Watching games unfold away from your team can be incredibly frustrating and sometimes lead to anger and lashing out. I’m not immune, I’ve been known to curse at the television, exasperated by common errors or simple mistakes. When taken individually they are frustrating, when compounded one after another it’s disheartening.
If any of this sounds familiar then watching the Tigers game Friday night was probably not a pleasant experience. (Fortunately for the limited availability of the broadcast likely impacted viewership for most fans.) Missouri took to the road for the first time and entered a deep metaphysical funk, one that saw them turn the ball over an astounding 15 times in the first half alone. And it left the door wide open for the Iowa State Cyclones to put the game away.
The Cyclones gave Mizzou a chance, shooting horribly during the first 15 minutes of play before putting things together and leaving the Tigers in the dust.
- Point 1: If a Typical Missouri win demands winning the BCI battle, leaving 25 possessions on the table in the form of turnovers is a good way to dash those hopes. I’m not going to pretend to know the exact historical trends when it comes to Mizzou’s BCI, but Friday has to among the worst in its modern history. I’m not even sure if Mizzou needs to win the BCI battle to win most games, but when the margin is as wide as it was against Iowa State, the result is going to be a loss every single time.
- Point 2: Ironically, MU actually shot the ball well. If you recall the Tigers loss at Utah a year ago, Mizzou missed 22 3-pointers in an ugly loss in their first road loss. In Ames, they shot well enough to win, or at least be competitive.
- Point 3: It’s hard to get whistles on the road, but the Tigers have now had two games, and their free-throw rate (free-throw attempts divided by field-goal attempts) finished below 28 percent. As a comparison, Missouri has never been below 30 percent for the season during in the KenPom era (since 2002). For a team with players who can attack the rim, the Tigers don’t generate a ton of contact. Their 38-percent rate against Iowa State was a little-inflated thanks to the sheer number of turnovers.
There was a path for Missouri on Friday: cut down on the turnovers and sustain its shooting. Simple deduction lays it out. If MU sliced its turnover count in half to 12.5 and multiplied it by the PPS (1.34), and MU would have generated another 16.75 points. They lost by 17.
Is cutting the turnovers by that much is too optimistic? Last year, Mizzou was pretty careless with the ball most of the year and finished with a 20.8-percent turnover rate. In a 69 possession game, that would have produced about 14 turnovers. No, it’s not half as many as the Tigers had Friday, but you could argue MU left 15 points on the Hilton Coliseum floor. Suddenly, a single possession loss on the road doesn’t seem as bad.
That’s a fair amount of logical twisting, But my point is that the turnover tally was extreme, and, hopefully, MU won’t have an issue curbing them. And if they do things are a lot less dire.
Your Trifecta: Mark Smith, Kevin Puryear, Torrence Watson
On the season: Mark Smith 6 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 2 points, Kevin Puryear 2 points, Torrence Watson 1 point and Javon Pickett 1 point.
After a rough 60 minutes to begin the season, Puryear finally found some momentum for his senior season. It wasn’t much, but seeing a 3 go through and getting a couple favorable matchups on the block might be enough to inspire a little confidence.
Takeaway: It looks like Cuonzo Martin has found his combo guard in Mark Smith. I don’t expect Smith to average 17 points and shoot 50 percent from deep on the season, but it’s a nice opening salvo from the Edwardsville native. If the Tigers get steady play from the off-guard spot — and a sophomore to boot — you have to feel pretty good about where the program is headed. With Tilmon, MU is settled at the post, and Geist is solid as a lead guard. What the Tigers are hunting for reliable options at wing and combo forward.
I hope Friday was a good learning experience for Pinson. He wasn’t gun shy, and perhaps having a high school teammate on the other side aided that a bit. But he also seemed a bit hurried at the wrong times.
TAKEAWAY: Only getting one guy above 40.0 in floor percentage is an excellent way to find a loss on the road. The usage rates of the young guys are interesting. Meanwhile, Pinson sticking around 30 percent seems high, and everyone in the 20-percent range except the seniors?
This won’t be the last time Missouri plays poorly.
They’re just far too green to be elite this year. The makeup of the roster likely means we’ll see a handful of road clunkers. That isn’t to say this group can’t grow into a solid or even a good team. There’s enough talent to put a scare into opponents who show up at Mizzou Arena this season. But if the Tigers aspire to earn an NCAA tournament bid, they’re going to have figure out some things offensively.
At the very least, they resolved one backcourt question with Mark Smith, who was coming off a freshman season where shot the ball poorly and was a liability at times defensively. Neither of those has been a problem for him over two games. Now, if Torrence Watson can get things figured out and play with consistency, all of the sudden you’re going somewhere.