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Mizzou Network flashback: Tigers clinch 1987 Big 8 title with win over Iowa State

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Mizzou Network / YouTube

Man oh man, Mizzou Network. If you post one classic game per day for the next five months, we'll watch all of them. The latest classic: the conference title-clinching win over Iowa State in 1987. Spoiler alert: Derrick Chievous goes off.

To commemorate the occasion, I tossed together some Study Hall-esque data on this team. Enjoy.

Missouri 74.2, Opponents 68.7

Mizzou
Opp
Pace (No. of Possessions) 69.8
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.06 0.98
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.40 1.21
2-PT FG% 52.5% 46.6%
3-PT FG% 36.0% 37.6%
FT% 70.0% 67.7%
True Shooting % 57.5% 52.2%
FTA/FGA 49.3% 36.6%
Mizzou Opp
Assists 14.6 12.9
Steals 7.9 7.0
Turnovers 14.9 14.6
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.51 1.37
Mizzou Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds 10.9 12.4
Offensive Rebounds 9.7 9.5
Difference -1.2 -2.9
  • The game was about to speed up dramatically -- Mizzou would average 77.2 possessions per game in 1987-88 and 79.2 in 1988-89 -- but this was a bit more of a grind. Mizzou won games by getting to the line, making free throws, and grabbing defensive boards. This wasn't a spectacular defensive team (as you'll see below, the team was long and skinny), but it was versatile and had the best pure scorer Mizzou has ever had.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Derrick Chievous (6'7, 187, Jr.) 24.7 0.69 35.7 MPG, 24.1 PPG (55% 2PT, 39% 3PT, 81% FT), 8.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.7 TOPG
Nathan Buntin (6'9, 205, Fr.) 10.7 0.35 30.4 MPG, 11.8 PPG (52% 2PT, 57% FT), 4.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.8 TOPG
Lynn Hardy (6'2, 179, Jr.) 10.5 0.37 28.5 MPG, 11.3 PPG (46% 2PT, 36% 3PT, 82% FT), 3.4 APG, 2.5 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 3.0 TOPG, 3.3 PFPG
Mike Sandbothe (6'8, 203, So.) 9.1 0.30 30.4 MPG, 6.5 PPG (62% 2PT, 50% 3PT, 54% FT), 5.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.4 TOPG, 3.4 PFPG
Greg Church (6'8, 205, So.) 6.6 0.28 23.3 MPG, 6.0 PPG (50% 2PT, 63% FT), 4.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 SPG
Michael Ingram (6'8, 210, So.) 4.8 0.28 17.1 MPG, 4.4 PPG (60% 2PT, 61% FT), 3.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 2.7 PFPG
Lee Coward (6'1, 175, Fr.) 4.6 0.21 21.8 MPG, 6.4 PPG (46% 2PT, 30% 3PT, 66% FT), 1.7 APG, 1.3 RPG, 1.4 TOPG
Gary Leonard (7'1, 248, So.) 4.3 0.33 13.0 MPG, 4.4 PPG (53% 2PT, 63% FT), 3.1 RPG
Bradd Sutton (6'9, 200, Fr.) 1.8 0.24 7.5 MPG, 1.7 PPG (55% 2PT, 68% FT), 1.0 RPG
Devon Rolf (6'3, 185, Jr.) 1.0 0.18 5.8 PPG, 1.0 PPG
Mike Potthoff (6'8, 198, Jr.) 0.5 0.22 2.3 MPG, 0.4 PPG, 0.7 RPG
Kurt Brockman (6'8, 201, Jr.) 0.2 0.03 4.6 MPG, 0.4 PPG
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Chievous 31% 45% 3.0 30% 42% 21% 7%
Buntin 21% 41% 2.1 34% 44% 14% 8%
Hardy 24% 39% 3.5 58% 26% 8% 8%
Sandbothe 13% 45% 2.7 70% 14% 8% 8%
Church 15% 40% 1.9 46% 27% 18% 9%
Ingram 14% 43% 2.3 57% 19% 13% 10%
Coward 18% 38% 2.5 54% 29% 10% 7%
Leonard 20% 40% 2.0 39% 39% 10% 12%
Sutton 12% 41% 1.3 38% 33% 17% 12%
Rolf 10% 39% 1.7 56% 14% 19% 11%
  • Looking at the lineup, my guess was that Chievous' Usage Rate was going to approach about 35%, but that discounted the effect of Lynn Hardy, who had the ball in his hands quite a bit (shooting and passing). Plus, Nathan Buntin basically did nothing but shoot when open and grab defensive rebounds, but that was enough for a freshman.
  • Derrick Chievous hit the deck a lot for a 6'7, 187-pounder.
  • This reminds us just how unlikely Lee Coward's heroics were -- he took down Kansas both at Hearnes and in the Big 8 Tournament ... while averaging six points per game.
  • LOOK AT HOW YOUNG THIS TEAM WAS. Not a single senior. When Oklahoma, Kansas, and others leaped forward and left Mizzou in the dust a bit in 1988, it had to be pretty disappointing considering the expectations.

Summary

This was kind of the calm before the storm in the Big 8. The conference would surge forward in 1987-88, which finished with an Oklahoma-Kansas national title game, but Mizzou managed to win the league while ranking just 35th in Sports Reference's SRS ratings in 1987. This was a lanky, skinny team that didn't do a ton well (the average score, after all, was a five-point win) and stood at just 8-6 in early January following a 66-50 loss at Virginia. But the Tigers caught fire, going 11-3 in conference play, winning their last six games of the regular season, and winning the Big 8 tournament as well. (And yes, they lost to Xavier in the NCAAs. But let's not talk about that.)

Despite completely lacking in senior presence, Mizzou went 12-6 in games decided by six or fewer points and went on a wonderful run to finish conference play. If it's possible to play great team ball with one primary scorer, Mizzou did it.

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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.