There are times when recruiting junior college players seems like going for the quick fix. You have a hole in your program that you haven't properly addressed with four-year players, and you need to plug it. Some coaches manage to consistently find breakthrough talent at the JUCO level -- Bob Huggins at Cincy obviously comes to mind, not to mention Bill Snyder if we're veering into football -- but for the most part, it's not a very successful long-term strategy.
But when you're 1-2 pieces away, you have two high school All Americans (or at least near All-Americans), and you have a large foundation of four-year talent ready to break through as upperclassmen? That's the perfect time to bring in a JUCO or two to shore up previous weaknesses. Mizzou needed more of a scoring presence on the inside, and for depth purposes, they needed potentially one more combo guard who was strong on defense ... and this weekend, in Ricardo Ratliffe and Matt Pressey, they got both.
Today we're going to both update my ongoing Big 12 2010-11 projections and take a further look into Pressey's and Ratliffe's stats to figure out reasonable expectations for next season. (And to be sure, the updated projections are far from reasonable. They're downright over-exuberant.)
Minutes and Updated Projections
For debate purposes, below I'm including the projected minutes per game I used to determine the overall scoring. Players in bold averaged 20+ MPG in 2009-10, and this is my best stab at how minute distribution might look. Suddenly there is major competition for the post minutes, with Steve Moore now potentially drawing no more minutes than he did last season, but I guess that's a good problem to have, eh?
(For visitors, in this post is an explanation of what the heck "AdjGS" is and how it is used here.)
|Laurence Bowers (6'8, 205, Jr.)||0.54||0.52||24.9||13.9|
|Marcus Denmon (6'3, 185, Jr.)||0.45||0.46||26.6||11.9|
|Kim English (6'6, 200, Jr.)||0.41||0.43||25.5||11.6|
|Ricardo Ratliffe (6'8, 226, Jr.)||N/A||0.44||24.4||1.8|
|Mike Dixon (6'1, 175, So.)||0.40||0.38||21.4||9.0|
|Justin Safford (6'8, 230, Sr.)||0.37||0.36||16.8||7.2|
|Tony Mitchell (6'8, 220, Fr.)||N/A||0.35||16.9||6.9|
|Matt Pressey (6'2, 185, Jr.)||N/A||0.38||11.7||2.1|
|Phil Pressey (5'10, 160, Fr.)||N/A||0.28||11.8||5.6|
|Steve Moore (6'9, 264, Jr.)||0.13||0.25||10.6||3.4|
Previous Projected Difference: -0.7 the first time, -3.7 the second time.
As a whole, I tried to give the projected starters 20+ minutes, but the overall distribution was rather difficult considering Mizzou has 12 interesting pieces next year. I gave John Underwood 5.1 MPG and Ricky Kreklow 4.3. Let me know if something seems entirely incorrect about somebody's minutes.
Oh, and Mizzou now has eight players projected at 0.35 AdjGS/Min. or higher. Oklahoma has zero. Just thought I'd throw that in there.
As you remember from previous projections posts, I stayed extremely conservative with the per-minute projections, to the point where every team in the conference was projected to regress. No longer. While a dropoff in team defense is still likely, the offense and rebounding now look to improve to enough of a degree that Mizzou is projected to improve by 2.6 points. Yikes.
Adjustments and Predictions
Once again, adjustments need to be made so that the total difference +/- is 0.0. Here are the raw differences between last year and next year, along with adjusted differences. I have added a rather arbitrary team defense component, however -- based on my knowledge of who were the better defenders in the conference this past season, I have added or subtracted up to three points based on whether I think the team's defense will improve or regress next year. This tamps down the numbers for the top couple of teams by a bit, but the overall projected hierarchy doesn't change.
|Team||Raw Diff.||Def. Adj.||New Diff.
Before making the defensive adjustment, Mizzou's projection was 14-2, and ... well, the thought of that made me black out for a second, so we can't have that. Even at "only" +6.0, the upgrade is quite noticeable. Meanwhile, I deduct points from Kansas and Baylor for the loss of Cole Aldrich and the expected loss of Ekpe Udoh. If Udoh returns, then Baylor's projection looks MUCH different.
This defensive adjustment also does Kansas State a favor, as the likely return of all of their bigs, plus big, strong wing guys like Jamar Samuels, is just a frightening proposition.
|2010-11 Projected Standings
If you add up everybody's record, you'll see that it's actually 97-95 instead of 96-96 ... that's because OU was actually projected to win -1 games and lose 17. I don't say this often, but ... LOL. As I've mentioned before, when they actually grab a couple more commits and I don't have to give almost 20 MPG to a walk-on, they'll improve ... slightly.
As other teams (Kansas, Oklahoma, etc.) grab another commit or two, and as future plans for players like Udoh and Avery Bradley become official, we'll update these projections once again, but for now things are relatively set. The North is projected to go 18 games over .500, and KU, MU and KSU are projected to go 41-7 (and considering they'll go a total of 6-6 versus each other, that means they're projected to go 35-1 versus the rest of the conference). Wow. I think I just found your primary 2010-11 storyline.
Now let's look a little further into the stats of Mizzou's two most recent commits.
|Matt Pressey||2009-10||Navarro College|
*PPS = Points Per Shot
** OR% and DR% include my own estimates for minutes per game, since I couldn't find that data.
Obviously JUCO stats tend to be inflated a bit -- while almost every team on the schedule probably has some Division I talent, not all of it is at that level -- so we should probably apply a bit of a damper to some of Pressey's stats. Let's say that at the D1 level, he'll probably actually shoot only about 40% on 2-pointers and 30% on 3-pointers. Even with that damper, these are some relatively intriguing stats. For one thing, he gets to the line a lot for a guard. For another, his per-touch figures (and rebounding rates) are actually quite similar to Marcus Denmon's, except his %shoot figure is lower, his %fouled higher. In other words, he tends to play how we wish Denmon would sometimes play.
Also like Denmon, Pressey is not a great free throw shooter, but his value lies in the mid-range and physical game. He has a low 3PT/FGA for a guard -- last year, Denmon's 3PT/FGA was 0.61, Kim English 0.46, and Zaire Taylor 0.49. His 0.29 3PT/FGA is a direct cross between that of J.T. Tiller (0.18) and Mike Dixon (0.39).
What can be expected of Pressey in 2010-11? I'm thinking he'll draw between 8 and 15 MPG based on how good a defender he is. His 2.1 steals per game are reason for optimism, but we'll see. As I've said multiple times, there is floor time available for a good defender -- Dixon was behind the curve defensively as a freshman, and the losses of Taylor, Tiller and now Paul are all detrimental to the team's backcourt defense. If Pressey can just deliver solid FG% defense, nab a steal every now and then, make open shots, and maybe lower his shoulder Tiller-style and draw a foul occasionally, then he is exactly what this team needs coming off the bench. I don't see a starting role in his future, but he could be a perfect complement to the other guards' strengths and weaknesses.
Then there's the big fish.
||2009-10||Central Florida Community College|
It goes without saying that Ratliffe's JUCO stats were positively insane. He played big minutes, rarely missed near the hoop (67% on 2-pointers!!!!), drew constant fouls, shot decently from the free throw line, grabbed every board in the vicinity, and played decent defense (at least in terms of steals and blocks). But those are JUCO stats. There are plenty of solid big men in the Big 12 -- the Morris twins, maybe Udoh, Quincy Acy, Curtis Kelly, Wally Judge, David Loubeau, Jordan Hamilton, Matt Pilgrim, Marshall Moses, Jorge Brian Diaz, LaRon Dendy, etc. -- and there is no question that his overall percentages will go down. But ... how much? If he drops by 10% in both 2-pointers (down to 57%) and 3-pointers (down to 34%) and doesn't get fouled quite as much, he is STILL going to put up some extremely efficient offensive numbers.
Perhaps one of the more encouraging aspects to Ratliffe's game is the amount he passes. His %pass of 35.4% is barely lower than that of Laurence Bowers (39.8%) and Justin Safford (39.3%), he averaged more than two assists per game, and he had an extremely low %TO considering how much he had to have touched the ball to get to 27 PPG. You watch a lot of his 10-second YouTube clips, and you get the impression that his best skill is really just playing in control. He makes things look really easy, and as Mizzou fans, we should know just how hard putbacks and near-the-basket-in-traffic shots can be. If he shoots anywhere near the same efficient rates in the Big 12, makes smart passes, and blocks out, then ... well, to say he is exactly what Mizzou was missing in 2009-10 is an understatement.
Before we ratchet expectations up too high, let's take a look at how other 4-star (according to Rivals) JUCO PF's have done in recent years. Rivals does not give 4-star ratings to too many JUCOs, so the list isn't as large as you may think.
Attempting to limit the list to players who at least somewhat resembled Ratliffe's size (6'7 to 6'9, 210-240 pounds), I came up with only twelve 4-star players since 2002: Laron Dendy (Iowa State), Gary Flowers (Southern Miss), Jamal Nichols (DePaul), Carl Landry (Purdue), Taj Gray (Oklahoma), E.J. Drayton (Charlotte), Jeremiah Massey (Kansas State), Michael Bell (FAU), Yakhouba Diawara (Pepperdine), Jaime Lloreda (LSU), Rodney Tucker (Auburn), and Jamar Smith (Maryland).
Below are the first-year stats for the aforementioned 12 JUCOs:
|LaRon Dendy (2009-10)||Iowa State||16.3||7.3||60.0%||3.6||0.4||0.7||0.6||1.3|
|Gary Flowers (2009-10)||Southern Miss||31.3||15.0||46.5%||8.3||1.4||2.5||0.8||1.8|
|Jamal Nichols (2004-05)||DePaul||14.4||3.5||45.0%||3.3||0.2||1.0||0.6||0.8|
|Carl Landry (2004-05)||Purdue||30.3||18.2||61.8%||7.1||1.2||2.6||0.8||0.7|
|Taj Gray (2004-05)||Oklahoma||27.7||14.6||55.7%||8.2||1.5||2.4||1.2||1.8|
|E.J. Drayton (2004-05)||Charlotte||22.8||8.7||36.7%||4.6||1.2||1.4||0.5||0.2|
|Jeremiah Massey (2003-04)||Kansas State||27.8||14.7||49.7%||7.8||1.2||1.9||1.0||0.6|
|Mike Bell (2003-04)||Florida Atlantic||36.4||18.0||46.1%||9.7||1.3||2.7||1.1||2.1|
|Yakhouba Diawara (2003-04)||Pepperdine||34.0||18.9||50.9%||6.6||0.8||1.1||0.9||0.1|
|Jaime Lloreda (2002-03)||LSU||29.2||12.3||56.3%||9.0||1.1||2.3||0.9||2.0|
|Rodney Tucker (2002-03)||Auburn||6.8||1.8||44.7%||1.1||0.2||0.5||0.2||0.2|
|Jamar Smith (2002-03)||Maryland||14.0||5.9||48.1%||3.9||0.3||1.0||0.4||0.6|
Obviously we see some highs (Landry, Diawara) and lows (Tucker, Nichols), and looking at these stats in a straight-forward manner, without taking into account level of competition, is going to be pretty rough. But the overall average of 11 PPG and 6 RPG doesn't seem too far out of the realm of possibility. Whereas we'll have to see how Ratliffe's offense translates to the D1 level, I'd be willing to bet that his rebounding rates are on the high end of the scale, and depending on how many minutes he gets, 7-8 RPG isn't out of the question. (And if he's an absolute rock star and gets closer to 30 MPG, then it could go up to the 9-11 RPG range, but we're not thinking about rock star terms right now -- conservative is the name of the game.)
Obviously the ceiling of such a high-profile JUCO PF is pretty high, but if I were to offer you 10 PPG and 7 RPG from Ratliffe right now (in other words, roughly the production that Mizzou's last high-profile JUCO target averaged this year), would you take it? Of course you would. With a deeper bench and typical sophomore-to-junior improvement from Mizzou's big three (Bowers-English-Denmon), then having a newcomer deliver 10 & 7 would be just a staggering addition.
On paper (and in Excel), there is every reason for Mizzou fans to be giddy over the prospects of this team in 2010-11. To be sure, Mizzou has addressed its needs as well as a team possibly can in one recruiting class -- they needed a big man with more scoring potential, and they got one (Ratliffe). They needed a point guard of the future, and they got one (P. Pressey). They needed guard depth and versatility, and they got it (M. Pressey). They needed another 3-point shooter, and they got it (Kreklow). Oh yeah ... and they got a 5-star SF/PF (Tony Mitchell), upon whom there is now little to no pressure, to boot. Now the pieces just have to fit together. The chemistry needs to be there, and everybody needs to continue to play the complementary style with which Mike Anderson teams have been so successful in the last two seasons. Success is far from guaranteed, but ... what a recruiting class, and what a ceiling this team now has. If we weren't such football fanatics at RMN, the next 6.5 months of waiting between now and the Black & Gold game would be interminable.