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Study Hall: Cincinnati

Your Trifecta: PPressey-Dixon-Denmon.  Your winner: nobody.

Back in the fall, when Mizzou beat Oklahoma in football for the first time since approximately 1644 -- the capstone of one of the most perfect weekends in Mizzou's athletics history -- I tried to stress how important it was to soak in the moment ... that series of moments ... because they are fleeting.  Nothing is always that good, and if it were, you'd get bored with it.  You have to suffer through lesser moments to appreciate greater ones.  The last few weeks?  A series of lesser moments.

Sometimes things just don't come together as you expected.  You miss a player (or two) more than you thought you would.  A player (or two) doesn't quite develop as planned.  Perhaps both.  Sometimes you have a team perfect for your coach's identity, and sometimes you don't quite have what you need.  As Charles Barkley said at halftime last night, "This just isn't Mike Anderson's best team." Pretty much.  What we thought might happen in the preseason doesn't matter much now; this was not a great team, and they did not play well enough to deserve a spot in the Round of 32.

No coach goes without these years, of course.  Roy Williams took North Carolina to the NIT last year; after back-to-back NCAA titles, Billy Donovan went 0-1 in the NCAAs over the next three seasons.  Those may have been rebuilding efforts -- something that does not really apply to this team -- but it still happens to everybody.  That Mike Anderson's disappointing season -- and make no mistake, it was absolutely, positively disappointing -- still gave us 23 wins, another tourney berth, another Braggin' Rights win, some incredible moments, etc., says a lot about how far Mizzou came since Justin Safford set foot on campus.

Ah, Saffy.  His four years in school here coincided with an incredible ride for the Mizzou athletic department.  Two days after Safford made his very first impression on me as a freshman -- throwing down a pretty tremendous alley oop in an exhibition game -- Blaine Gabbert committed to Missouri.  Think about that for a second; it feels like Safford's been here for a decade.  While he was working away inside Mizzou Arena, the Mizzou football program rose to the point where a ten-win season engendered as much dissatisfaction ("Fire Yost!") as excitement.  Saffy has been an integral part of a basketball program that rose from Athenagate to the Elite Eight in just 14 months, then "fell" to the point where 23 wins feels incredibly disappointing, the cause of a long series of "What Went Wrong?" posts.

Justin Safford may not have made much of a statistical impact in his career, but he was a part of so much, stepping up at random times (he played beautifully in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in 2009), fighting back from a knee injury, always staying late to sign autographs, and being as good a person as you could ask for in major college athletics.  Whether or not he made a significant impact on the court (and we should certainly remember that he had his moments), he is someone we can be proud to say was a product of the University of Missouri.  He is a great representative of this school, and he should be proud of and commended for that.  He -- and the this entire outgoing four-year class at Mizzou -- saw highs we thought were impossible not too long ago.

But Safford alone could not provide the senior leadership this team needed.  Next year?  No excuses in that regard. A lot can change when a large group of juniors turns into a large group of seniors.  1993 became 1994.  2008 became 2009*.  Juniors become seniors, freshmen (like, say, Phil Pressey) become sophomores, listlessness can become toughness with the right leaders in place, and the same corps of players can produce wildly different results from one season to another.  Who knows, maybe next year will be just as disappointing as this year ... but maybe it won't, and that's really all we have to go by right now.

* And yes, 2003 became 2004.

So now we turn our attention to the post-mortem portion of the season.  Mike Anderson did his best to shoot down any sort of Arkansas rumors last night, and though I realize that Roy Williams famously said "I don't give a shit about North Carolina" about a day before he became the North Carolina coach, I'm going to go about my business assuming the coach Missouri has now is the coach Missouri will have until I hear otherwise.  If you've got any specific post-mortem post ideas (I've got a few already, of course), feel free to pass them along.  We'll do our typical dissection, then we'll flip the switch (seriously, there's almost literally a switch we flip on the blog) to football season.

After the jump: the stats look about as bad as you thought they would.

Cincinnati 78, Mizzou 63

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
Points Per Possession (PPP)
Points Per Shot (PPS)
2-PT FG% 40.9%
3-PT FG% 31.6%
FT% 69.2%
True Shooting % 45.8%

Mizzou Opp.
Assists 15
Steals 7
Turnovers 8
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO

Mizzou Opp.
Expected Offensive Rebounds 14
Offensive Rebounds 15
Difference +1

Looks Like a Loss

Let's take a look at some "versus real teams" stats for 2010-11!

  • Off. Points Per Possession - Wins: 1.14, Losses: 1.06, vs Cincy: 1.04
  • Def. Points Per Possession - Wins: 0.96, Losses: 1.21, vs Cincy: 1.28
  • True Shooting % Allowed - Wins: 51.4%, Losses: 61.6%, vs Cincy: 61.2%
  • Opp. BCI - Wins: 0.95, Losses: 1.56, vs Cincy: 1.55
  • Expected Rebounding Margin - Wins: -0.1/game, Losses:-4.5/game, vs Cincy: -2

Sometimes the analysis is pretty easy.  Mizzou played at one level -- particularly on defense -- in wins and at another in losses.  Last night, the stats matched the typical Mizzou loss stats.  And Mizzou lost.  Rocket science!

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Phil Pressey
24 Min, 7 Pts (3-9 FG, 1-2 3PT, 0-2 FT), 5 Reb (3 Off), 5 Ast, 5 Stl
Mike Dixon
21 Min, 11 Pts (3-5 FG, 1-2 3PT, 4-4 FT)
Marcus Denmon
33 Min, 10 Pts (3-11 FG, 2-7 3PT, 2-2 FT), 6 Reb (2 Off), 4 Ast
Laurence Bowers
31 Min, 10 Pts (4-11 FG, 0-1 3PT, 2-2 FT), 6 Reb (4 Off)
Ricardo Ratliffe
24 Min, 13 Pts (6-12 FT, 1-1 3PT, 0-0 FT)<, 4 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 TO, 4 PF
Justin Safford
16 Min, 6 Pts (3-6 FG), 0 Reb
Ricky Kreklow
12 Min, 3 Pts (1-2 3PT)
Steve Moore
9 Min, 2 Reb, 4 PF
Matt Pressey
11 Min, 0 Pts (0-2 FG, 0-1 3PT)
Kim English
19 Min, 3 Pts (1-5 FG, 0-3 3PT, 1-2 FT), 2 Reb, 2 TO
  • As RPT pointed out, this season confirmed just how important bench play is to Mike Anderson and his system.  Or, more important than simply who came off the bench and who didn't, this season proved that Missouri needs positive contributions from a lot of people to succeed.  Since Big 12 play started, Mizzou's bottom five contributors in a given game (whoever they were from game to game) averaged a combined contribution of 13.4 AdjGS points per game in wins.  In losses? Minus-0.2 per game.  In the last five losses of the season?  Minus-9.0.  That's ridiculous.  That puts such incredible pressure on the others to not only play well, but to play perfectly.  As Tim Brando and Mike Gminski said last night, Marcus Denmon was merely mortal against Cincinnati (only 0.36 AdjGS/minute) ... and it left Mizzou with virtually no chance of winning because Safford, Kreklow, Moore, M. Pressey and English combined to contribute 1.1 points to the cause (which was actually a significant improvement over recent efforts).
  • If you're looking for a bright side, how about this: in their most important game of the season, Mizzou's two best players (statistically) were a freshman and a sophomore.
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
P. Pressey
M. Pressey

With Matt Pressey and Kim English playing terribly (again), Mike Dixon assumed third-guard duties and thrived.  It's a shame that Mizzou's best offensive lineup this year in the backcourt -- PPressey, Dixon, Denmon -- is also severely limited defensively (steals aside), isn't it?  Not sure how that gets remedied moving forward.

Actually, I know exactly how that gets remedied: the better defensive players (M. Pressey, English) get their collective heads out of their collective asses on the offensive end of the court.

Three Keys Revisited

From Tuesday's Preview.

Be Yourself

Mike Anderson's history in the tournament is a very, very good one, but he's got his work cut out for him getting this team not only focused, but confident, by Thursday.  And if Mizzou shoots well and wins the BCI battle by a healthy margin, they can very easily win.

BCI: Mizzou 2.75, Cincy 1.55

Win the BCI battle?  Check!

Mizzou Shooting: 40.9% on 2-pointers, 31.6% on 3-pointers

Mizzou shoots well?  Check!  Not even close.

Play Pissed

What I intended with this one was simple. After the Baylor game, Missouri lost their edge and their confidence.  I hoped that the surprisingly low seed they received in the tournament would give them a bit of the jolt they'd been lacking.  And for 10-12 minutes or so, it did just that.  Mizzou jumped out to leads of 9-2 and 14-7 and led 19-18 ten minutes into the game.  But when Cincinnati adjusted and Mizzou hit a rough patch, we were once again exposed to the same issues we had seen for a good portion of the season: Mizzou's rough patches didn't last 2-3 minutes this year, they lasted 15.  Or 14, to be exact.  And more than rebounding, or perimeter defense, or anything else, it was the rough patches that killed this team.

From the time Mike Dixon hit a 3-pointer with 10:49 left in the first half to the time Marcus Denmon hit a 3-pointer with 16:48 left in the second half -- a 14:01 span -- Cincinnati outscored the Tigers by a 29-9 margin.  In a game Mizzou lost by 15, that is, um, rather significant.  That, of course, means that Mizzou won the other 26 minutes of the game by a 49-44 margin, but ... you're not going to last long in the NCAA Tournament when you're capable of a 14-minute dry spell.

For a long time, one of my favorite Pirates blogs -- Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke -- had an Andy Van Slyke quote at the top of the page: "Every season has its peaks and valleys. What you have to try to do is eliminate the Grand Canyon."  That applies to basketball games too.  When Mizzou is at its best, they still hit times of listlessness (an inevitability when working in an intense, demanding system like this one), and they often hit them hard; the great 2008-09 team still lost three times by 16 points or more.  But the long droughts were rare, and they won 31 games because of it.  This team was just not as well-equipped to withstand the droughts.  Here's to hoping having six more seniors and a larger reservoir of experience at the point guard position cures a good portion of those ills.

Cashmere vs Kimmeh

Cashmere Wright: 32 minutes, 11 points (4-11 FG), 7 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 3 turnovers
Kim English: 19 minutes, 3 points (1-5 FG), 0 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block, 2 turnovers.

Wright was not particularly efficient in shooting the ball, but he protected the ball relatively well, dished seven assists ... and outplayed Kim English in every possible way.  When Mizzou so very clearly fails in two of the three keys to the game, they probably are not going to win.


Post-mortem series to come.  For now, this post -- and the deluge of live threads to come -- should suffice.




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.