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Mizzou-Cornell: Know Your First Round Opponent

It's time for Mizzou's first trip back to Boise since Tyus Edney UCLAPGWMNBM.  We're going to preview this, and preview this, and preview this, baby.  Let's get started with the stats.

Cornell: 21-9

Cornell Opp
Points Per Minute
1.84 1.59
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.11 0.96
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.33 1.15
2-PT FG% 50.9% 45.8%
3-PT FG% 41.5% 30.7%
FT% 73.4% 69.4%
True Shooting % 58.3% 50.2%
Cornell Opp
Assists/Gm 15.7 11.4
Steals/Gm 6.7 6.1
Turnovers/Gm 13.0 13.7
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.73 1.28
Cornell Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds/Gm 11.1 12.6
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 10.1 10.8
Difference +1.0 +1.8
  • Where Cornell's good: 3-point shooting, offensive rebounds, 3-point shooting, passing, 3-point shooting
  • Where Cornell's not as good: defensive rebounds, steals, ball control (i.e. turnovers)
  • If you're going to create a blueprint for beating Mizzou, there would be three parts: 1) have crazy, fearless guards, 2) have a couple big guys who can push Leo and DeMarre around, and 3) attack them early and go into halftime with a lead.  Clearly you can't scout (3), but you can (1) and (2).  This initial look shows that Cornell has a couple things going for them: they shoot a ton of 3's and shoot them well (always good for an upset bid), and they've got a little bit of size.  Maybe not enough, but some.
  • This isn't surprising for an Ivy team, but Cornell doesn't play at a particularly fast pace.  Big Red games usually end up in the neighborhood of 66-67 possessions or so for each team--on average, Mizzou's go about 71-72.  Mizzou will attempt to speed Cornell up, as they've done to many teams this season, but they proved at the Big 12 Tournament (66-67 per game) that they can win at a slower pace too.
Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Ryan Wittman (6'6, 215, Jr.) 16.21 0.46 19.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.8 APG
Jeff Foote (7'0, 245, Sr.) 13.67 0.46 12.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2.2 BPG
Louis Dale (5'11, 180, Jr.) 13.18 0.50 13.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.6 APG
Alex Tyler (6'7, 235, Jr.) 7.30 0.33 6.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 BPG
Geoff Reeves (6'4, 180, Jr.) 7.09 0.27 9.1 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.4 APG
Chris Wroblewski (6'0, 180, Fr.) 6.21 0.25 6.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.6 APG
Adam Wire (6'5, 222, So.) 4.70 0.30 3.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG
Brian Kreefer (6'7, 230, Sr.) 3.92 0.31 3.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG
Alex Hill (6'5, 190, Fr.) 2.47 0.59 46 minutes
Adam Gore (6'0, 180, Sr.) 2.40 0.29 2.6 PPG
Conor Mullen (6'5, 208, Sr.) 2.07 0.52 44 minutes
Jason Battle (6'5, 200, Sr.) 1.16 0.15 1.2 PPG
Pete Reynolds (6'8, 225, Jr.) 1.07


1.0 PPG
Aaron Osgood (6'9, 230, So.) 0.82 0.22 15 minutes
Jon Jacques (6'7, 220, Jr.) 0.63 0.18 42 minutes
Andre Wilkins (6'5, 198, Jr.) 0.28 0.07 0.9 PPG
Marc Van Burck (6'11, 255, Jr.) 0.19 0.07 17 minutes

* 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.

  • Ryan Wittman is EXACTLY the type of player a 14-seed needs if they're going to pull an upset.  He takes 7.4 3-pointers a game and makes them at a 42% clip.  It doesn't stop there, though: Geoff Reeves takes 4 per game, Louis Dale and Chris Wroblewski 2-3 each.  They are going to bomb away.  Granted, they've never met JT Tiller and Zaire Taylor before, but they have gotten a taste of strong competition (Syracuse, Minnesota, Siena--all losses), and they'll at least start with confidence.
  • Speaking of other opponents, their tightest loss to a good team was to Syracuse (an 88-78 loss).  How did that game unfold?  Glad you asked.

    'Cuse was in the midst of a series of slow starts to games, and the Big Red took advantage, taking an early 40-30 lead in the first half (get a lead at halftime!) and holding on well into the second half.  They led 53-50 with 12:45 left before The Orange finally took over.  Wittman scored 33 points in the game (9-for-19 from long-range...I'm telling you, he's going to shoot and shoot and shoot), while Jeff Foote and Alex Tyler had 7 boards each.

    In the end, 'Cuse shot 56% from the field (though only 5-for-17 from 3) but gave up a TON of offensive rebounds (16), allowing the colder-shooting (43.5%) Big Red to stick around for quite a while.

    Oh yeah, and Cornell had 19 turnovers.  Just sayin'.
  • Foote is an interesting player--his stat line gives you the impression of a poor man's Cole Aldrich.  He's big, and he rebounds pretty well (0.25 rebounds per minute), and his foul rate isn't too bad (0.09 per minute--for perspective, Leo Lyons averages 0.11).  He shoots 53% from the field (64% from the line) and grabs a handful of offensive rebounds and putbacks each game.  He's got the size that could limit Leo or DeMarre to outside shots.  The main problem for Cornell is that the NEXT-biggest guy in the rotation is 6'7 Brian Kreefer, who only averages about 13 minutes a game.  The problem is, there's not another huge guy to guard whoever Foote isn't guarding--the rotation includes only 6'7 Alex Tyler and (sometimes) 6'7 Brian Kreefer as other members of the frontcourt.
  • Oh yeah, and holy CRAP does Cornell dress a lot of players.  For the most part, they have basically an 8-man rotation which can be extended to 10.  Looking at their per-minute AdjGS rates, however, they'll go as far as their top six guys (who all average at least 22 minutes) will take them.

Keys to the Game

  1. The 3-pointer.  This goes both ways.  First, Cornell is unafraid to bomb away from long-range.  Against Syracuse, the 3-pointer kept them in the game (they made 13 of 29), and against Minnesota it killed them (6 of 28).  Mizzou's perimeter defense is quite strong, and I don't expect them to do a lot of doubling on interior guys like Foote--just stick to the perimeter guys and make them either drive inside the 3-point line or take a contested 3, like they did relatively successfully against Oklahoma State and Bayor this past weekend.

    On Mizzou's end of the court, Cornell could likely have scoped out an opportunity this past weekend in the success of Oklahoma State's zone defense.  Mizzou could not buy a 3-pointer against the 'Pokes, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Cornell camping out in the same zone and making Mizzou bomb from outside.  Of course, Baylor tried the same thing and paid dearly, but it might still be the most attractive option for a team with only one big guy.

  2. The offensive glass.  In CU's three games versus NCAA tourney teams, Cornell grabbed 43 offensive rebounds.  Between Foote and active bench players like Adam Wire, Brian Kreefer and Alex Tyler, they attack the glass after misses in pretty successful fashion--they're strong at offensive boards while still getting Wittman, Reeves and Wroblewski back in transition.  If CU is limited to one shot per possession, they really don't have a chance to win unless they're making about 60% of their 3's.  But if they're getting multiple opportunities, they can build momentum.

    Of course...

  3. Turnovers.  Of course.  ...if they're not getting any shots per possession, that would be even more beneficial for Mizzou.  Cornell averaged a relatively respectable 16 turnovers per game and a respectable 1.44 BCI against tourney teams.  Meanwhile, they forced 17.3 turnovers per game of their own.  If they can keep the turnover numbers somewhat even and grab some second-chance opportunities, look out.


Clearly 3's rarely lose to 14's, so I'm not feeling like too much of a homer in picking Mizzou here.  Cornell simply has not faced a full game of pressure like they will face in Boise, no matter how much they can think they have in practice, and Mizzou can out-athlete them by the middle of the second half.

That said, Cornell is built relatively well for an upset.  They've got the fearless shooters, and they've got the rebounding presence.  As we've covered here multiple times, you must get up on Mizzou early (1-5 when down double digits at half, 27-1 when not), and Cornell has a chance to do that with 3-pointers, putbacks, and cold Mizzou shooting, but it's still not tremendously likely.  If Mizzou treats Cornell with respect and plays hard for 40 minutes, they'll eventually wear down the Big Red and pull a patented second-half run.  We'll say Mizzou 78, Cornell 58.