Ahhhhh ... that’s the stuff. It only takes one win to bring some semblance of happiness to the world again. When you’re in the middle of a losing streak, looking ahead doesn’t make just a whole lot of sense. But now that Mizzou has at least briefly emerged from its funk — at least until Saturday! — let us briefly look at the path ahead.
Here’s Mizzou’s SEC schedule, past and future, laid out in order of opponents’ KenPom ranking:
- No. 9 Tennessee (W, 59-55)
- No. 10 Auburn (L, 73-91)
- at No. 28 Kentucky (Feb. 24)
- No. 28 Kentucky (Feb. 3)
- No. 29 Florida (L, 75-77)
- at No. 33 Texas A&M (L, 49-60)
- No. 33 Texas A&M (Feb. 13)
- at No. 50 Arkansas (L, 63-65)
- No. 50 Arkansas (Mar. 3)
- No. 58 Georgia (W. 68-56)
- at No. 59 Alabama (W, 69-60)
- at No. 67 Mississippi State (L, 62-74)
- No. 67 Mississippi State (Feb. 10)
- at No. 69 LSU (Feb. 17)
- at No. 72 South Carolina (W, 79-68)
- at No. 77 Ole Miss (Feb. 6)
- No. 77 Ole Miss (Feb. 20)
- at No. 87 Vanderbilt (Feb. 27)
In total, there are nine games against top-50 teams and nine against sub-top-50s. Mizzou has played five of the former and four of the latter. If the version of Mizzou that showed up last night — one that bumped the Tigers KenPom ranking back to 42nd from 47th — then they are reasonably well-positioned to win between five and seven of their final nine games. (They are now favored, per KenPom, in seven.)
Knowing how this team has trended of late, that seems like a tall ask. But it’s on the table again, at least. It’s only been 15 days since the big Tennessee win, and that same tenacious version of Mizzou showed up in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.
There seemed to be a tenuous balance heading into this game. With Collin Sexton, Alabama was almost certainly going to win the ball-control battle, but if Mizzou could keep its bigs from getting into foul trouble — and with Sexton’s penetration ability (and the potential for him dishing to bigs who would then get fouled), that wasn’t guaranteed — then the Tigers could establish an advantage on the interior.
Considering Jeremiah Tilmon, Jontay Porter, and Reed Nikko combined for 13 fouls in 43 minutes, it’s safe to say that those foul concerns were warranted. But Mizzou was able to keep either Tilmon or Porter (or, for about three minutes, both) on the court for nearly 30 minutes, and the plus/minus tells the tale:
- The ~31 minutes with either Tilmon, Porter, or both on the court: Mizzou 51, Alabama 39
- The other ~nine minutes: Alabama 21, Mizzou 18
It was indeed a tenuous balance. But Mizzou made it work, establishing its size (plus-3.3 in terms of expected rebounds, plus a 2-point shooting advantage of nearly 24 percentage points) and losing the ball-control battle by only a little bit.
Your Trifecta: Robertson-Geist-Tilmon
(Porter and Tilmon ended up producing the exact same amount in terms of Adjusted Game Score points, so I gave Tilmon the Trifecta advantage because of his per-minute rate.)
Jeretay Porman: 32 combined minutes, 25 points on 12-for-15 shooting, six rebounds, two assists, one block, five turnovers, 23.2 Adj. GS points.
Yeah, that’ll play. Three of those five turnovers came from Tilmon very early on in the game, but Porter was tremendous in the first half (10 points in nine minutes), and Tilmon carried the team briefly in the second (10 points in eight minutes). And Kassius Robertson took it from there.
With Mizzou no longer able to rely on killer 3-point shooting, we’ve seen the Tigers attempt to run their offense through their bigs. When your three bigs are two freshmen and a sophomore, however, that’s going to be a hit-or-miss proposition. Against Mississippi State no Saturday, it was a miss. In Tuscaloosa, however, the bigs saw an even higher usage rate and rolled to a win with it.
The most important stat in the above table, by the way: four players with a Floor% (percentage of your possessions that result in points) above 40 percent.
Thus far in conference play, Mizzou is...
- 0-4 with one or two guys with a Floor% above 40%
- 4-1 with at least three guys above 40%
Getting three guys going is the key. And Mizzou did it for the first time since Tennessee.