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Study Hall: Western Illinois

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First things first: what a great tidbit from last night's live thread: last night's game was the first time in just under 60 years that Mizzou won a game without a single double-digit scorer.  Since Mizzou won this game, we can behold what is truly an amazingly odd box score.

The pessimist's view: this game looked an awful lot like Mizzou's narrow win over Oakland to start the star-crossed 2003-04 season (only, that night the problem was defense, not offense).

The optimist's view: this game looked an awful lot like Mizzou's narrow win over Central Missouri State to start the anything-but-star crossed 1993-94 season (of course, that season got a little worse before it got better).

The "perspective" view: this game will only mean something if last night's struggles continue.  If Mizzou ends up with a great record, then this game will be lumped in with Kansas State-Presbyterian -- an odd, confusing game that means almost nothing a few weeks later.

Mizzou 66, Western Illinois 61

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
1.65 1.53
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.98 0.91
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.18 1.07
2-PT FG% 47.2% 48.7%
3-PT FG% 30.0% 27.8%
FT% 51.9% 72.7%
True Shooting % 48.6% 49.3%
Mizzou WIU
Assists 12 10
Steals 7 5
Turnovers 11 16
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.73 0.94
Mizzou WIU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 14 12
Offensive Rebounds 12 10
Difference -2 -2

Outshot By a Team That Didn't Really Shoot Well

So ... typically at least one team ends up over 50% in True Shooting %.  Instead, Western Illinois rode a short hot streak by Matt Lander for all it was worth, but in the end, they still shot quite poorly as a team, especially from outside. But free throws count, too, in the TS% formulas ... and Mizzou struggled in this department, to say the least.

On the Bright Side...

...while Mizzou has been one of the streakiest-shooting teams in the country for a while now, and while Mizzou will almost certainly have more random games in which they shoot under 30% from 3-point range ... I'm willing to bet there aren't many games where Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Phil Pressey combine for 6-for-13 from the free throw line.  Laurence Bowers and Ricardo Ratliffe combining to go 1-for-5?  Yeah, I figure that'll happen a few times, unfortunately.  But even with their struggles, this game still wouldn't have come down to the wire as much had Mizzou's guards shot even 70% (say, 9-for-13) from the line.  But Pressey and Mike Dixon combined to miss four in a row in the final minute until Dixon finally found his rhythm again and put the game away.  This game was scarier than it needed to be, for any number of reasons, but some of those reasons probably won't be duplicated much.

The Nebraska Blueprint is still in effect.

Doc Sadler has found quite a bit of success against Mike Anderson's teams in recent years, and he has done so with a relatively simple formula: milk the hell out of the shot clock on offense, and pack your defense in to force Mizzou to shoot 3's and long 2's.  Sometimes, this strategy fails miserably -- again, Mizzou is a streak-shooting team, and sometimes that streak is a hot one.  But when the shots aren't falling, Mizzou can get sucked into a slog game.  That's what happened last night.  It's a bit alarming that WIU was able to stay close even with Mizzou shooting poorly (I'd have figured Mizzou would need at least two categories to go very wrong for the Leathernecks to stay close), and it suggests that this team's eventual Achilles Heel will be the same as last season's, but ... it's early.  If there is a reason to be alarmed by this, we'll find out in due time.  No sense in fretting too much after one game.

Mizzou Player Stats

AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Laurence Bowers 14.3 0.55 26 Min, 9 Pts (4-7 FG, 1-4 FT), 10 Reb (4 Off), 4 Blk, 2 Ast, 2 TO
Steve Moore 13.5 0.97 14 Min, 9 Pts (3-3 FG, 2-3 FT), 5 Reb, 2 Ast
Phil Pressey 8.4 0.38 22 Min, 9 Pts (2-6 FG, 3-6 FT), 4 Reb
Kim English 8.0 0.30 27 Min, 8 Pts (3-10 FG, 0-3 3PT, 2-5 FT), 6 Reb (3 Off), 3 Stl, 2 TO
Marcus Denmon 7.2 0.26 28 Min, 9 Pts (3-6 FG, 2-4 3PT, 1-2 FT), 3 Reb
Mike Dixon 4.7 0.25 19 Min, 5 Pts (1-4 FG, 0-3 3PT, 3-4 FT)
Ricky Kreklow 2.7 0.21 13 Min, 0 Pts (0-0 FG), 2 Reb, 2 Ast
Matt Pressey 2.1 0.19 11 Min, 4 Pts (1-5 FG, 0-2 3PT, 2-2 FT)
Justin Safford 1.6 0.09 18 Min, 7 Pts (3-9 FG), 3 Reb (2 Off), 2 TO
Ricardo Ratliffe 1.5 0.07 22 Min, 6 Pts (3-6 FG), 2 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 TO

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game.  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.

Your Trifecta: Bowers-Moore-P. Pressey.  Your winner: nobody.  Quite a few people got the first-place finisher right.  Second place?  Not so much.  It is difficult to think about where Mizzou might have been in this game if not for Moore's first-half run of downright great play.

Against a supposed cupcake in your first game of the season, you'd really prefer to see more than two players (and at least one damn guard) averaging at the 0.40/min range or higher.  I wouldn't figure that's too much to ask.  Alas, only Bowers and Steeeeeeeeeeeve managed the feat.  They combined for 7-for-9 shooting from the field ... and the rest of the team went 16-for-47 (34%).  Denmon and Ratliffe managed to each go 3-for-6, meaning the Presseys, English, Dixon and Safford combined for 10-for-35 (29%).  Against Western Illinois.

Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Laurence Bowers 21% 41% 2.7 50% 30% 13% 8%
Steve Moore 16% 78% 3.6 69% 18% 13% 0%
Phil Pressey 22% 32% 2.3 34% 35% 26% 6%
Kim English 27% 26% 2.4 27% 46% 17% 9%
Marcus Denmon 14% 41% 1.5 41% 42% 10% 7%
Mike Dixon 15% 37% 2.0 46% 31% 23% 0%
Ricky Kreklow 0% N/A 2.7 100% 0% 0% 0%
Matt Pressey 32% 28% 3.6 44% 37% 11% 8%
Justin Safford 31% 23% 1.8 0% 82% 0% 18%
Ricardo Ratliffe 19% 34% 2.0 40% 41% 5% 14%

Usage%: This "estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor" (via).  The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers.  The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team's offensive outcome.  As you would expect, someone like Kim English has a high Usage%, while Steve Moore has an extremely low one.

Floor%: Via Floor % answers the question, "when Player X uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?".  The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Touches/Possession: Using field goal attempts, free throw attempts, assists and turnovers, Touches attempt to estimate "the number of times a player touched the ball in an attacking position on the floor."  Take the estimated touches and divide it by the estimated number of possessions for which a player was on the court, and you get a rough idea of how many times a player touched the ball in a given possession.  For point guards, you'll see the number in the 3-4 range.  For shooting guards and wings, 2-3.  For Steve Moore, 1.30.  You get the idea.

Anyway, using the Touches figure, we can estimate the percentage of time a player "in an attacking position" passes, shoots, turns the ball over, or gets fouled.

  • The Usage% points to something that became very evident late last night.  With the game on the line and Mizzou needing some buckets ... the Tigers had no idea who they should turn to for scoring.  The only two players over 30% from a Usage% perspective: Matt Pressey and Justin Safford.  For the game as a whole, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as somebody is around to say "Give me the ball" in crunch time.  Until Kim English hit a jumper with 58 seconds left, nobody really did that.  Is this is a true issue, or is this just a case where everybody suddenly realized, "Oh hell, Zaire Taylor's no longer around to take the big shot ...", and in the future, they'll get it all figured out?
  • The Touches Per Possession stat also point to a bit of an issue with "You take the ball ... no, you take the ball..."  The only players to average over three touches per possession: Steve Moore and Matt Pressey.  That does not do good things for your offense.  With the offense stagnating, Phil Pressey became a little bit more of a shooting guard than a point guard (credit him, I guess, for at least taking some shots), and nobody assumed a specific role.
  • I did like how much Mizzou went to the line, even before the obvious "WIU is going to foul" situations.  That is encouraging ... unless Mizzou shoots 50% from the line all season, anyway.

Three Keys Revisited

From Wednesday's Preview.

Show Up

Well ... the team eventually showed up, I guess, but their jumpers and free throws never did.  This team was not sharp, and after the game Kim English suggested it had at least to do with them underestimating their opponent, not expecting WIU to give them what they gave.  Hey guys: DON'T DO THAT AGAIN.

Challenge Shots

There was a short stretch in the second half where it looked like Matt Lander was going to shoot Mizzou right out of the game.  He made three consecutive 3-pointers between the about the 8:00 and 6:00 marks, and suddenly it felt like Mizzou had been giving up open shots all game.  That wasn't the case.  Lander's streak aside, Mizzou's ability to challenge shots (Bowers: 4 blocks) helped them buy time until their own offense picked up steam.  Of course, the offense never really did pick up steam, but you know what I mean.

Get Them Moving

We've seen this happen before. Mizzou can't make shots and can't grab an inordinate amount of offense rebounds ... and therefore can't press.  The opponent successfully slows the game down far beneath Mizzou's comfort zone.  In the end, 68 possessions isn't the slowest we've seen, but this game was clearly played at WIU's pace, and as has been the case before, Mizzou's own inability to make jumpers played a huge role in that.


1-0.  Mizzou gave fans plenty of flashbacks to lesser moments in past seasons, but ... in the end, those past seasons have still been pretty good.  The Sadler Blueprint is still apparently going to work from time to time, but if Mizzou will just make their damn free throws and continue playing good defense, they'll still win their share of games against this strategy.  Time to move on to North Florida now.