First, some links:
MUtigers.com: Missouri Falls Short to LSU, 77-71
The Trib: LSU edges Missouri despite big game from guards
The Missourian: Missouri men's basketball back under .500 in SEC after loss at LSU
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou can't spoil LSU block party
KC Star: Missouri’s struggles in SEC play continue with 77-71 loss at LSU
KC Star: Missouri’s Jabari Brown hits a career high in scoring
Fox Sports MW: McNeal: Three takeaways from Mizzou's 77-71 loss at LSU
The more I think about it, the more I realize this is the team we should have expected to have last year: New guys who haven't played together, freshmen who aren't quite ready, minimal senior leadership. When you lose so much of your rotation and have to start over, you lose both chemistry and the talent-and-experience combination. Mizzou suffered from quite a bit of that last season, especially after Mike Dixon's unexpected dismissal/transfer/whatever, but Laurence Bowers' injury and Alex Oriakhi's transfer provided a bit of a lifeline.
But instead of serving as a transition year to get new pieces in place for the future, last season was a black hole. Pressey, Bowers, and Oriakhi left, and almost the entire freshman class -- Dominique Bull, Stefan Jankovic, Negus Webster-Chan -- proved either unworthy or unready. (And Ryan Rosburg, the other freshman in that class, is a bit player at best at this point.)
So for the second straight year, then, we get a mixed bag of a roster with only a couple of returning regulars (Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross, and I guess Tony Criswell, sort of), a key transfer (Jordan Clarkson), and a freshman class unready for the load it must take on (Johnathan Williams III, Wes Clark, Torren Jones, and Shane Rector).
Frank Haith's ambitious plan of quickly evening out classes and aiming for a sustained level of quality (instead of hoping for a great run with a huge load of seniors every few years) isn't paying off, mainly because of recruiting. There simply isn't enough talent on this team to avoid a serious dropoff. There's a Big 3 in the backcourt, sure, but JW3 is getting pushed around more on the glass (though he's still well above average overall), and the center position is a total black hole. Tony Criswell, Ryan Rosburg, Keanau Post, and Torren Jones last night: 49 minutes, 4 points (1-for-11 FG, no free throws), 8 rebounds, 1 block, 6 fouls. That's horrific. Granted, LSU has above average (or better) size, but the advantage shouldn't be that big.
Missouri has been out-rebounded in three of five conference games so far and got a combined -0.9 Adj. GS points from players not named Clarkson, Brown, or Ross last night. I'm not going to write this team off because things change, but ... I don't know at this point how things are supposed to change in time for Missouri to make a serious run at the NCAA Tournament.
We were misled a bit by Missouri's non-conference play -- the win over UCLA was legitimately strong, but both Northwestern and Nevada are worse than expected, and Illinois and N.C. State are a combined 4-8 in conference play -- but we've gotten a heaping dose of reality in the last few weeks. This team just doesn't have enough pieces.
And hey, dropoffs happen. Kentucky went to the NIT last year. Arizona, the No. 1 team in the country, went to the NIT two years ago. After winning two straight national titles, Florida missed the NCAAs for two straight years. Nobody's immune, and there's a reason why so few teams have made five straight NCAA Tournaments like Mizzou has.
That we're forced to watch terribly mediocre basketball for the first time since 2007-08 isn't a fireable offense. It happens. And while mediocre football only occupies your time 12 times before the season ends, mediocre basketball does so more than 30 times, which feels more frustrating and more like a downward spiral. It isn't. It's just a team that's not as good as we hoped, proving it once or twice a week.
Knowing how the Internet works, this is probably coming across as me absolving Haith in some way, simply because I'm not demanding his immediate dismissal. I hope you don't get that impression. He's the one that put this roster together, after all. And while the "balancing classes" thing hasn't paid off as intended, most of that appears to be because of talent identification and recruiting, something that was supposed to be elite with Haith and Tim Fuller aboard. The first class has been a complete and total bust, and when a five-man class produces almost nothing, it can set you back for quite a while. And the second class has shown potential, but only one of four freshmen is court-ready, 1.5 if you count Wes Clark. That's eight freshman recruits in two classes with one good player (JW3), one potentially solid contributor who can't shoot (Clark), and a role player (Rosburg). And a motor guy in Torren Jones. That's a horrific track record, and that's on Haith. I think the program can rebound under him, but it might not be until 2015-16, at least assuming that Clarkson and/or Brown are gone after this year.
LSU 77, Missouri 71
|Pace (No. of Possessions)||68.0|
|Points Per Possession (PPP)||1.04||1.13|
|Points Per Shot (PPS)||1.08||1.31|
|True Shooting %||48.6%||54.7%|
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
|Expected Offensive Rebounds||15.2||12.9|
- Outshot, out BCI'd, outrebounded. Thank heavens for Jabari Brown's 3-point shooting, I guess. It's the only thing that kept this game within reach.
- The PPP averages are most interesting to me. You can make a case that offense is this team's biggest problem -- the lapses are damaging, to say the least -- but the bottom line is that you can win a solid amount of games averaging 1.04 points per possession. You will lose a ton allowing 1.13.
Mizzou Player Stats
(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)
|Jabari Brown||33.6||0.93||36 Min, 28 Pts (10-15 FG, 5-6 3PT, 3-5 FT), 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 TO, 1 PF|
|Earnest Ross||21.4||0.69||31 Min, 16 Pts (5-12 FG, 1-3 3PT, 5-6 FT), 11 Reb (4 Off), 2 Stl, 1 TO, 4 PF|
|Jordan Clarkson||19.0||0.54||35 Min, 19 Pts (7-18 FG, 2-5 3PT, 3-4 FT), 5 Reb (1 Off), 3 Ast, 4 Stl, 4 TO, 2 PF|
|Ryan Rosburg||1.4||0.08||19 Min, 2 Pts (1-4 FG), 2 Reb (1 Off), 1 Blk, 1 PF|
|Johnathan Williams III||0.5||0.02||31 Min, 4 Pts (2-6 FG, 0-1 3PT, 0-1 FT), 8 Reb (4 Off), 1 Ast, 3 TO, 4 PF|
|Tony Criswell||0.2||0.01||20 Min, 2 Pts (1-6 FG, 0-1 3PT), 6 Reb (3 Off), 1 Ast, 1 TO, 2 PF|
|Shane Rector||0.0||0.00||2 Min|
|Keanau Post||-0.6||-0.13||5 Min, 1 PF|
|Torren Jones||-2.4||-0.48||5 Min, 0 Pts (0-1 FG), 2 PF|
|Wes Clark||-3.2||-0.20||16 Min, 0 Pts (0-4 FG, 0-2 3PT), 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 PF|
|Johnathan Williams III||15%||23%||1.5||37%||38%||7%||19%|
- Obviously Jordan Clarkson had quite a few frustrating moments, but in the end, the Brown-Ross-Clarkson trio scored 63 points on 45 FG attempts. Plus, they grabbed 20 rebounds (five offensive), dished four assists, and nabbed six steals. You should always win when your backcourt is averaging 1.4 points per FG attempt with a 1.7 BCI. It's almost criminal that the rest of the team was awful enough for Missouri to lose this game.
- "Wes Clark in conference play: 2-for-16 FG, 1-for-7 3PT. A prime progression-to-the-mean candidate, I'd say. Those are Randy Pulley-esque numbers, and I'm assuming he's a better shooter than that." I said that after the Alabama game. He's now 2-for-20 and 1-for-9.
- Criswell and JW3 grabbed seven offensive rebounds. Good! You know what mitigates the impact of that quite a bit? Shooting 3-for-12 and combining for one FT attempt.
Three Keys Revisited
Always, right? At its best, Mizzou has put together a hell of a team rebounding effort on the defensive end, with players like Wes Clark, Jabari Brown, and especially Earnest Ross all showing solid prowess in hanging back and providing an extra set of hands. LSU, meanwhile, is a good offensive rebounding team in the same way; no player has an Offensive Rebounding Rate better than 10%, but five are between 8% and 10%. Missouri must either prevent second chances or generate as many as LSU does. This needs to be a win for MU, but at the very least it probably can't be a loss.
Expected Rebounds: LSU +3.3
We knew LSU had size, but as mentioned in the preview, the Tigers go for enough blocks that they are vulnerable to offensive rebounds. Mizzou didn't grab nearly enough offensive rebounds, and when they did, the putback was probably getting blocked anyway.
Always, right? LSU doesn't shoot 3-pointers very well, and it makes sure that you can't either. The Tigers play defense a lot like Alabama (only with more pressing), and the aggression on the perimeter tends to offer few good looks. Meanwhile, of the four LSU players with the most 3-point attempts, only Stringer is hitting more than 33%. If one team or the other gets someone rolling from long range (probably either Stringer or Jabari Brown), it has generated a huge advantage here.
3-pointers: Mizzou 44.4% (8-for-18), LSU 31.8% (7-for-22)
This was the one thing that kept Missouri in the game. Mizzou took much smarter 3s (and not a ton of them), and it kept the Tigers above one point per possession despite hilariously bad finishing near the rim.
In the Mike Anderson days, BCI (Ball Control Index) was generally the most important stat on a game-to-game basis. Johnny Jones and LSU don't play to that level of tempo, but LSU will still press and pressure you and still wants to create as many opportunities as possible off of steals. At the same time, however, LSU tends to get quite sloppy itself on the other end, and despite general struggles in this area, it's possible that Missouri could create some turnovers as well. If Mizzou is able to fight to a draw in the BCI category, that minimizes perhaps LSU's single greatest potential advantage.
There's another part to BCI, however: Assists. Mizzou sometimes runs a perfectly effective offense with minimal passing thanks to the ability of Jordan Clarkson, Earnest Ross, etc., to drive and draw contact. But with Mickey and O'Bryant averaging nearly five blocks per game on the interior (Mickey doesn't tend to foul much, either), lowering the shoulder and going might not be that effective. Mizzou is going to drive, but kicking to an open man could be key. So do that sometimes.
BCI: LSU 1.58, Mizzou 1.40
It wasn't a disaster, but it wasn't good enough.
This was basically the Vanderbilt game if you replaced a few Vandy 3-pointers with blocked shots.
Again, the most dismaying part about this game is simply that Mizzou's Big 3 played almost as well as it was capable of playing (Clarkson still got out of control a bit, and Ross was only 1-for-3 from 3-point range, but you know what I'm saying), and the Tigers still lost. The one saving grace we thought this team had was that it could win when all three show up at a high level. It cannot, not when the rest of this team plays so terribly.
Next up: South Carolina at home. If Mizzou brings its hard hat (not guaranteed), the Tigers will then be 3-3 in conference when they head to Arkansas next week. They have to steal back a couple of wins at some point, and obviously there's not much reason to believe they're capable of that. But hey, we've been wrong before.
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 an offensively limited center, 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.