Ten games in is basically 1/3 of the season. There's been enough action at this point that we can very easily ascertain what this team does and doesn't do well. If you've watched the games, you know the roster, you know the talent, you know the strengths and weaknesses.
The next third for this team is where we figure out if they (and for that matter, us) are going to be beaten down for the rest of the season, or if we're going to watch this young team figure some things out. The next 10 games are going to be the difference between a 10 win season, and a 15 or more win season. Missouri is currently 156th in KenPom. Only Auburn and Lipscomb remain on the schedule that are ranked lower. In RPI, no SEC team is ranked below the Tigers at 127 (Auburn is closest at 125). That's pretty dire. The fact that this team hasn't played a power conference opponent to within 10 points at this rate is a real concern, as there is only one NON power conference opponent left.
Yet, we still watch this team with cautious optimism because we're crazy. If you look at the end results, there's little reason to think that this team can sniff 15 wins. If you watch the games you're probably equally frustrated by the spells of anemic offense to accompany the so-so defense. And if you read Bill's Study Hall piece on Xavier you'd know that Missouri played it's best 18 minute stretch of basketball this season. Xavier is a good basketball team. And for 18 minutes of that game, Missouri was 10 points better. If Missouri is close to being a more polished offensive team, they're probably a lot more than 10 points better too. If Mizzou is shooting an average game from beyond the arc, they makes all the difference in the stretch where Xavier went from up 1 in the second half to up 16.
Coming up tomorrow, I'll have a post talking about that exact stretch. Where Mizzou went from a possible upset threat, to down 16 in 10 minutes of game action. A more polished offensive team can manage that stretch better than the Tigers did on Saturday.
Which means it's time to look at the:
A single digit percentage in 3 point shooting is the undoing. Missouri lost to Oklahoma after shooting 9-16 from 3, and lost to Xavier shooting 1 of 16. Their overall FG% had gotten better, but you can't shoot 1-16 from outside and win too many games, not without winning most of the other battles on the floor. And speaking to that, Mizzou was down 7 on the rebounds.
It was nice to see Jakeenan Gant out on the floor.
Keith Shamburger didn't have his best offensive game, going 3 for 9 from the field, but for the first time in a long time he didn't turn the ball over. Xavier isn't the toughest defensive team, but that's the step that we needed from the senior guard. Wes Clark came off the bench and had a pretty steady, if unspectacular game. That was also a positive step for him. Clark had struggled a lot since the team went to Maui, and Missouri is going to need him to play a lot better heading into league play.
My concern at this point is how much you can trust Tramaine Isabell with a lot of minutes going forward. I still think he can be a good player, but he's a different player against the better competition. He's just ineffective when going against more athletic players. I think he'll figure it out, but I'm not sure he's ready right now.
Outboarded by 7, some pretty serious waning of effort from a young team when the offense doesn't work like the want it to. To me, I can take losing the rebounding battle at times, but if there's one thing this coach needs to fix it's the poor effort from the younger guys when they aren't making shots. That's the one time you CAN'T relax on defense. Gotta go get the ball back, fellas.
Did I mention that it was nice to see Jakeenan Gant back?
- Keith Shamburger: 36 minutes
- Johnathan Williams: 34 minutes
- Montaque Gill-Caesar: 28 minutes
- Wes Clark: 20 minutes
- Ryan Rosburg: 16 minutes
- Namon Wright: 15 minutes
- Jakeenan Gant: 15 minutes
- D'Angelo Allen: 11 minutes
- Tramaine Isabell: 11 minutes
- Keanau Post: 4 minutes