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Study Hall: Texas

Your Trifecta: PPressey-English-Bowers.  Your Winner: x.  That's right, Laurence Bowers played four minutes and made the trifecta.  That alone should tell you whether Missouri won or lost.

As is the Sunday Study Hall custom, we start with some links. Links are always a lot more fun after wins, huh?

So.  Missouri has now lost three conference games in completely different ways.  There was the Stuff Happens loss to Colorado (Alec Burks started making stupid shots, and you knew it wasn't Missouri's day).  There was the Not Quite Enough loss to Texas A&M (Mizzou plays quite well against a hot A&M team* but can't make the plays in the last minute).  And now, there was the Coulda Woulda Shoulda loss to Texas.  Texas played well in most facets, but their dreadful free throw shooting could have led to Missouri stealing a huge win ... only they just couldn't shoot the ball.  Mizzou's most reliable scorers got open looks during an encouraging stretch in the second half, and none of them fell.  Eventually Texas got their confidence back and finished the Tigers off, but this was certainly an interesting opportunity lost.

Like I said before the game, nothing has changed after this loss.  Missouri didn't have much of a chance at the conference title before the game, and they certainly don't after.  And their potential NCAA seeding is probably exactly the same now as it was at 7:59 PM last night.  But oh, the missed opportunity.  A win would have not only put Mizzou just a game out of first place in the conference ... but did you see how many teams above or next to them in the Top 25 lost?  Purdue ... Texas A&M ... Syracuse ... Villanova ... San Diego State ... UConn.  A win could have placed Missouri firmly in the Top 7-8.  Alas.

* This is neither here nor there, but wouldn't you have loved to play Colorado or Texas A&M THIS weekend instead of 2-3 weeks ago, now that they have both cooled off?

Texas 71, Missouri 58

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
1.45 1.78
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.87 1.06
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.04 1.42
2-PT FG% 39.5% 57.5%
3-PT FG% 22.2% 30.0%
FT% 76.2% 47.1%
True Shooting % 44.5% 54.6%
Mizzou Texas
Assists 6 15
Steals 7 7
Turnovers 13 15
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.00 1.47
Mizzou Texas
Expected Offensive Rebounds 14 12
Offensive Rebounds 11 14
Difference -3 +2

Programming note: I was going to include a section in this post addressing the "Why is Missouri so terrible on the road???" meme, but it's gotten pretty long and needs more thought; it will instead be a standalone post later in the week.

Your Official Silver Lining:

If I'd told you that Dogus Balbay was going to outscore Marcus Denmon (eight points to seven) and Laurence Bowers was going to get KO'd (literally) after four minutes on the court ... you'd have thought Texas would win by about 38, right?  Maybe 48?

Texas' Defense is Good

Really, this box score looks like what you would expect in a Texas win over Missouri.  Texas ranks No. 1 in Def. FG%, and Missouri shot 34% from the field against them.  Texas' defense also ranks No. 1 in Assists Per Field Goal Made, and sure enough, Mizzou had just six assists on 19 made field goals.

As the first half unfolded, I was honestly pretty encouraged by the way Texas was a bit careless in breaking the press.  Lots of jump passes, lots of semi no-look passes ... they were getting away with it for the most part, but these are the things you look for in the first half of a Missouri game.  Sure, they're working now, but those are exactly the things that stop working when you get mentally fatigued against the Missouri press.  As long as Mizzou could keep things close, as long as they could make enough shots to consistently press, the "pressure is cumulative" meme would find its way to the forefront.

Only ... Mizzou couldn't make shots.  At all.  There is a symbiotic relationship between Mizzou's offense and defense -- if the offense can make enough shots to make life easier on the defense, the defense will break down the opponent and give the offense easier and easier looks.  The offense couldn't live up to their end of the bargain.

To an extent, this was to be expected against the No. 1 FG% defense.  But when Mizzou's defense stepped up its game in the first ten minutes of second half, and Texas' free throw woes began to take their toll, Mizzou's passing improved, and the Tigers got quite a few open looks.  And they missed almost all of them.  If Marcus Denmon or Mike Dixon has a normal shooting night, then Mizzou is down only 2-3 points, or even leading, midway through the second half.  Instead, they couldn't get any closer than seven (49-42 with 10:40 left).  Good defense from the opposition + missed opportunities + Top 10 opponent on the road = loss.


Last Sunday, I said this about Justin Safford:

I know not everybody loves Justin Safford, but even in just 14 minutes, he continued to create the chaos this system requires.  I've said it before, but Safford has changed from something of a finesse player to a dirty-work guy -- he alone committed four of Mizzou's 15 fouls, plus he committed three turnovers, but Anderson starts him for a reason.  He blocked a shot, pulled down a couple of offensive rebounds, knocked down a couple of open jumpers ... he establishes Mizzou's identity, then goes to the bench while others follow through with it.

Here's what I said after the Old Dominion game:

I am beginning to love the role Justin Safford has created for himself on this team.  As you'll see below, his direct impact on the box score was iffy at best; but he has carved out a beautiful "What does this team need today?" niche for himself.  Against Illinois, Mizzou desperately needed somebody to step on offense in the second half while the Illini were getting hot; Safford did it.  Against ODU, Mizzou needed somebody to play physical, throw his body around, and simply set the "We are going to hustle our asses off" tone; Safford did it.  His offensive game was atrocious, but he played a direct role in softening ODU up for the knockout blow.

With Missouri's offense struggling to make either open or guarded shots, you could see the gears turning in Justin Safford's head.  Whereas he was passing up semi-open shots early in the game, he decided Mizzou needed him early in the second half, and he tried his best to carry the team.  In 27 minutes, he grabbed four more rebounds (11) than Ricardo Ratliffe, Laurence Bowers and Steve Moore grabbed in 50 minutes (7).  Ratliffe, Bowers and Moore combined for one offensive rebound; Safford had four.  Because of that alone, I will defend Safford's play yesterday.

I know I'm a stats guy, and I know what the Player Stats tables below say ... but I don't care.  Missouri was desperately lacking in both rebounding and scoring, and he tried to fill both voids.  Unfortunately, he only succeeded at one.  While he made jumper after jumper against Illinois, buying a stagnant Missouri team time to get their game back, against Texas he missed, and missed, and missed.  He tried his best to do what the team needed, but this time, he made things even worse.

Safford catches so much ire from fans, and I feel a good portion of it is unfair; when things are clicking for the Marcus Denmon's and Mike Dixon's and Kim English's of the world, Safford doesn't hog the ball, doesn't take a ton of shots, doesn't take the focus away from smoking hot players.  But when English is smothered, and Bowers is hurt, and Denmon left his jumper in Columbia, Safford takes that as his cue to step up.  He'll probably do so again before the end of the season, and it might work.  Or it might not.  Either way, he is attempting to show the senior leadership this team needs, and I commend him for his effort ... if not his execution.  There is no defending or commending last night's execution.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Phil Pressey 21.5 0.74 29 Min, 12 Pts (3-7 FG, 1-5 3PT, 5-6 FT), 5 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Reb, 3 TO, 5 PF
Kim English 8.5 0.29 29 Min, 10 Pts (3-8 FG, 2-4 3PT, 2-2 FT), 4 Reb, 3 TO
Laurence Bowers 6.8 1.71 4 Min, 4 Pts (2-2 FG)
Ricardo Ratliffe 6.4 0.23 28 Min, 8 Pts (4-9 FG, 0-1 FT), 4 Reb, 4 PF
Marcus Denmon 4.6 0.15 31 Min, 7 Pts (3-9 FG, 0-3 3PT, 1-2 FT), 3 Reb (2 Off), 4 PF
Mike Dixon 3.8 0.23 17 Min, 7 Pts (1-5 FG, 1-3 3PT, 4-6 FT)
Steve Moore 3.0 0.17 18 Min, 2 Pts (1-2 FG), 2 Reb
Matt Pressey 1.6 0.12 14 Min, 2 Pts (1-4 FG), 2 Reb
Ricky Kreklow 1.2 0.40 3 Min, 2 Pts (0-0 FG, 2-2 FT)
Justin Safford -3.0 -0.11 27 Min, 4 Pts (1-10 FG, 0-3 3PT, 2-2 FT), 11 Reb (4 Off), 4 TO
  • I know that I defended Safford above, but make no mistake: his offensive game was unbelievably terrible yesterday.  It is very difficult to end up with negative AdjGS points while pulling down double-digit rebounds.  He needed every bit of his four turnovers and 10% shooting to pull that off.
  • I use an adjusted version of the Game Score equation (defined at the bottom of this post) because sometimes the box score doesn't add up like it is supposed to.  Calculating everybody's individual game scores, you'd have thought Missouri scored about 35 points in this game.  But because they scored 58, the adjustment I make distributes credit accordingly.  That's how Laurence Bowers can end up with almost seven adjusted points despite making just two shots and registering nothing else in the box score -- everybody else was so terrible that the credit had to go somewhere.
  • Phil Pressey also benefited from the "everybody else sucked" adjustment, but ... this was still a damn solid game for him.  Twelve points on seven shots, a 2.67 BCI, and five of Missouri's six assists is a good night.  Pressey has played on the road in his home state twice in his short career, and he's been awesome both times -- 28.0 MPG, 14.0 PPG on 50% shooting, 3.5 APG, 3.0 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 2.5 TOPG.  I know the "Mizzou sucks on the road" meme is taking shape, but ... if Pressey is leading this team for another three years and playing four road games in Texas each season, that meme might not survive for very much longer.  (No pressure, Flip.)
  • Kim English ended up with a decent night, but aside from back-to-back 3's early in the game, he was 1-for-6 for four points and three turnovers.  Not as decent.  He was smothered by Texas' perimeter defenders, and while Dixon, Denmon and others missed a series of open jumpers in the second half, English never got that chance.
  • Also a decent game from Ricardo Ratliffe, who had his hands full against Tristan Thompson and company.  People were clamoring for Ratliffe to get more touches in the second half, but if I'm not mistaken (I might be), three of his four made field goals came during more chaotic possessions -- he scored on only one post move, and that was one of those no-look hook shots we hate.  I doubt force-feeding the ball to Ratliffe in the post would have resulted in much more success than what Missouri was actually trying.  Thompson was just too damn long.  I knew Thompson was longer than 'Cardo ... but I didn't realize just how much longer.  Dude has the wingspan of a pterodactyl.
  • Again, if I told you that Denmon and Dixon were to combine for 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting, that alone would have told you the outcome.  Never mind the rebounds, never mind Safford's stat line ... Missouri doesn't beat a good team on the road when these two struggle like they did.
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Phil Pressey 22% 44% 4.7 65% 15% 13% 7%
Kim English 21% 29% 1.3 0% 62% 15% 23%
Laurence Bowers 26% 100% 1.5 0% 100% 0% 0%
Ricardo Ratliffe 17% 40% 1.1 0% 90% 10% 0%
Marcus Denmon 18% 31% 1.7 33% 51% 11% 5%
Mike Dixon 23% 31% 1.9 0% 47% 53% 0%
Steve Moore 9% 31% 0.5 0% 67% 0% 33%
Matt Pressey 15% 23% 0.9 0% 100% 0% 0%
Ricky Kreklow 32% 36% 2.9 0% 0% 66% 34%
Justin Safford 28% 12% 1.8 0% 63% 12% 25%
  • When only two players end up with assists, you're going to end up with some funky profiles, eh?

Three Keys Revisited

From Friday's preview.

Dominate the Point

Mike Dixon & Phil Pressey: 46 minutes, 19 points (4-12 FG, 2-8 3PT, 6-8 FT), 5 assists, 3 TO, 3 steals, 8 fouls.
Dogus Balbay, J'Covan Brown & Jai Lucas: 46 minutes, 15 points (5-7 FG, 0-1 3PT, 5-8 FT), 5 assists, 5 TO, 0 steals, 8 fouls

If Dixon and Pressey had made a couple of the open 3's they missed, Missouri's points would have absolutely taken this battle.  They took the battle in overall points and BCI (2.67 to 1.00), but the inefficient shooting was a killer.

Ratliffe vs Thompson

Ricardo Ratliffe: 28 minutes, 8 points (4-9 FG, 0-1 FT), 0 off. rebounds, 4 def. rebounds, 1 block.
Tristan Thompson: 31 minutes, 9 points (3-7 FG, 3-9 FT), 4 off. rebounds, 9 def. rebounds, 1 block.

I would hate officiating a Tristan Thompson team.  He is an over-the-back violation waiting to happen; his arms are long enough to pull down boards over the top of opponents blocking him out, whether he's making contact and committing a true violation or not.  I was baffled at half -- the officials called 18 first-half fouls, and Thompson was only whistled once -- but he really is an interesting physical specimen.  Clearly his offensive game still needs some work, but hopefully his physical upside results in him declaring for the NBA Draft this offseason, eh?

Play. Your. Game.

When Missouri has beaten "real" teams this year, they have done so in typical Missouri ways.  They play great ball control defense (opponents' BCI in Mizzou wins: 0.96; in Mizzou losses: 1.97) and solid FG% defense (opponents' True Shooting % in wins: 50.6%; in Mizzou losses: 62.8%), and they match wits on the glass (Exp. Rebound Margin in Mizzou wins: +1.1/game; in Mizzou losses: -4.3/game).  Offensive proficiency is almost secondary -- Mizzou actually shoots better and finishes with a better BCI in losses.  Mizzou wins when they play good defense and rebound, and if they do so against Texas, or anybody else remaining on the schedule, they'll have a very good chance of coming away with a victory.

Texas' BCI: 1.47 (in between typical wins and losses)
Texas' True Shooting %: 54.6% (in between typical wins and losses)
Exp. Rebounding Margin: Mizzou -5 (like all losses)

"Offensive proficiency is almost secondary."  It's all my fault, isn't it?  While Texas' numbers suggested a Missouri loss, Mizzou's offense held them back significantly.  In the end, however, Mizzou did not play their game, and they lost.


Like I said near the top, we'll explore the whole "road troubles" issue.  But really, we'll learn a lot about this team at Gallagher-Iba on Wednesday.  Missouri's last two road games were against hot, ranked teams; almost nobody -- Missouri or anybody else -- knocks off hot, ranked teams on the road.  But Oklahoma State is a team Missouri should beat.  They've done so their last two trips to Stillwater, and they will need to do so again.  I'm still optimistic about where I think this team's overall play will be come tourney time, but their tourney seed could begin to suffer quite a bit if they don't pull off a couple of road wins.  To me, last night's loss didn't further any sort of meme -- when I was an undergrad, Missouri lost 22 straight road games ... THAT is "sucking on the road" -- but it was certainly a missed opportunity, and it puts pressure on Mike Anderson's crew to get the job done pretty soon.



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.