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Study Hall: Texas A&M

Your Trifecta: Ratliffe-Denmon-PPressey.  Your winner: somebody!  Congrats to jrfulmer for pulling off the win from wayyyy down in Alabama!

There are two ways to look at this loss:

1) From the full-season view, there is almost nothing wrong with losses like this.  Winning helps the NCAA seed, obviously, but it was a game I didn't expect Mizzou to win, and the fact that they came much closer than I expected excites me.  Despite obvious deficiencies -- mostly on defense and from the free throw line -- Mizzou almost beat a team that was both smoking hot and in possession of solid matchup advantages versus the Tigers.  And they (almost) did so because of two players very, very new to conference play.  Ricardo Ratliffe and Phil Pressey both played like grown men today, and that can only mean good things moving forward.  I'm perhaps a smidge more optimistic about the season moving forward now that I've seen Mizzou go down to College Station and all but pull off the win.

2) GOD was this loss frustrating.  Mizzou seemingly had it won a couple of different times, played beautiful defense down the stretch in regulation, and had a chance to salt the game away and couldn't do it.

Losses like this are the primary reason college football and college basketball are different.  In football, a loss like this would linger for a week and potentially cost Mizzou any hope at a conference title and solid bowl revenue.  In basketball, it's just a missed opportunity for a resume booster.  Mizzou fought well and lost, and now they have to fight hard some more.

Texas A&M 91, Mizzou 89 (OT)

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
1.98 2.02
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.24 1.27
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.33 1.54
2-PT FG% 59.5% 53.7%
3-PT FG% 40.0% 33.3%
FT% 47.4% 76.3%
True Shooting % 59.0% 60.1%
Mizzou ATM
Assists 18 17
Steals 3 7
Turnovers 12 9
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.75 2.67
Mizzou ATM
Expected Offensive Rebounds 13 12
Offensive Rebounds 14 15
Difference +1 +3

Credit Where It's Due.

Khris Middleton at the end of regulation: 31 minutes, 17 points (5-11 shooting).
Khris Middleton at the end of overtime: 36 minutes, 28 points (9-16 shooting)

Middleton was 4-for-5 from the field and 3-for-4 from the line, including a semi-ridiculous, long fadeaway jumper and the steal-and-layup that gave A&M the lead in the final seconds.  For everything else that went right and wrong for both teams today, Middleton's overtime play was probably most directly tied to A&M's victory.

Good Offense, Bad Defense.

Once again, Mizzou's defense was a bit of a liability.  The Mizzou offense averaged a robust 1.24 points per possession -- absolutely fantastic against a good defense like A&M (and they did so without an explosion from Marcus Denmon, which was almost more encouraging) -- but allowed a brutal 1.27 points per possession.  They played good defense for two key stretches (the opening round and the end of regulation), but the defense in the middle 20 minutes, when players began to get in foul trouble and (somewhat justifiably) lose aggressiveness), basically cost Mizzou an opportunity to build a nice cushion when they were playing well late.

Against "real" teams, this is a bit of a trend.  But we'll come back to that.


Texas A&M is a somewhat turnover-prone team, but Mizzou was unable to force many at all.  Judging from full-season data, I honestly expected Mizzou to force between 13-17 turnovers ... not 7.  And I really didn't expect them to easily beat Mizzou in the BCI category.  That's jarring.  Mizzou hung with the Aggies on the glass and shot well, but ball control somewhat lost them the game.

About the Refs...

First things first: when A&M was suddenly getting called for quite a few fouls, and Mizzou drew a couple of charges in the second half, I'm pretty sure A&M fans were probably complaining about the officiating just as much as Mizzou fans were later in the game.  So instead of being silly and saying "It was all terrible and all pro-A&M!!!", I'll boil any officiating complaints to two calls: 1) the "foul" that B.J. Holmes drew with a minute left in overtime, when he flailed his limbs around desperately and still drew barely any contact, and b) the no-call on Phil Pressey's near-end-of-OT drive on Holmes.  Twice on the drive, Holmes contacted Pressey more than anything he drew on the other end.  If you call one, you call the other.  And the way Pressey was shooting, he'd have made at least one free throw and tied the game.  Holmes made one of two free throws, and Pressey didn't get to attempt any; those two calls/no-calls cost Mizzou between one and three points, in a game they lost by two.  That was really annoying.

Otherwise ... well ... the road team was called for more fouls and the home team shot many more free throws.  It's going to happen, whether it's fair or not.  So far in conference play, the fouls lay out like this:

Road: Mizzou 23.5 fouls, Opponent 18.5.
Home: Opponent 25 fouls, Mizzou 19

It shouldn't be that way, but it is.  Big 12 officiating has always been, and will always be, insanely inconsistent and frustrating, favoring the home team and changing the definition of what constitutes a "foul" seventeen times per game.  You just have to hope your team a) draws more home-court calls at home than are inflicted upon them on the road, and b) you make your damn free throws.

Regarding (b), Mizzou very much did not make their free throws today.  It really does seem contagious with this team.  When one person's making their freebies, everybody is.  When one person (not named Steve Moore) is not, nobody is.  Overall, it hasn't really been a trend -- Mizzou is shooting 72% from the line in wins against "real" teams, 71% in losses -- but it absolutely cost them today.  A&M not only shot twice as many free throws (which, let's face it, is a bit egregious, home or away), but they made them at a 29% higher clip.

Well Hello There, Ricardo.

Ricardo Ratliffe is quickly establishing himself as a big-game player.  As we'll see below, 'Cardo has better per-game and per-minute averages versus "real" opponents than versus the cupcakier teams on the slate.  Clearly that is a good thing moving forward, as the cupcakes are done.

Well Hello There, Phil.

Simply put, Phil Pressey took off the protective glove and went apes*** in the second half today.  He went from offering decent minutes while serving as a shooting liability, to almost shooting Mizzou to a huge road win.  If this is the Phil we get to see more of as conference play unfolds, I'm a happy, happy guy.

Awkward Situation Down the Stretch

One thing Pressey's hot hand did, however, was mess with Mizzou's typical crunch time lineup.  With as well as he was playing, you had to keep Pressey in the game for the final possessions, even though Mike Dixon has been a crunch-time weapon this season.  When Mizzou needed a bucket at the end, it was Pressey doing the deed for the first time in his collegiate career; meanwhile, Dixon's only touch in the final seconds resulted in a pass out of bounds.  Everybody's role changed slightly, and I'm curious how things unfold next time Mizzou is in the same "huge possession in the final minute" situation.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Ricardo Ratliffe 26.7 0.86 31 Min, 19 Pts (9-11 FG, 1-2 FT), 9 Reb (6 Off), 2 Ast, 5 PF
Marcus Denmon 14.0 0.40 35 Min, 19 Pts (7-16 FG, 2-6 3PT, 3-6 FT), 4 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 TO
Phil Pressey 13.7 0.51 27 Min, 16 Pts (6-11 FG, 4-4 3PT, 0-2 FT), 2 Ast, 3 TO
Laurence Bowers 12.8 0.46 28 Min, 7 Pts (3-5 FG, 1-3 FT), 8 Reb (4 Off), 2 Stl, 4 PF
Kim English 6.5 0.20 33 Min, 10 Pts (4-11 FG, 2-7 3PT), 3 Ast, 2 Reb, 2 Blk, 3 TO
Matt Pressey 6.4 0.35 18 Min, 6 Pts (3-3 FG, 0-1 FT)
Mike Dixon 5.6 0.31 18 Min, 6 Pts (2-6 FG, 2-4 3PT), 5 Ast, 3 TO
Steve Moore 3.5 0.27 13 Min, 4 Pts (0-0 FG, 4-4 FT), 2 Reb, 5 PF
Justin Safford 0.5 0.04 13 Min, 2 Pts (1-2 FG), 2 Reb
Ricky Kreklow -2.0 -0.23 9 Min, 0 Pts (0-2 3PT)
  • Amazingly, this qualifies as a poor game for Marcus Denmon, as he was only an average-to-good shooting guard instead of an All-American.  His game will be remembered mostly for his missed 3-pointer and turnover with :35 left in overtime, and that's unfortunate.  I didn't mind the shot because a) it looked like it would result in a 2-for-1 situation (Mike Anderson teams don't play 2-for-1, and it drives me crazy sometimes), and b) Laurence Bowers grabbed the offensive rebound, which was a great thing.  But an open lane closed quickly thanks to a great play by Middleton, and the possession ended up setting up the win for A&M.  It happens.
  • Despite the key missed free throw in regulation, I felt Bowers played a really nice game ... and then I saw his underwhelming box score.  He wasn't the reason Mizzou lost, but he certainly didn't contribute as much as I expected.
  • Matt Pressey didn't contribute a ton, but this was still one of his better games versus a "real" opponent.
  • Well done, Steve Moore, on the "infinity points per shot" accomplishment.
  • Ricky Kreklow is looking more comfortable, and less lost, on the court against real teams.  This obviously didn't reflect statistically today, but it's still an encouraging development.
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Ricardo Ratliffe 20% 76% 2.4 47% 44% 9% 0%
Marcus Denmon 30% 39% 3.6 42% 38% 15% 5%
Phil Pressey 28% 39% 3.1 42% 39% 8% 11%
Laurence Bowers 12% 54% 2.2 59% 25% 16% 0%
Kim English 22% 31% 2.9 56% 35% 0% 9%
Matt Pressey 13% 67% 1.8 54% 27% 10% 9%
Mike Dixon 26% 34% 6.5 77% 15% 0% 8%
Steve Moore 7% 56% 1.0 0% 0% 100% 0%
Justin Safford 10% 37% 0.7 0% 66% 34% 0%
Ricky Kreklow 11% 0% 0.7 0% 100% 0% 0%
  • With Phil Pressey the hot hand, the team took on an odd identity.  Mike Dixon still mostly passed, as one would expect from a point guard, but virtually everybody else shot between 35-45% and passed between 40%-60%.


Mizzou Vs. "Real" Opponents

Mizzou has played nine games against what I'm calling "real" opponents this year -- road opponents, BCS conference opponents, and at-least-decent neutral court opponents.  The list goes like this: vs La Salle, vs Georgetown, at Oregon, Vanderbilt, vs Illinois, Old Dominion, at Colorado, Nebraska, at Texas A&M.  They are 6-3 against these opponents, which, despite the poor conference start, is still strong.  I figured we've played enough at this point to take a look at the season stats against these opponents.

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
2.00 1.91
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.15 1.09
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.27 1.31
2-PT FG% 49.8% 52.1%
3-PT FG% 36.2% 37.4%
FT% 70.9% 70.7%
True Shooting % 55.0% 57.0%

Mizzou Opp.
Assists/Gm 15.7 15.0
Steals/Gm 8.3 5.1
Turnovers/Gm 10.8 15.3
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.23 1.31

Mizzou Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 13.8 12.2
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 12.7 12.6
Difference -1.1 +0.4

For the season, Mizzou has been a rather solid free throw shooting team -- we typically only remember the missed ones, not the games like Georgetown (74%), Oregon (79%), Illinois (73%), Colorado (89%) and Nebraska (70%), in which free throws were either neutral or an outright strength.  Beyond that, BCI has been (not surprisingly) a much bigger strength for the season as a whole than it was today.

Some of the other trends against "real" opponents continued today: 1) good Mizzou shooting, 2) good opponent shooting, 3) Mizzou improving on the glass.  Mizzou is still -1.5/game in the Expected Rebounds category, but that is a strong improvement over previous years.  And as I mentioned in the game preview, they have held their own well against solid rebounding teams.  It appears to be a focus thing as much as anything else.

AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Marcus Denmon 21.2 0.61 34.6 MPG, 20.6 PPG (53.2% 2PT, 51.8% 3PT), 4.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.6 SPG
Ricardo Ratliffe 15.8 0.54 29.6 MPG, 13.9 PPG (61.5% 2PT, 61.9% FT), 7.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.2 APG
Mike Dixon 12.9 0.51 25.6 MPG, 11.8 PPG (42.0% 2PT, 33.3% 3PT), 4.2 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 1.9 TOPG
Laurence Bowers 10.3 0.37 27.6 MPG, 9.6 PPG (53.1% 2PT, 60.0% FT), 2.2 BPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.7 TOPG
Kim English 5.9 0.21 28.6 MPG, 8.9 PPG (32.6% 2PT, 32.4% 3PT, 76.2% FT), 2.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.8 TOPG
Matt Pressey 5.8 0.30 19.4 MPG, 7.3 PPG (58.3% 2PT, 25.0% 3PT, 57.1% FT), 2.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.4 TOPG
Justin Safford 4.5 0.27 16.6 MPG, 5.7 PPG (43.6% 2PT, 25.0% 3PT), 3.6 RPG, 1.2 APG
Phil Pressey 2.8 0.18 15.9 MPG, 4.0 PPG (29.2% 2PT, 30.8% 3PT), 1.7 APG, 1.7 RPG, 1.4 SPG
Steve Moore 2.2 0.25 8.9 MPG, 1.7 PPG (62.5% FG, 83.3% FT), 1.3 RPG
Ricky Kreklow 0.8 0.11 6.7 MPG, 1.3 PPG (0.0% 2PT, 30.0% 3PT)

Kim English: step up your game.  That is all.

Three Keys Revisited

From Friday's preview.

Rounds 2-3

I was worried about what would happen in the middle portion of the first half -- that's typically when a home team makes a run against Missouri.  That's basically what happened today...

With 13:00 left in the first half: Mizzou 19, Texas A&M 7.
With 9:00 left in the first half: Mizzou 19, Texas A&M 18.

...but the major damage was done in what would constitute the fifth round.

With 5:09 left in the first half: Mizzou 29, Texas A&M 20.
With 0:30 left in the first half: Texas A&M 40, Mizzou 31

Mizzou's opening surge allowed them to withstand A&M's late-half dominance and make it a game, but the middle and late first half assured that Mizzou was still playing catch-up most of the second half.

Dixon vs Dash

A&M did not shoot nearly as well from long range as I feared, but guard play still hints at where Mizzou failed in terms of ball control.

Mike Dixon & Phil Pressey: 45 minutes, 22 points (8-17 FG, 0-0 FT), 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 turnovers, 1 steal (1.33 BCI)

Dash Harris & B.J. Holmes: 73 minutes, 19 points (6-14 FG, 5-7 FT), 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 6 turnovers, 2 steals (1.83 BCI)

On a per-minute basis, Dixon and Pressey did plenty of damage, but the ball control aspect, particularly BCI was lacking.  Dixon is typically well above 3.0 in terms of BCI, and he wasn't today.

Justin Safford

Why Saffy?  Because more than anybody else, he sets Mizzou's mentality for the game.  When Mizzou faced a phenomenal rebounding team in Old Dominion, he threw his body around as much as he possibly could, went out of his way to tip every pass/rebound that he couldn't quite reach, and generally installed in Mizzou a harassing, pesky mindset that they used to eventually blow out the Monarchs.  Well ... A&M is a better overall team than ODU, but they are only ODU's equal on the glass.  If Mizzou could hang with ODU, they can do the same here, but it is going to take some serious hustle.  Though he will always toss up a dumb shot or two over the course of a given game, if Safford can provide senior leadership through pure, reckless hustle, he could spark the team as much or more than any other player.

Safford absolutely brought to the table the hustling mindset I was hoping to see, but he was also whistled for two fouls in the blink of an eye.  Mizzou rebounded well, and Safford was certainly responsible for a sliver of that, but foul trouble limited him.  In all, foul trouble destroyed Mizzou's interior by end-of-game.  It's very impressive, actually, that they rebounded as well as they did at the end.  Laurence Bowers' offensive rebound of Denmon's miss could have been the single biggest board of the day if not for Middleton's steal that followed.


No time to let this one linger.  If Mizzou plays with the same intensity and overall quality Monday night against Kansas State, they should move to 2-2 in conference.  But anything less than that level of play will open the door for a K-State team that is even more desperate than Mizzou might be.  Mizzou is still in fine shape overall -- as I mentioned at the top, this game did nothing to dampen my March optimism, and if anything, it increased it -- but they'll need to continue to play at this level for the foreseeable future.



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.