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Study Hall: Braggin' Rights

Last year, Mizzou got rocked by Illinois and made the Elite Eight.  Now that they've whooped Illinois, that means surefire Final Four, right?  That's how the transitive property works, right?

Mizzou 81, Illinois 68

Points Per Minute
2.03 1.70
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.08 0.91
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.19 1.00
2-PT FG% 41.9% 44.0%
3-PT FG% 40.0% 27.8%
FT% 88.2% 64.3%
True Shooting % 53.7% 45.8%
Mizzou UI
Assists 19 13
Steals 10 9
Turnovers 14 22
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.07 1.00
Mizzou UI
Expected Offensive Rebounds 14 15
Offensive Rebounds 14 20
Difference 0 +5

They played our game.

For the first time all season against a "real" team, Mizzou inflicted their game on their opponent, to the tune of a 75-possession pace.  Oral Roberts, Old Dominion and Richmond were all able to mostly avoid Mizzou's sped-up tendencies, but Illinois was not.  Was it the youth of Illinois' backcourt?  Improvement by Mizzou?  Both, probably?

Rebounds weren't, uhh, terrible.

So we should probably come to grips with the fact that a) Mizzou isn't too bad an offensive rebounding team, and b) Mizzou is a pretty bad defensive rebounding team.  I was encouraged by the fact that most of Illinois' success on the offensive glass came in spurts -- they were good for the most part, but there were a couple of possessions where Illinois got 3-4 boards (or more) in one possession, and that ended up making the difference in the rebounding margin.  It was a step forward, but that doesn't change the fact that we're aiming for average here, not great.  Of course, this isn't news.


If Mizzou lost yesterday, the main culprit would have been interior shooting.  With a shot-altering presence like Mike Tisdale in the middle, a bit of struggle was to be expected, but there were at least 3-4 point-blank misses that could have been costly.  From Marcus Denmon to Laurence Bowers to Keith Ramsey, just about everybody was guilty of at least one awful miss.

Free Throws: What was that?

Since I just complained about the interior shooting, I should probably point out that Mizzou went 15-for-17 from the free throw line.  15-for-17.  Mizzou.  They put the game on total lockdown down the stretch, and free throws were a primary reason why.  JT Tiller: 4-for-4.  Mike Dixon: 3-for-3.  Keith Freaking Ramsey: 4-for-4.

Unforced Turnovers.

Part of the idea behind my BCI measure is that it emphasizes the importance of steals over other turnovers.  Steals are much more likely to lead to easy points than a travel/carry or a pass out of bounds.  Well, last night it was the non-steals, the somewhat unforced turnovers, that made the difference.  Steals were pretty even, but Illinois had 12 unforced turnovers to Mizzou's 5.  Considering that's the number of overall turnovers Illinois was averaging coming into this game, I think it's pretty clear that Illinois fell victim to moving far too quickly, and Mizzou's style was the main reason for that.

Hello, expectations.

Not saying anybody is predicting 30 wins and an Elite Eight run or anything, but it's funny how one week has somewhat changed what Mizzou fans think about this season's outlook.  Richmond beats #18 Florida, Oral Roberts beats #12 New Mexico (how the hell were they #12???), and Mizzou beats Illinois, and suddenly we're dealing with the following facts: a) Mizzou is 8-3 with a quality win, b) unlike last year, Mizzou has not been run off the court yet this season -- all three losses were tight, c) all three losses have come to at least decent teams (ORU is still a stretch, but the loss at least doesn't look quite as bad as we thought), and d) Mizzou is improving.  Next opportunity for improvement: hosting a Georgia team that just beat Illinois.

Player stats after the jump.

Player Stats

Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Kim English 23.2 0.66 35 Min, 24 Pts (8-for-15 FG, 5-for-10 3PT), 6 Reb (2 Off), 2 Stl, 3 TO
Mike Dixon 18.8 0.67 28 Min, 16 Pts (6-for-13 FG, 1-for-4 3PT), 5 Ast, 3 Stl
J.T. Tiller 13.8 0.55 25 Min, 12 Pts (4-for-12 FG), 5 Reb (3 Off), 5 Ast
Justin Safford 7.2 0.23 31 Min, 7 Pts (3-for-7 FG), 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl
Keith Ramsey 6.1 0.22 28 Min, 6 Pts (1-for-3 FG), 9 Reb (2 Off), 4 TO
Miguel Paul 3.8 0.27 14 Min, 5 Pts (2-for-4 FG)
Laurence Bowers 2.1 0.14 15 Min, 5 Pts (2-for-8 FG), 6 Reb (3 Off)
Marcus Denmon 1.8 0.14 13 Min, 6 Pts (2-for-5 FG, 2-for-4 3PT), 2 Reb
Zaire Taylor 1.7 0.42 4 Min, 2 Ast
John Underwood 0.0 0.00 1 On-Court Victory Celebration
Steve Moore -0.9 -0.13 7 Min, 0 Pts (0-for-1 FG), no other evidence he was on the court

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It does the same thing my previous measure of choice did (it takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game), only the formula is more used and accepted.  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.

  • Welcome to the big-time, Mike Dixon.  You took a couple, umm, inadvisable shots, but you were also aggressive when everybody else was clamming up a bit, and ... well, let's just say that I'll ALWAYS take a line of 16 points, 5 assists and 3 steals from my point guard.  The Dixon-Denmon backcourt for 10-11 is just looking more and more exciting.  (And yes, I'm intentionally avoiding mentioning Phil Pressey.  We don't even need him to get excited about next season.  But we get him.  Awesome.)
  • It might have been Zaire Taylor and J.T. Tiller inspiring everybody in the locker room, but on the court this is very clearly Kim English's team.  When his shots aren't falling, that's a problem.  But when he's doing what he did last night -- playing great defense, grabbing boards, oh yeah and making five of ten 3-point attempts -- this team's ceiling starts to look mighty high.
  • The box score might not say so, and his two turnovers (almost had about three more) were a bit scary, but Justin Safford is starting to become a bigger and more confident part of this team.  The last couple of games, he's been what I hoped Laurence Bowers would be in terms of overall team impact.
  • Speaking of Bowers ... hasn't been the best week for Party Starter, but even in bad games he's filling up the box score.  His shot just wasn't on point yesterday, but he was great in the press, and he grabbed three more offensive rebounds.
  • I love what Keith Ramsey brings to the table -- sturdy defense, shot-blocking, good offensive rebounding, point man on the press, and apparently clutch free-throw shooting -- but holy moly do I still get scared when the ball's in his hands.
  • Like Safford, Miguel Paul's impact on the game wasn't that measurable in the box score, but I think most of us would agree that MP3 played as well last night as we've ever seen him.  Yesterday's game ranks #1 for me, followed by last season's K-State home game at #2.  With Zaire Taylor barely able to play, we needed a huge game from the Paul-Dixon combo.  Granted, Dixon was the bigger contributor, but this game could have still fallen apart has Paul not played so well.
  • This may seem harsh, but ... welcome to 2009-10, J.T. Tiller!  He's never going to be a great shooter, but he was a difference-maker last night.

Three Keys Revisited

From yesterday's preview.


Pace: 75 possessions.  WIN.  The impact of the pace was extremely obvious over the last six minutes, when Illinois looked to make a run and simply didn't have the legs.  The Illini cut the lead to six points with 6:28 left, and momentum was absolutely on their side.  And then Mizzou went on a 3-minute, 10-2 run that ended the game.  In that span, Illinois missed five of six shots (including a dunk) and got out-rebounded 4-2.  They officially had no legs left.

Laurence Bowers

Yeah, I missed on this one.  Bowers was a non-factor on offense and was only able to play 15 minutes because of foul trouble.  Party Starter is still my boy, but this wasn't his best week.

Justin Safford

Again, Safford's box score contribution wasn't huge, but he really is part of this team's offensive flow now, and he made a couple of longer jumpers that will open up the floor as the season goes on -- once he proves he's gotten his jumper back (it was missing early this season), that could change the way teams choose to defend Mizzou.

Mizzou vs Real Opponents (6 games)

I'll make a quick walkthrough here just to wrap things up.

Points Per Minute
1.86 1.69
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.07 0.97
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.22 1.19
2-PT FG% 44.3% 45.6%
3-PT FG% 38.8% 29.3%
FT% 74.6% 76.2%
True Shooting % 53.4% 51.1%
Mizzou Opp.
Assists/Gm 15.3 11.5
Steals/Gm 9.7 7.2
Turnovers/Gm 13.2 20.2
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.90 0.93
Mizzou Opp.
Expected Offensive Rebounds 80 76
Offensive Rebounds 74 90
Difference -6 +14

Rebounds and 2-point shooting are the main two weaknesses on this list ... which should be surprising to absolutely nobody.

Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Kim English 11.5 0.45 25.8 MPG, 15.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.8 TOPG
Zaire Taylor 10.4 0.39 26.7 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.8 RPG, 2.3 SPG
Laurence Bowers 9.7 0.51 19.2 MPG, 7.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG
J.T. Tiller 9.6 0.37 26.2 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 3.7 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.3 TOPG
Keith Ramsey 8.7 0.30 28.5 MPG, 4.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.8 TOPG
Marcus Denmon 8.0 0.45 17.7 MPG, 9.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 TOPG
Mike Dixon 7.2 0.43 16.7 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 2.2 APG, 1.2 RPG
Justin Safford 6.9 0.31 22.5 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG
Miguel Paul 0.7 0.07 9.6 MPG, 1.4 PPG, 1.6 APG
Steve Moore -0.4 -0.05 7.3 MPG, 0.0 PPG, 0.8 RPG
John Underwood 4 minutes
Tyler Stone 3 minutes
Jarrett Sutton 2 minutes

Poor Zaire, screwing up his per-game averages by playing only four minutes yesterday.  I'm sure it's keeping him up at night.  (Actually, the FLU probably kept him up last night, but that's another story.)


The last time had Mizzou beaten Illinois, Mike Dixon was a fourth-grader.  He didn't seem to play with any sort of stigma last night.  When the rest of the team started to tighten up a bit, Dixon played fearless, and he was the major reason (along with Kimmeh's shooting) that Mizzou was able to fend off what seemed like the inevitable Illinois comeback in the middle of the second half.  They held Illinois off long enough until the Illini's legs could give in late.  I love what The Predator brought to the table last night, but giving him the lion's share of the credit ruins the point of what really won the game for Mizzou last night -- depth and teamwork.  Everybody who played, contributed something at some point*, and even without Big Shot Taylor, they had more play-makers and better depth than Illinois, and they were able to force their style on Illinois for the first time under Mike Anderson.  It was wonderful to see, and I look now look forward to the aforementioned inevitable Final Four run, ahem.  Merry Christmas, Mizzou!

* I still have to talk about Steve Moore and the impact he is or isn't making at some point, but today's too full of cheer to discuss it just yet.