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Managing expectations for Torrence Watson

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The St. Louis blue-chipper will likely get a major spot in the 2018-2019 rotation. But what exactly should we expect from him?

This summer, Sam posted a question as part of an annual exercise here at Rock M asking fans who they believe will be the top eight rotation members for the coming basketball year. He summed up the results of the informal Twitter exercise in this piece.

Under, “some matchups to watch,” Sam listed Torrence Watson-Javon Pickett-Cullen VanLeer as his number one choice, saying the following about Missouri’s touted freshman guard.

Most people seem to think Torrence Watson is going to be the starter but how much will he be pushed by the experienced (though, as mentioned, still injured) Cullen VanLeer and the man Cuonzo Martin has called out for his hard work already in Javon Pickett? Watson is the most talented player of the three, but he’s also making the jump from small class Missouri high school basketball where his usage may have been around 50% to the SEC. Is he ready for that step?

[Editor’s Note: The linked piece was written before VanLeer medically retired.]

Like the fans who took part in this poll, I too expect Watson to play a major role in the coming season. It’s not that bold of a take: Watson is the Tigers’ most touted freshman recruit; he’s Missouri’s reigning Gatorade Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year, developing a reputation as a tenacious scorer at Whitfield School in St. Louis. With Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett graduating — and Jontay Porter lost for the year — scoring help will be much-needed. Even if he goes through freshman struggles, it’s probably safe to assume Watson will get a good share of minutes.

However, that doesn’t leave us with much room for concrete expectations. Saying a player will be a major contributor is one thing; predicting exactly how he’ll contribute is another (probably fruitless) thing.

Still, we might be able to further nail down our expectations if we take a look at where recent freshmen fit in during their freshman campaigns. To get some perspective, we can take a look shooting guards ranked similarly to Watson from the past five recruiting classes. One of these names will be especially familiar to Missouri fans.

Torrence Watson Comps

Player Minutes% Usage% TrueShooting% Effective FG% Points%
Player Minutes% Usage% TrueShooting% Effective FG% Points%
Jamal Johnson (Memphis) 66.25 15.1 50.4 46.8 10
Zach Norvell, Jr. (Gonzaga) 67.5 22.5 59.5 56.5 15.2
K.J. Walton (Missouri) 34.43 20.7 54.3 48.3 7.8
Matthew Fisher-Davis (Vanderbilt) 55.5 19 51.7 50.1 10
Deandre Burnett (Miami) 32.1 26.1 47.5 43.3 7.5
Average 51.2 20.7 52.7 49 10.1
Comparisons for Torrence Watson based on Rivals rankings

Of course, none of these comparisons is perfect. Each program — and coach — has a different scheme and not all shooting guards possess the same skill set. There are probably hundreds of varying factors at play here, but this seems to be at least one way we can be more sure of what to expect from Watson.

One thing I immediately thought was notable: two of the players on this list have already transferred from the schools that recruited them. Walton is currently at Ball State and Deandre Burnett moved to Ole Miss, where he developed into quite a good player for them. Their shared characteristics? The amount of minutes they played and the points they produced. Neither eclipsed playing 35 percent of their team’s available minutes while also only chipping in about seven to eight percent of their teams’ points.

The takeaway from this note is probably pretty straightforward: for Watson to justify his minutes, he’ll need to chip in a fair amount of points, at least close to 10 percent. Of course, there are other factors at play. Cuonzo Martin is known to value defensive ability, and Watson will need to prove he’s not a liability. But assuming he isn’t, Watson will get an opportunity to flex his offensive skill.

So what does 10 percent look like on the coming Missouri team? There’s no surefire way to tell, but we can try for a fair estimate. Let’s say Missouri plays 31 games before the SEC Tournament starts.

Robertson, Barnett and Jontay accounted for 55 percent of the Tigers’ points last season, and it will be impossible to make up that loss completely. With returning players taking an increased role and a few contributing transfers and freshmen, let’s be optimistic and say the Tigers will lose 15 percent of their offense from last year. That comes out to 2,039 total points. If Watson chips in 10 percent, he’s putting up about 204 points, or just under 7 per game. That’s not a lot, but with the loss of Jontay Porter, Watson will probably see an uptick in shots. If we say he gets 15 percent of the points, we’re looking at closer to 10 points per game.

As for minutes, there probably doesn’t need to be as much calculation. Missouri’s guard depth is going to be extremely thin during this coming season, and even a flawed version of Watson will probably command heavy minutes.

I think the 66 to 67 percent that Johnson and Norvell put up in their freshman seasons is probably a little ambitious - unless Watson is really having an outstanding year - but it’s probably not out of the realm of possibility that Watson would play 55 to 60 percent of Missouri’s available minutes. Assuming the Tigers once again play 31 games, we’re estimating Watson plays about 22 to 24 minutes per contest.

Again, none of this is exactly scientific. There’s not way to tell exactly how Watson will adjust to college basketball in this precise atmosphere. But if we want to start managing our expectations for Missouri’s high-profile freshman, this is as good a starting place as any.

So what do you think? Would you be happy if Torrence Watson averages 22 to 24 minutes and 9 points per game? If not, let us know what you want to see from him in the comments.


Assuming Torrence Watson is at least an average player everywhere else, would you be happy to get 22 minutes and 7-10 points a game from the freshman?

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