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Mizzou Hoops Wrap-Up, Game 6: The dust settles

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Six games in and Missouri is a .500 team. What can be learned from the start of the season.

We know the feeling
We know the feeling
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I needed a few days off. Between the SEC Team Previews, the basketball season starting, the football season avoiding being wrapped up, and having to carry Jack Peglow on Rock M Radio... I'm not sure I could have written anything more over the weekend. Plus, with the basketball team not really playing very well to start the season, it was nice to just enjoy the fact that the Football Tigers are headed back to the SEC Championship game.

I still feel obligated to talk about the end of the Maui Invitational, and basically the first segment of the season. We're through 6 games, we've seen this team play pretty well, we've seen them get their tails handed to them. We've seen Wes Clark look like an all-conference performer, we've seen him look like the 4th best guard on the team. We've been taunted by Montaque Gill-Caesar's abilities, and tormented by the fact he's a freshman. We've seen the ugly side of the lack of talent in the front court, and the upside of many of the new young faces. Watching the Maui Invitational it's evident that this team is a long ways from where it needs to be. I'm not really breaking any new ground by saying that either. Going to Hawaii didn't do a lot for this team from a shooting standpoint. They obviously had two not good games, followed by a good one. If there is a red flag, it's that Missouri only shot around 35% FG against their power 5 opponents. You expect that you can shoot closer to 50% against the lower tier teams, but somehow the improvement in the win column is going to have to come from better shooting performances against more athletic teams. The SEC might not be a very good league at this point, but it's an athletic league that should make it tough on the Tigers to score.

Games 1-3 ZONA PURDUE CHAM TOTAL
FG% 42.5 36.4 34.5 48.0 41.2
3FG% 34.4 23.1 35.0 42.9 34.8
FT% 61.0 69.2 80.0 65.4 66.4
FG 69-63 16-44 19-55 24-50 128-311
3FG 21-61 3-13 7-20 9-21 40-115
FT 36-59 18-26 16-20 17-26 87-131
Reb +5 +2 -13 +14 +8

Scoring is going to be a concern all season. The only real pattern that we've seen so far is that they aren't very polished offensively. At this point I think a good stat to keep your eye on will be FT attempts vs. 3-point attempts. Missouri isn't going to beat a lot of teams if they are passing the ball around the perimeter and shooting threes. Those three point shots become a little easier when Missouri is getting the ball into the paint. Whether that's a post touch and a kick out, or a drive which forces the defense to collapse. Why that's important is because that means that the offense is attacking rather than being passive. When your guards are attacking, that also means that they'll be shooting more free throws, and Missouri needs to make sure it's Free Throw attempts are a lot higher than it's three point attempts. I feel okay with them taking around 20 3-point shots, that feels like it's a decent amount as long as the majority of those shots are coming off kick outs.

So, on to my three keys (I'm just stubborn enough to keep this going for a while):

Point Guards

This team sure looks a lot better when Wes Clark plays well. Clark had a rough tournament in Hawaii. It didn't matter much against Chaminade, because the freshmen picked up their play. Against the power 5 schools, Wes Clark was not Missouri's best guard, and he's going to need to be in those games. One positive on Clark (or maybe a negative on Johnathan Wiliams) is that he's tied with JW3 for rebounds per game right now.

Quietly, Shamburger is having a nice season. He needs to shoot better from 3-point range (currently 30%), but almost everything else has been what we'd hoped. The only real hiccup is his turnover rate is a higher than you'd like. We've also seen some moderate growth from Tramaine Isabell. His shot selection has improved, and at some point I think you'll see his percentage of makes go up too.

Effort

This could be a bit of a misnomer, but the Tigers have gotten outplayed twice this year, and they lost both games. Once to UMKC and the other to Purdue. I thought they fought Arizona to a draw at least, and maybe even outplayed the Wildcats. The rest of that game was just a talent disparity. When you lack the offensive firepower that Missouri does, you're going to need to fight tooth and nail against more talented and polished teams. Purdue is probably a middle of the road B1G team this year, so losing to them doesn't look particularly good. If anything is shows the younger guys that they aren't good enough for a night off.

Balance

It's been interesting to see Coach Anderson get to 10 guys each night. What will be more interesting if they get Jakeenan Gant back. Gant makes Missouri more athletic, and even younger.

  • Wes Clark: 32.0 minutes
  • Keith Shamburger: 31.3 minutes
  • Montaque Gill-Caesar: 27.5 minutes
  • Johnathan Williams III: 23.5 minutes
  • Ryan Rosburgh: 22.3 minutes
  • D'Angelo Allen: 15.0 minutes
  • Namon Wright: 14.7 minutes
  • Tramaine Isabell: 12.3 minutes
  • Keanau Post: 11.8 minutes
  • Deuce Bello: 9.5 minutes
There are some surprising parts of this breakdown, and some that aren't. I think I expected to see Wes Clark above 30 minutes. I didn't expect to see D'Angelo Allen as the top minutes guy off the bench. I'm happy to see Namon Wright earning more minutes, he's playing harder and that has equated with more confidence on offense. If Missouri could develop another wing scorer, this teams ceiling increases.

A big area of concern for me right now is the post play. Not just Rosburg and Post, but even JW3 hasn't been as good as he needs to be. His rebounding is down (part of that has been his new empahsis on being able to shoot jump shots which take him away from the rim) and he's got to find a way to have more impact on the game when the ball isn't in his hands. Rosburg and Post are what they are at this point. You hope to be able to get 30 minutes, 8-12 points and 10 or more rebounds and just be happy with that production. Rosburg would also look better if he could remotely shoot free throws. Missouri as a team is a pretty good free throw shooting team (74% if you leave Ryan out of it), surely somebody can fix his mechanics which are all out of whack.

The GOOD news for Mizzou is that they play in the worst power conference league. If they keep growing and getting better they can win some games in conference play. The conference as a whole have lost 24 games already, and only Arkansas and Kentucky are still undefeated. And the Razorbacks have only had one real test so far in travelling to SMU (and SMU isn't exactly killing it this year with losses to Indiana and Gonzaga as well). It's going to be interesting to watch things shake out in league play, but this is certainly not how many of the basketball coaches envisioned the start of their season.

The BAD news for Mizzou is that they'll still struggle to beat many of these SEC teams. The path forward for this team has to be steady improvement. They've had several days to practice since the tournament wrapped up. They should be able to pick up a win tonight against SEMO. They probably won't beat Oklahoma, but you hope they can ugly the game up enough to make it interesting. They have a chance to steady themselves a bit over the next 3-4 weeks heading into league play.