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UConn: Know (Some More About) the Team Standing Between Mizzou and the Final Four...also, Links!

As we wait for the mid-afternoon tip-off, let's take a look at how UConn has done thus far in the NCAA Tournament.  Consider this the companion piece to this week's earlier UConn preview.

But first...some Saturday morning Mizzou-UConn links!

(And just so you know, this post got much longer than I intended.  Get comfortable.)

  • Everybody cross your fingers and pray: #1 UConn vs #3 Missouri Preview
  • Hartford Courant: UConn-Missouri: Who will set the pace?
  • The Trib: Underdog is here

    Calipari said Thursday that Missouri should take the same approach into today’s game against the even more heavily favored Huskies.

    “You have to go in with the mind-set they went in with today, which is, ‘We can beat these guys,’ ” Calipari said. “I think what they did to us today in the first half, every 50-50 ball they got, every rough play, hands-on bumps, they just made those plays. … You are going to have to go in against a tough Connecticut team and do the same.”

  • The Trib: Avoid the long arm of Thabeet
  • The Trib: Game a study in contrasts
  • The Missourian: Missouri players keep mood light at NCAA Tournament
  • The Missourian: Connecticut's Thabeet big obstacle for Missouri
  • KC Star: This is a magical moment for Missouri
  • KC Star (Posnanski): This Missouri team is hard to hate
    You probably know that Bill James, baseball writer extraordinaire, is an intense Kansas basketball fan. It is one of the obsessions of his life. He grew up in Kansas, went to school at Kansas, lives in Kansas, and he will refer to the Jayhawks as “we.” And as a Kansas fan, he takes very seriously all of his Jayhawk responsibilities.

    “I hate Missouri basketball with a bottomless passion,” he says.

    So, OK, Kansas fan hates Missouri? Great. News flash. What’s the point?

    Only this: “I love this Missouri team,” Bill James says.

  • The Maneater: Missouri ready to outrun UConn's Thabeet
  • PowerMizzou: Thabeet presents big challenge to Tigers
  • PowerMizzou: Lawrence is just one step away
  • AP preview
  • Post-Dispatch: Missouri sizes up UConn's big man in NCAA Tournament
  • Post-Dispatch (Burwell): Young Tigers go old school
  • Post-Dispatch (Burwell): A little luck, Denmon says
  • Post-Dispatch (Bernie): MU team carries hopes of so many old Tigers
  • Upon Further Review: Thoughts from a Mizzou afterglow

Oh yeah, and...

Okay, NOW to UConn/Purdue...stats after the jump...

UConn vs Purdue

UConn Purdue
Points Per Minute
1.80 1.50
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.04 0.86
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.29 0.91
2-PT FG% 45.8% 41.9%
3-PT FG% 37.5% 26.1%
FT% 63.3% 54.5%
True Shooting % 52.0% 42.3%
UConn Purdue
Assists 19 12
Steals 6 7
Turnovers 13 9
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.92 2.11
UConn Purdue
Expected Offensive Rebounds 13 16
Offensive Rebounds 14 9
Difference +1 -7
  • This game was basically played at UConn's favorite pace, and while the UConn offense was alright--52.0% true shooting, 1.92 BCI--it really wasn't much better than alright.
  • What made this game for the Huskies was complete and utter dominance on the boards.  If you've been paying attention to my "Expected Offensive Rebounds" number, you've seen that anything over about +3 or +4 is a pretty big rebound margin.  UConn was +8.  Somehow Mizzou needs to figure out how to stay within +3 or +4 to have a chance.  Good luck with that.
Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Hasheem Thabeet (7'3, 263, Jr.)
18.87 0.52 15 Pts (on 7 shots), 15 Reb (4 Off), 4 Blk, 4 TO
Craig Austrie (6'3, 176, Sr.)
17.97 0.56 17 Pts (on 6 shots), 2 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 TO
A.J. Price (6'2, 181, Sr.)
11.91 0.35 15 Pts, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO
Stanley Robinson (6'9, 210, Jr.)
11.01 0.30 10 Pts, 11 Reb, 2 Ast
Kemba Walker (6'1, 172, Fr.)
9.21 0.46 5 Pts, 3 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl
Jim Veronick (6'8, 200, Sr.)
0.79 0.79 1 minute
Jeff Adrien (6'7, 243, Sr.)
0.67 0.02 8 Pts (on 13 shots), 6 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 TO
Gavin Edwards (6'9, 234, Jr.)
-0.22 -0.02 2 Pts
Donnell Beverly (6'4, 190, So.)
-0.79 -0.39 2 minutes
Scottie Haralson (6'4, 215, Fr.)
-0.79 -0.79 1 minute

* 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.

  • Craig Austrie was insanely good against the Boilers.  If UConn wins this game, I have the feeling we'll remember Austrie's or AJ Price's performance as much as we remember Hasheem Thabeet's, even if Thabeet is getting all the headlines (seriously, how many of those links above were about Thabeet and only Thabeet?).
  • Offensively, Thabeet was about as good as he can be--he averaged over 2 points per FG attempt and grabbed 4 offensive rebounds.  Thabeet's major big-man counterpart, Jeff Adrien, was highly ineffective against the Boilers, but he's still been quite good overall in the tourney.  One thing to notice, however, is that Thabeet and Adrien combined for 7 turnovers.  I like that number.  I like 8 or 9 even more.

UConn vs the NCAA Tournament

UConn Opp
Points Per Minute
2.23 1.44
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.24 0.80
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.45 0.89
2-PT FG% 57.0% 40.2%
3-PT FG% 33.3% 22.2%
FT% 65.6% 65.8%
True Shooting % 59.0% 40.9%
UConn Opp
Assists/Gm 22.3 13.3
Steals/Gm 7.0 5.0
Turnovers/Gm 10.7 11.7
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.75 1.57
UConn Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds/Gm 12.3 15.7
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 14.3 10.0
Difference +2.0 -5.7
  • Clearly these numbers are somewhat skewed by the first round game against Chattanooga, but you can still see what UConn's modus operandi is: ball control and rebounding.  If Mizzou's jumper is cold, they're probably screwed.
Player AdjGS/Gm GmSc/Min Line
A.J. Price 15.89 0.51 20.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 3.0 TOPG
Hasheem Thabeet 15.27 0.60 13.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG (3.0 Off), 2.7 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 2.3 TOPG
Stanley Robinson 13.91 0.41 15.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG (2.7 Off), 1.0 APG
Jeff Adrien 11.06 0.36 14.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG (3.7 Off), 2.3 APG, 1.0 BPG, 2.7 TOPG
Craig Austrie 10.16 0.35 7.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.7 SPG
Kemba Walker 9.98 0.44 7.7 PPG, 2.7 PPG, 4.7 APG, 1.3 SPG
Gavin Edwards 6.33 0.40 5.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG (1.7 Off), 1.0 APG
Donnell Beverly 3.76 0.94 3.0 PPG, 1.7 APG
Jim Veronick 1.18 1.18 3 minutes
Scottie Haralson 0.31 0.10 9 minutes
John Lindner -0.05 -0.03 3 minutes
Jonathan Mandeldove -0.21 -0.10 4 minutes
Johnnie Bird -0.21 -0.14 3 minutes
  • With Beverly only playing a few minutes a game, UConn's been playing with a 7.5-man rotation in the tournament.  If the game is played at UConn's pace, and there are a lot of whistles, Missouri will be facing a majorly up-and-down battle.  But I have the feeling they'll be sprinting the ball down court after every UConn basket (and miss) and trying to beat UConn's bigs to the basket and wear UConn's guards out.  It's not a guaranteed success, clearly, but if they can do that a few times, and if there aren't a ton of stoppages, UConn will be clutching their shorts just like Memphis was.
  • Austrie, Thabeet and Price have been combining for eight turnovers a game in the tourney.  Make that 10-12, and Mizzou is in serious business.

Keys to the Game

  1. Pace.  Consider the number of possessions the same way you consider the speed limit--70 could be a major benchmark.  If Mizzou sucks UConn into speeding, Mizzou is in control--over 70 is a Mizzou advantage, way over 70 a major Mizzou advantage.  Under 70, and UConn is probably going to win.  Missouri is capable of winning slower games--their three Big 12 Tourney wins only averaged in the mid-60s.  But with UConn's halfcourt prowess, the speed and transition game will be huge, not only because UConn is a thin team, but because UConn is a BIG team that has a length and size advantage in the halfcourt.

  2. DeMarre & Leo's Points Per Shot.  A high points-per-shot figure means one of two things: 1) either you're shooting a very high % from the field, or 2) you're drawing fouls and making free throws.  DeMarre and Leo (and the team as a whole, clearly) will have to either shoot very efficiently or draw some fouls for Mizzou to score enough points today.  That 17-foot jumper has to be going through the net.  If it's not--if either or both of them start out pretty cold (because you know they'll both take a couple mid- to long-range jumpers pretty quickly--they always do), and if Mizzou isn't drawing fouls off of Thabeet and/or Adrien, then Mizzou might find themselves in trouble because, well, they will get outrebounded in this game.

  3. The last five minutes of the first half.  The rules for Missouri games have somewhat changed in the NCAA Tourney--until a week ago, the goal for Missouri was not to find themselves down big at half, then watch the opponent melt down in the second half.  Now, it's been "kill 'em in the first half, hold on for dear life in the second."  Whichever of the two trends emerges against UConn, the last five minutes of the first half (or, roughly speaking, Round 5 of the 10-round fight) will determine the way the second half unfolds. 

    In Mizzou losses, opponents have sprinted to the finish and turned an 8-12 point Mizzou deficit into a 15-19 point deficit.  In the NCAA Tourney, it's been the exact opposite.  If Mizzou's bench comes ready to play, they can take advantage of a UConn lineup that's breathing pretty heavily, so I guess you could say that a big first-half performance from Kim English, or Marcus Denmon, or Justin Safford, or Laurence Bowers, or more than one, could make the game for Mizzou.


As I've mentioned before, I tend to try to project a pace and a Points Per Possession figure for each team, then figure out what that score projects.  (Possessions x Points Per Possession = Points.)  I'm at a complete loss to project Mizzou's points per possession in this one.  It's been so high all year, and it was through the roof against a very good Memphis team.  But as high as Mizzou's PPP has been, UConn's opponents' PPP has been equally low.  I'll more or less split the difference and say that Mizzou will end up around the 1.05 PPP mark.  They really could end up anywhere between about 0.95 and 1.15. 

Meanwhile, I think UConn has a bit more margin for error (just like I said Memphis did).  They'll most likely fall between about 1.03 and 1.13).  So we'll say 1.08 for UConn.  At a pace of 72 possessions, that's UConn 78, Mizzou 76, a prediction quite similar to mine for the Memphis game.  And the Memphis game worked out just fine, wouldn't you say?  So 78-76 UConn it is.

Like most Mizzou games, a comfortable margin of victory is likely no matter who wins--Mizzou pressing the pace means larger momentum swings both ways, and when you think about it, Mizzou just hasn't played that many truly close games this year (Marquette, KU, @Texas, @OSU, @Nebraska, Xavier...and that's about it?).  They've come through big-time in the clutch, and I like their chances here, but if they play 10 times, UConn probably wins 6-7, and I'm playing the odds here.  Prove me wrong, boys.

(Oh yeah, and be sure to confess your sins.)