Well, here goes nothing, I guess. Mizzou's second round of SEC conference play begins tonight at Mizzou Arena.
Mizzou's kind of an interesting team right now. The Tigers are in the RPI top 20 thanks to a schedule that was, as we've discussed before, devoid of the cakiest of cupcakes. (That matters so, so much more than it should in a rational world, but you've read that rant from me before.) They are also in the AP top 25, and at 12-1 probably only need to go about 10-8 or 11-7 in SEC play to secure an NCAA Tournament bid.
Recent Study Halls
Recent Study Halls
At the same time, however, Mizzou is only 41st in Ken Pomeroy's rankings. That puts the Tigers in the conference's second tier, behind Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee (all between 13th and 18th -- yes, Tennessee is 18th), next to Arkansas (36th), and a couple of steps ahead of Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss (between 70th and 80th). There is a lot of dead weight in the conference -- five teams rank 161st or worse, including tonight's opponent, Georgia -- but with the schedule at hand, Pomeroy projects Mizzou to go about 11-7 overall. That's good enough, but it's probably lower than a lot of us were thinking.
The schedule unfolds in a few different acts.
- Act I: Georgia, at Auburn, at Vanderbilt, Alabama. Mizzou is given at least a 70% chance against UGA, AU, and Bama, but the trip to Vandy (No. 90) is seen as a tossup. That could be the first really interesting test of what we were talking about the other day -- the fact that this team seems to have different gears for "real" games and others. If Mizzou starts 4-0, all's well, but 3-1 is a possibility.
- Act II: at LSU, South Carolina, at Arkansas, Kentucky, at Florida, at Ole Miss. This is a damn tough six-game stretch, and Mizzou is given a less than 50% chance in five of the six games. Now, the Tigers are between 40-49% for the LSU, Kentucky, and Ole Miss games. Go 2-1 in those three, and again, all's well. But yeah, chances are that a majority of Mizzou's SEC losses (or close to it) will come in this patch.
- Act III: Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, at Alabama. Again, two more games between 40-50% (Tennessee, Alabama), along with two probable wins. Go 3-1 here, and you have gotten ahead of schedule once again.
- Act IV: at Georgia, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, at Tennessee. Though Tennessee is obviously projected to be rough, the other three games here give Mizzou a chance to catch up.
Because of all the 40-50% win probabilities, Mizzou's projected to go 11-7 even though single-game projections suggest 10-8. But basically, the narrative will likely go ... "Mizzou is a contender!" (Act I), then "MIZZOU IS FALLING APART THE SKY IS FALLING" (Act II), then either "Mizzou's tourney seed is getting firmed up" or "Are we sure Mizzou's making the tournament?" (Act III), then "Mizzou's closing strong!!" (Act IV). Keep that in mind, I guess, as things unfold.
Georgia Bulldogs (6-6)
|Pace (No. of Possessions)
|Points Per Possession (PPP)
|Points Per Shot (PPS)
|True Shooting %||55.8%||52.8%|
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
|Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm||9.9||11.7|
I honestly thought Mark Fox would have built a pretty interesting team by now. He has not. Georgia's raw stats look at least decent until you realize that the Dawgs have played just two top-75 teams (according to Pomeroy) and haven't beaten anybody better than Western Carolina. So we have to grade on a curve here.
Ken Pomeroy Stats
|UGA Offense vs MU Defense Ranks
|UGA Offense||MU Defense||Advantage|
|Turnover %||191||305||UGA big|
|Off. Reb. %||106||50||MU|
|MU Offense vs UGA Defense Ranks
|MU Offense||UGA Defense||Advantage|
|Off. Reb. %||52||140||MU|
Where the Dawgs are weakest
They're drastically inexperienced (four of their top six players are sophomores, and only one is a senior), they can't shoot 3-pointers, they can't stop you from getting good looks from 3-point range, they can't pass, they don't turn you over, and they turn the ball over too much. In a nutshell.
Where they are best
This is a pretty symmetrical team, really. The Dawgs have pretty good size (60th in Effective Height), and they use it. They're good near the rim -- 44th in Off. 2PT%, 55th in Def. 2PT% -- and block more shots than they get blocked. They're physical, too; they both draw fouls and commit them. So this could be a pretty long game. But they really are pretty good inside the arc, and they will test Mizzou's frontcourt depth. If the Tigers' interior defense is good, and if Mizzou's own slashers are drawing contact and getting to the line (and not just getting shots blocked), then there's really not much to worry about here. Still, Georgia does do one thing well enough to scare Mizzou if the Tigers are having a bad night.
(Georgia also has an incredibly deep bench, but "depth" requires a level of quality I'm not sure the Dawgs have, so I won't list that as a strength. They just play a lot of guys.)
Georgia's Season to Date
- Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
No. 198 Western Carolina (65-63)
No. 233 Wofford (72-52)
No. 255 Gardner Webb (58-49)
No. 276 Lipscomb (84-75)
No. 293 Chattanooga (87-56)
No. 322 Appalachian State (71-53)
at No. 31 Colorado (70-84)
at No. 62 George Washington (55-73)
vs. No. 95 Nebraska (65-73)
vs. No. 108 Temple (81-83)
No. 112 Georgia Tech (71-80)
vs. No. 120 Davidson (82-94)
Average Score (vs. top 100): Opponent 77, Georgia 63 (-14)
Average Score (vs. 101-200): Opponent 80, Georgia 75 (-5)
Average Score (vs. 201+): Georgia 74, Opponent 57 (+17)
Georgia is 0-6 against teams ranked better than 198th. That's not good. The Dawgs were semi-competitive against Colorado and Nebraska and, if allowed to play their game and draw contact, could give Missouri a game. But on average, they probably won't. Well, they hopefully won't, anyway.
Georgia Player Stats
|Charles Mann (6'5, 210, So.)||11.8||0.42||28.1 MPG, 13.0 PPG (47% 2PT, 35% 3PT, 68% FT), 2.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.1 TOPG, 2.1 PFPG|
|Nemanja Djurisic (6'8, 230, Jr.)||11.1||0.46||24.0 MPG, 10.8 PPG (54% 2PT, 52% 3PT, 71% FT), 4.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.2 TOPG, 2.4 PFPG|
|Kenny Gaines (6'3, 195, So.)||10.7||0.41||25.8 MPG, 11.5 PPG (57% 2PT, 25% 3PT, 81% FT), 2.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 TOPG, 2.0 PFPG|
|Brandon Morris (6'7, 215, So.)||9.8||0.45||21.6 MPG, 9.6 PPG (64% 2PT, 61% FT), 3.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.4 TOPG, 2.3 PFPG|
|Donte' Williams (6'9, 225, Sr.)||8.3||0.37||22.8 MPG, 6.3 PPG (57% 2PT, 65% FT), 5.3 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 3.2 PFPG|
|Cameron Forte (6'7, 220, So.)||6.5||0.49||13.2 MPG, 5.7 PPG (71% 2PT, 25% FT), 3.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.4 TOPG|
|Marcus Thornton (6'8, 235, Jr.)||5.5||0.26||21.5 MPG, 6.7 PPG (45% 2PT, 55% FT), 4.6 RPG, 2.6 PFPG|
|Juwan Parker (6'4, 200, Fr.)||4.6||0.22||21.2 MPG, 5.1 PPG (42% 2PT, 25% 3PT, 75% FT), 3.9 RPG|
|John Cannon (6'10, 240, Jr.)||2.7||0.39||6.9 MPG, 2.8 PPG (63% 2PT), 1.3 RPG|
|Taylor Echols (6'1, 160, Jr.)||1.6||0.21||7.9 MPG, 2.1 PPG (41% 3PT)|
|Tim Dixon (6'10, 230, Jr.)||1.2||0.15||8.0 MPG, 0.9 PPG (36% 2PT), 1.4 RPG|
|J.J. Frazier (5'10, 150, Fr.)||1.1||0.13||8.6 MPG, 2.4 PPG (50% 2PT, 17% 3PT, 71% FT)|
* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.
- Highest Usage%: Mann (27%), Gaines (23%), Forte (23%)
- Highest Floor%: Forte (49%), Djurisic (46%), Morris (46%)
- Highest %Pass: Forte (52%), Mann (49%), Parker (46%)
- Highest %Shoot: Williams (49%), Gaines (45%), Thornton (45%)
- Highest %Fouled: Morris (22%), Williams (20%), Mann (17%)
- Highest %T/O: Thornton (13%), Forte (11%), Mann (9%)
- Fun with small sample sizes: Every time I see Nemanja Djurisic play, he looks really good. He can shoot the 3-pointer (he's the only one on the team who can, basically), he's an okay rebounder, and he can pass a little bit. He's not great or anything, but he always looks pretty good. He also has a fouls problem -- he committed four and was held under 30 minutes against Temple, Colorado, and GW -- and can disappear. He had just four points on three field goal attempts in 28 minutes against GW. If he's invisible tonight, it's hard to imagine Georgia having any sort of shot.
- On a per-minute basis, Cameron Forte's an interesting player. He scored 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting in just 13 minutes against GW on Friday, and he scored 10 points in 21 minutes against Davidson. He might be Georgia's most efficient overall offensive player, but he doesn't get many minutes. That suggests to me that his defense must be pretty awful. But again, 7-for-7 against GW; he might be receiving more minutes in the near future.
- When I say Georgia's good at getting to the line, I'm really talking about Charles Mann. UGA has four players who draw at least four fouls per 40 minutes, but Mann is 54th nationally in that stat at 7.2. (For comparison, Earnest Ross is at 5.3, Jordan Clarkson is at 5.1, and Jabari Brown is at 5.0) He has attempted 78 free throws; nobody else on the team has attempted even 43. So yeah, he draws contact at the rate of 1.5 Clarksons. That's a lot of contact.
Keys to the Game
- The Whistles. As if you hadn't already caught on, both of these teams draw a lot of fouls. The difference is that Georgia also commits them at a high frequency, and Mizzou does not. Still, officiating is a crapshoot, and if Mann is drawing fouls that both a) get him some free points and b) get either Ross, Brown or Clarkson into foul trouble, that's not a good thing. We know how important Mizzou's Big 3 or 4 (depending on whether we're counting Johnathan Williams III) are to this team.
- The 3-ball. Georgia opponents are making 34.5 percent of their 3-pointers this year, and Mizzou is making 36.2 percent. We know from Pomeroy's writing that this is more random than we intuitively like to think it is, but if Mizzou is making its open looks from downtown, the Tigers are just about impossible to stop. Meanwhile, Georgia stinks at the long ball, so if the Dawgs get a little lucky and make a few, that could also give them a lifeline.
- The Glass. Mizzou holds the edge in both rebounding categories, but the edge is not significant. Georgia isn't as good a rebounding team as it probably should be with its overall size, but the Dawgs certainly aren't bad at it, and if the Tigers aren't as focused as usual (as was the case for much of the game against LBSU on Saturday), Georgia could take advantage. Mizzou needs to keep its energy up and keep Djurisic and Marcus Thornton (336th in Off. Rebound Rate) off of the offensive glass, and JW3 and Ryan Rosburg need to win some battles against Donte' Williams, Juwan Parker, Cameron Forte, Djurisic, Thornton, etc., on the other end of the court. This should be a Tiger advantage, but it's not guaranteed.
Georgia is not without skill, but the Dawgs haven't done enough things well to really present themselves as a threat in the SEC. If Mizzou plays well, makes open shots, and hits the glass hard, the Tigers shouldn't have much trouble here. Pomeroy projects a 77-64 Mizzou win, but I think it goes a few points in either direction. Either Georgia draws fouls and rebounds well and forces Mizzou into something like a 73-69 score, or the Tigers play well and cruise, something more like 81-59. I'll lean latter while acknowledging that former is a possibility for a Missouri team that has certainly not mastered the "focus for 40 full minutes" thing yet.