So here's where I found my brain going yesterday, even before South Carolina went up 41-28 early in the second half:
In football, you've got 85 scholarship players and between 22 and 26 starters, depending on your view of special teams. In basketball, you've got 13 and five. Before the season, most of us would have assumed Mizzou's three best players were Phil Pressey, Mike Dixon and Laurence Bowers in some order. In football, those three are worth approximately 15 starters and about 20 scholarship players. One-third of those starters were kicked off the team without playing a game, and another third have now missed a full quarter of conference play to injury. And last night, Keion Bell, the five "starters" replacing Dixon's "starters" in the lineup, was (were?) also out with injury.
So last night we found Missouri playing with over half of its second string, something the Missouri football team couldn't even brag of during this crippled, crippling 2012 football season. Oh yeah, and the head coach is under (very, very public) investigation for things that happened at a previous job.
I wasn't even really thinking this way to make myself feel better -- even with all of these absences, Mizzou still should have shot better than 19 percent from 3-point land and 47 percent on 2-pointers, and if they had done that, this would have been a semi-comfortable win. South Carolina still shouldn't be good enough to nearly beat even this Missouri team. No, I really just did it to marvel at how so many things that are out of your control, remind you that you have no control sometimes. Despite all of the losses from last year's squad, Frank Haith put together a roster worthy of a preseason Top 15 ranking. That alone was a mighty accomplishment despite the obvious chemistry issues we should have and/or did expect. But he has watched that roster slowly crumble over the last couple of months. Dixon never played. Criswell missed three games. Bowers has missed four. Bell missed one. Single players make a much larger difference in basketball as is; losing (at different times) a full third of your roster is devastating.
The silver lining, of course, is that, in theory, everybody but Dixon could be healthy and active by February. It's a long season. Missouri just has to survive right now and worry about looking like a Top 25 (or Top 15, or whatever) team later. And if nothing else, Missouri survived last night.
Mizzou 71, South Carolina 65
|Pace (No. of Possessions)||69.1|
|Points Per Possession (PPP)||1.03||0.94|
|Points Per Shot (PPS)||1.25||1.00|
|True Shooting %||48.7%||44.8%|
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
|Expected Offensive Rebounds||14||16|
Make a shot.
Norm Stewart once said "I have a lot of shooters. I don't have many makers." The current Missouri team would feel familiar to him.— Michael Atchison (@MichaelAtchison) January 23, 2013
Norm is glad the shooters morphed into makers when it mattered.— Michael Atchison (@MichaelAtchison) January 23, 2013
Mizzou won the ball control and rebounding battles, albeit by small margins. Tell me that beforehand, and I assume the Tigers win by 15-20. But my goodness, can this team lay some bricks. Again, as I said last night, the Tigers made the shots that mattered most, and we should be thankful for that. But since Laurence Bowers went down, Mizzou has shot 38% from the field, 24% from 3-point range. Take out the Georgia game, and those percentages fall to 34% and 19%. That's dreadful. For the season as a whole, Howard is last in the country, shooting 23% from 3-point land. Yeah.
Now, percentages that bad are probably a bit fluky. But it obviously points to just how influential Laurence Bowers is on this offense. As I have written before, Bowers is the steadying influence, the guy who can give you 10-12 points even when he is cold from the floor. Without him, Mizzou's ceiling is still pretty high -- when Earnest Ross, Phil Pressey or Jabari Brown gets hot from long range, it's pretty fun -- but the floor is much, much lower. And we've seen a healthy dose of floor lately.
Mizzou Player Stats
(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)
|Alex Oriakhi||26.6||0.98||27 Min, 18 Pts (4-4 FG, 10-10 FT), 11 Reb (5 Off), 2 TO, 5 PF|
|Earnest Ross||18.4||0.50||37 Min, 21 Pts (6-18 FG, 2-6 3PT, 7-10 FT), 10 Reb (4 Off), 3 Stl, 3 TO|
|Jabari Brown||10.9||0.29||38 Min, 17 Pts (5-16 FG, 2-9 3PT, 5-8 FT), 7 Reb, 2 TO|
|Tony Criswell||6.6||0.19||35 Min, 7 Pts (2-6 FG, 0-1 3PT, 3-4 FT), 7 Reb (2 Off)|
|Phil Pressey||5.1||0.16||31 Min, 6 Pts (2-8 FG, 1-6 3PT, 1-2 FT), 7 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Reb, 4 TO, 4 PF|
|Negus Webster-Chan||0.8||0.04||19 Min, 0 Pts (0-2 3PT), 2 Ast, 2 Stl|
|Stefan Jankovic||-0.4||-0.04||9 Min, 2 Pts (0-3 3PT, 2-2 FT), 2 Reb|
|Ryan Rosburg||-0.5||-0.13||4 Min|
- You are a man, Alex Oriakhi. At this point, one could make the case that Oriakhi is perhaps even more important to this team than Lau ... actually, never mind. I am not a witch, and I will not cause a repeat of this.
- There's so much to like about Earnest Ross' game. He hits the offensive glass, he plays pretty solid defense, and he has proven capable of attacking the rim, drawing contact and maintaining control. But he might be the streakiest 3-point shooter I've ever seen. (And considering he shares the floor with Phil Pressey -- 13-for-24 on 3-pointers to start the season, 3-for-his-last-20 -- that's saying something.) I actually had to verify that he really only took six of them last night; it felt like 13. (And it felt like he still only made two.) But as against Bucknell, he maintained some serious cool in the final minutes. After some wretched shooting, he made two huge freebies against Bucknell, and last night he made two huge free throws with 2:01 left, then nailed a bomb from the top of the key in a tie game with 1:10 left.
- Stefan Jankovic: proof that energy guys don't always provide good energy.
- Negus Webster-Chan ended up with a positive AdjGS number!!! First time since December 17.
Three Keys Revisited
Since 2013 began, Mizzou has been mediocre at best on the glass. In that time, the Tigers have played without either Tony Criswell or Laurence Bowers in each game, and they might be without both Bowers and Earnest Ross tonight, but ... if South Carolina can't grab offensive rebounds, they can't win, even if Mizzou is struggling offensively. So don't let 'em.
Expected Rebounds: Mizzou +2
South Carolina stayed in the game with some improbable shooting (in the first half, S.C. was 5-for-10 from 3-point range, and Missouri was 1-for-14; each team shooting its season average would have resulted in about a 15-point swing in the first half alone), but in the end Mizzou won the battle on the glass. It felt like S.C. was grabbing a bunch of second-chance opportunities, but a lot of those were on a select number of possessions; Mizzou did a solid job of keeping a great offensive rebounding team off of the glass.
Get in Carrera's way.
Michael Carrera is pretty damn good. He's also pretty damn foul-prone. Block him out, get in his way, and let him pile up the fouls. If you don't, he'll punish you. He had 23 points and 10 boards in the win over LSU, and he had 17 and 9 versus Jacksonville. He also fouled out against both Clemson and Auburn and committed four fouls against both LSU and Vandy. Get him out of the game.
Michael Carrera: 15 minutes, 5 fouls (and 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers).
Carrera had his moments, but he was mostly a non-factor. Thank goodness.
Make some damn jumpers.
Seriously, guys. Phil Pressey has not played very well of late, but he has to get some help. Mizzou has absolutely no reliable offense right now. That has to change at some point.
Phil Pressey, Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross & Stefan Jankovic: 8-for-21 2PT (38%), 5-for-24 3PT (21%). And, of course, they were 3-for-22 (14%) on 3-pointers until the final two minutes.
Again, there will be some progression toward the mean over time, but ... wow. Just amazingly bad shooting.
I guess I summarized this in the opening, actually. It is alarming to see this team play this poorly right now, but "this team" might not be the one we see a month from now. It certainly isn't the team we saw a month ago. Just get through these injuries, weather the Haith/Miami storm for now (because no matter how bad the Notice of Allegations actually is, it will disappear, to a degree, for a while once it has actually been sent), and get back to playing fun basketball. It's certainly not too late.
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.
Floor%: Via Basketball-Reference.com: 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.