State (67-51)
    No. 312 UTSA (85-56)
    No. 316 Rice (84-62)
    vs. No. 342 Houston Baptist (67-62)
  • Losses
    at No. 2 Louisville (38-69)
    vs. No. 38 Louisiana Tech (70-88)
    at No. 68 Tulsa (71-75)
    at No. 81 Middle Tennessee (64-81)
    at No. 155 UAB (60-84)
    at No. 184 Western Kentucky (65-68)

Southern Miss vs. Top 100 (5-4): Opponent 71, Southern Miss 68 (minus-3)
Southern Miss vs. No. 101-200 (7-2): Southern Miss 71, Opponent 64 (plus-7)
Southern Miss vs. No. 201-300 (10-0): Southern Miss 71, Opponent 57 (plus-14)
Southern Miss vs. No. 301+ (4-0): Southern Miss 76, Opponent 58 (plus-18)

The Golden Eagles' offensive output doesn't change much -- they're getting their 68-71 points no matter what. But lesser teams haven't been able to withstand the pressure and bullying on defense.

Southern Miss' identity is incredibly strong; when things work for the Golden Eagles, things work all game. When things go wrong, they go wrong all game. The result: only four of Southern Miss' wins and two losses have been decided by fewer than seven points. One way or another, games don't tend to end up close ... which means Southern Miss is the anti-Mizzou.

Southern Miss Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Michael Craig (6'5, 230, Sr.) 12.9 0.53 24.3 MPG, 11.2 PPG (60% 2PT, 63% FT), 7.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.3 TOPG, 2.9 PFPG
Neil Watson (5'11, 170, Sr.) 10.9 0.35 31.3 MPG, 10.4 PPG (40% 2PT, 37% 3PT, 92% FT), 3.9 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.9 TOPG, 2.5 PFPG
Daveon Boardingham (6'7, 225, Sr.) 10.5 0.47 22.1 MPG, 10.5 PPG (58% 2PT, 67% FT), 4.7 RPG, 1.7 TOPG, 3.0 PFPG
Aaron Brown (6'5, 210, Jr.) 9.3 0.34 26.9 MPG, 9.8 PPG (48% 2PT, 38% 3PT, 73% FT), 4.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.5 TOPG, 2.4 PFPG
Jerrold Brooks (6'0, 205, Sr.) 7.4 0.27 27.8 MPG, 9.7 PPG (40% 2PT, 33% 3PT, 76% FT), 2.6 APG, 1.9 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.8 TOPG
Matt Bingaya (6'5, 200, RSFr.) 6.3 0.46 13.8 MPG, 5.8 PPG (53% 2PT, 17% 3PT, 63% FT), 3.6 RPG
Jeremiah Eason (6'7, 230, Jr.) 5.1 0.25 20.1 MPG, 5.7 PPG (49% 2PT, 55% FT), 4.2 RPG, 3.0 PFPG
Chip Armelin (6'4, 198, Jr.) 4.5 0.33 13.8 MPG, 4.9 PPG (65% 2PT, 31% 3PT, 50% FT), 2.0 RPG
Deonte Houston (6'0, 180, Jr.) 3.6 0.20 18.0 MPG, 3.9 PPG (38% 2PT, 28% 3PT, 64% FT), 1.8 APG, 1.3 RPG
Norville Carey (6'7, 220, So.) 2.1 0.32 6.5 MPG, 2.1 PPG, 1.5 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%: Craig (24%), Boardingham (23%), Bingaya (22%)
  • Highest Floor%: Craig (45%), Boardingham (43%), Bingaya (42%)
  • Highest %Pass: Watson (66%), Houston (64%), Brooks (56%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Armelin (51%), Bingaya (44%), Boardingham (40%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Boardingham (24%), Eason (20%), Carey (20%)
  • Highest %T/O: Eason (12%), Boardingham (11%), Carey (10%)
  • Highest OR%: Eason (13%), Craig (12%), Boardingham (12%)
  • Highest DR%: Craig (26%), Boardingham (14%), Brown (13%)

  • Five players between 9.7 and 11.2 points per game, and four more between 3.9 and 5.8. Balance is bad when you are scuffling and need someone to carry the offense for a while, but for this type of team, where the offense doesn't really start until the first shot has gone up, balance contributes to the overall identity.

  • Michael Craig is a bull. I don't know how Mizzou should best go about defending him. He's got 15 pounds on Earnest Ross and about 30 pounds on Johnathan Williams III, and at 6'5, he's one of the nation's best rebounders -- he's 125th in offensive rebounding rate and 19th in defensive rebounding.

Keys to the Game

  1. The glass. Southern Miss rebounds nearly 40 percent of its missed shots. The Eagles can't score if they aren't grabbing second-chance opportunities, and while Mizzou probably isn't going to win the rebounding battle, keeping things within 2-3 in terms of expected rebounds will be key.

  2. BCI! BCI! The Eagles can't get stops if they aren't forcing turnovers. They force nearly 16 per game despite a slow pace. But hey, that plays right into Mizzou's hands! (Mizzou is undefeated when committing a lot of turnovers, so...)

  3. The free throw line. I'm already regretting not putting "The 3-pointer" on this list, but this has been and will continue to be the key to the Missouri offense. The Tigers are going to turn the ball over, and Southern Miss is probably going to be pretty successful in junking the game up a bit. But as long as Missouri is getting to the line to counteract the damage of turnovers, that's probably alright. Southern Miss' defense hasn't been nearly as effective against good offenses (they're obviously not alone in that regard), but Mizzou hasn't always responded well to physical defense.

Prediction

Pomeroy projects a 72-69 Mizzou win, based almost solely on home-court advantage. Only ... there's not going to be much of a home-court advantage with Mizzou students on Spring Break and fan enthusiasm lacking. So this game's basically a tossup.

Honestly, this feels like exactly the type of team that could take Missouri down. The Eagles have the identity that Mizzou has lacked at times, and if they're allowed to rebound well and get some easy buckets off of live-ball turnovers, I see them handling the Tigers. It's not like this game is out of reach for Mizzou, obviously -- the Tigers should be able to get to the line at will and find open looks from 3-point range, those looks haven't fallen for quite a while. I'm going to say something like Southern Miss 73, Mizzou 66 and ask the Tigers to prove me wrong.

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