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Study Hall: Nebraska

Your Trifecta: Denmon-Ratliffe-Bowers.  Your winner: somehow, nobody.  We had this one surrounded, with a couple picking the correct three, but in the wrong order ... we had quite a few picking Denmon-Ratliffe but missing Bowers ... unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and BigMOman's overall Trifecta standings.

Mizzou 77, Nebraska 69

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
2.07 1.73
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.10 0.99
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.31 1.17
2-PT FG% 46.3% 45.2%
3-PT FG% 33.3% 35.3%
FT% 70.0% 81.3%
True Shooting % 53.3% 52.2%
Mizzou NU
Assists 14 12
Steals 10 5
Turnovers 9 15
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.67 1.13
Mizzou NU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 14 13
Offensive Rebounds 11 10
Difference -3 -3

If You'd Have Told Me...

...that Marcus Denmon was going to score 28...
...that Mizzou battled Nebraska to a draw on the glass...
...that Mizzou sucked Nebraska into playing a 70-possession pace...
...that Mizzou more than doubled Nebraska up in BCI...
...that Mizzou forced 15 turnovers, 10 of which were steals...
...that Mizzou outshot Nebraska in terms of True Shooting %...

...I'd have assumed Mizzou won by 22.  They did not.  I'm not really sure what to think about that.  It felt like Mizzou was dominating this game, even as Nebraska was cutting the lead to six.  Mizzou's defense wasn't terrible (better than they were against Colorado, anyway), and they averaged 1.10 points per possession against an excellent defense.  But there they were, needing free throws to put the game away.  Odd.

In the end, Mizzou most certainly earned the win, but 3-point shooting by players not named Marcus Denmon (1-for-11) was egregious, and Nebraska seemingly took advantage of every single breakdown Mizzou's defense suffered (aside from when big Andre Almeida missed a couple of chippies, anyway).  I've always admired Doc Sadler's coaching abilities (thank goodness he's not an amazing recruiter ... then again, if he were, he'd have been snatched away from Nebraska by now), and Nebraska needed every ounce of strategy and discipline that they could find to keep this close.  But they did keep it close, and that either says good things about Nebraska or bad things about Missouri.

(Then again, Colorado won at Kansas State last night and Iowa State nearly tripped up Kansas despite a super-human performance from Marcus Morris.  I think we might just need to get used to close games, eh?)

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Marcus Denmon 26.2 0.79 33 Min, 27 Pts (8-14 FG, 5-7 3PT, 6-8 FT), 4 Reb
Ricardo Ratliffe 16.0 0.62 26 Min, 12 Pts (5-9 FG, 2-4 FT), 7 Reb (4 Off), 4 Blk, 2 Ast
Laurence Bowers 10.6 0.44 24 Min, 12 Pts (5-9 FG, 2-4 FT), 7 Reb, 2 Blk
Mike Dixon 7.3 0.30 24 Min, 8 Pts (3-9 FG, 0-2 3PT, 2-2 FT), 4 Ast, 3 Reb, 2 Stl, 2 TO
Kim English 4.7 0.18 26 Min, 9 Pts (1-5 FG, 1-4 3PT, 6-6 FT), 3 Reb, 2 TO
Justin Safford 3.9 0.19 20 Min, 4 Pts (2-5 FG), 4 Reb, 2 Ast
Phil Pressey 3.4 0.16 21 Min, 2 Pts (0-3 FG, 2-2 FT), 4 Ast, 2 Stl
Ricky Kreklow 2.1 0.27 8 Min, 0 Pts (0-2 FG), 4 Stl, 2 Ast
Steve Moore 0.5 0.04 11 Min, 1 Pt (1-2 FT), 3 Reb
Matt Pressey 0.4 0.05 7 Min, 2 Pts (1-3 FG, 0-2 FT)
  • I've said many times that guys who score a lot tend to be punished by the AdjGS concept because either a) they take a ton of shots to score a lot, or b) they don't really contribute anything else to the box score.  Marcus Denmon really didn't contribute a ton outside of points -- 4 rebounds, a steal and no turnovers or assists -- but he continues to be one of the most efficient scorers I've ever seen.  As we've mentioned before, he's so unusually efficient, he scores so much without dominating the ball, that Ken Pomeroy's stats are completely confused by him.  Because of his ridiculously low Usage%, he still shows up as a "Role Player" on Mizzou's team page right now.  Everything Pomeroy does is set up by commonalities, and there is pretty clearly nothing common about Marcus Denmon.
  • Against some serious size, Mizzou's bigs acquitted themselves quite well yesterday.  When I heard about Ricardo Ratliffe's size and scoring numbers, I envisioned some big, strong, dominant force on the interior.  He's not huge at 6'8, 240 ... but that's somewhat huge for Mizzou at this point.  It turns out that Ratliffe scored big points with pure craftiness.  He is unorthodox and effective.  Granted, he still takes no-look hook shots from time to time, and for the love of God, dunk every now and then ... but he's delivering 11 points and seven boards a game.  That's exactly what I hoped to get from him at the beginning of the season.  The style is different, but the results are there.
  • Good god, Party Starter ... that might have been the most powerful dunk I've ever seen from you.  That was just mean.
  • I was a little surprised to see in the box score that Mike Dixon was this inefficient.  It seemed he was playing better than eight points on nine shots and a less-than-impressive-for-him four assists to two turnovers.  He still had a gorgeous floater at a time when Mizzou needed points, and he still managed a 3.0 BCI ... I guess this shows how high my expectations are for Dixon at this point.
  • Well ... you made your free throws, Kimmeh.  I'll take that.
  • Kim English against "real" opponents this season: 8.8 PPG on 31.9% shooting, 5.8 AdjGS/game.
  • Phil Pressey was quite obviously still favoring his right hand yesterday.  He took only three shots from the field (missed them all) and a couple of times openly avoided contact ... but he still managed four assists and two steals.  I worry that defenses are going to back off of him until he has no choice but to shoot soon ... hopefully the hand will continue to progress.
  • Speaking of Pressey ... with him in the lineup, Mizzou ends up with more steals and gives up more open 3-pointers.  This is a purely anecdotal observation, but he really does end up playing the "floater" role on defense, tipping passes/dribbles when opponents don't expect it and completely leaving guys wide open sometimes.  Nebraska only made 35% of their 3-point attempts yesterday, so it's hard to complain too much, but a couple of those open 3's came at inopportune times.  Hopefully Phil figures out how to balance risk taking and lapses as he works his way back into the rotation.
  • Four more steals than points for Ricky Kreklow yesterday.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that doesn't happen often.  In future seasons, we will need to be able to rely on on Ricky for points.  This season, his role is simply NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOK (my compromise: I will spell it "Nuke" as the official nickname, but in terms of the drawn-out, capitalized spelling, I still prefer the version with the O's) -- make things crazy for a couple of minutes at a time and soften up the opponent for the starters.
  • Where'd the Matt Pressey of late-December go?
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Marcus Denmon 26% 50% 1.8 0% 68% 32% 0%
Ricardo Ratliffe 20% 51% 2.7 49% 37% 14% 0%
Laurence Bowers 24% 43% 1.6 0% 68% 25% 7%
Mike Dixon 24% 36% 4.4 65% 25% 5% 5%
Kim English 18% 31% 1.3 0% 42% 42% 16%
Justin Safford 15% 37% 2.6 66% 28% 0% 6%
Phil Pressey 11% 34% 4.0 81% 10% 6% 3%
Ricky Kreklow 18% 0% 1.1 0% 67% 0% 33%
Steve Moore 8% 33% 2.2 69% 0% 19% 12%
Matt Pressey 27% 30% 4.4 56% 28% 16% 0%
  • The one problem I have with this table (other than the ridiculously low 31% Floor% for Kimmeh) is that Denmon, Bowers, English and Kreklow combined for 0% Pass.  When you've got two point guards (Dixon, P. Pressey) and two bigs (Ratliffe, Safford) doing good work in that regard, it might not cost you, but the ball flowed in odd ways yesterday, and when Mizzou did struggle offensively (against 1.10 points per possession against Nebraska is quite good, so this is tempered criticism), it seemed to come because the ball stopped flowing at all.
  • Mizzou did a very nice job of drawing contact yesterday.  Obviously NU had to foul at the end, and that upped their totals, but the Huskers are a team that neither draw nor commit fouls, and Mizzou drew 25.  Granted, that led to a 44-foul slog overall, but I'll take it.  Kudos to Kimmeh especially, who didn't pass enough and turned the ball over too much, but he got to the line six times and made all six free throws.

Three Keys Revisited

From Tuesday's preview.

Win the True Shooting battle.

Mizzou True Shooting %: 53.3%.
Nebraska True Shooting %: 52.2%.


Option No. 2

As mentioned many times now, Nebraska is very, very good on defense, and chances are they will figure out a way to at least somewhat neutralize Marcus Denmon.  That means somebody else will need to have a big game, be it Mike Dixon, Kim English, Matt Pressey (who really has yet to do well against a major conference opponent) ... hell, I don't really care if it's Jarrett Sutton.  Somebody needs to get hot to prevent what could be a couple of very long scoring droughts.

"They will figure out a way to at least somewhat neutralize Marcus Denmon."  Tell me again why I write these previews?  The most likely No. 2 options -- Mike Dixon and Kim English -- went a combined 4-for-14 from the field, but Mizzou won anyway because of Denmon.

Get That Dirt Off Your Shoulder

Mizzou needs to get Saturday out of their head.  For whatever reason, they were a step slow, almost sluggish, out of the gates in Boulder, and they got assaulted by a Colorado team ready for action.  A clear-headed Mizzou team should handle even a good Nebraska team at home.  Considering how Mizzou responded to their last loss -- 20 minutes of brilliant basketball in Oregon before jet lag set in -- I assume they will indeed bounce back.  But they still have to go and prove it.

Exactly 2:37 into the game, Mizzou led by eight points, 10-2.  The rest of the game was a 67-67 tie.  Mizzou was explosive out of the gates.  And by Mizzou, I mean Marcus Denmon, who had eight of those 10 points.  With seven minutes left in the first half, he had outscored the Huskers, 14-13.  (They, uh, caught up to him after that.)


Like I said at the top, I don't know how pleased or dismayed to be after this one.  Mizzou dominated the flow of the game, they neutralized Nebraska's size, they freed up Marcus Denmon ... and they won by eight.  I'll just reserve all judgment for seven more days.  Mizzou's got a tight turn-around coming up -- they hop down to College Station for a matchup with scorching-hot (and Mizzou-killing) A&M, then they come right back for a Big Monday game against a suddenly desperate Kansas State team.  The Big 12 schedule is shaping up to be incredibly tough, and I say that even while still viewing Mizzou as an extremely strong, viable team.



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.

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.