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About Jordan Geist’s drive...

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Mizzou stinks at sideline out-of-bounds plays, so Jordan Geist attacking an unsettled defense might have been the best option. Didn’t work out.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

You all hated it.

I don’t blame you, either. With Mizzou trailing 88-87 and seven seconds left, Jordan Geist driving the ball to the rim for the win isn’t the first play that springs into my mind. Alas, that’s what unfolded.

Geist, for all his noble efforts this season, isn’t a natural point guard. As he attacked, he missed Jordan Barnett standing alone in the corner for a spot-up 3-pointer that statistics and common sense tell you might be a better play than being met at the tin by three defenders.

But I also sort of get what thought entered Geist’s mind.

When he crossed half court, Ole Miss was still scrambling around in a cross match. No defender stepped forward to do one of the first tasks in transition: pick up the dribbler. When an ESPN2 camera showed the play from a trailing angle, you could see a crease and a defender’s head turned. So, Geist attacked. Ole Miss, though, has more athletic wings with the kind of footspeed to recover and challenge at the rim.

Conventional wisdom says you call a timeout and let Martin draw up a SLOB (Sideline Out of Bounds) play, preferably one to get the ball into Kassius Robertson’s hands.

There’s just one kink.

Mizzou is not good at SLOB plays. Like at all. Seriously. Putrid. Like ranking 328th nationally at 0.62 PPP and shooting just 24.6 percent in those situations, per Synergy Sports. On Twitter, KCTV5’s Tom Martin asked me whether that stems from Cuonzo Martin’s late-game wizardry with a grease board or from Mizzou’s personnel.

First, let's look at the options.

Who can Mizzou turn to late in games?

Player GP % Time Poss / Game Points PPP FGm FGM FGA FG% aFG% %TO %FT %SF %Score
Player GP % Time Poss / Game Points PPP FGm FGM FGA FG% aFG% %TO %FT %SF %Score
Jordan Geist 27 9.80% 0.6 0.5 0.875 0.3 0.1 0.4 30% 45% 18.80% 25% 12.50% 31.30%
Jordan Barnett 27 3.70% 0.4 0.3 0.7 0.1 0.1 0.3 42.90% 50% 30% 0% 0% 30%
Kassius Robertson 27 7.10% 0.9 0.4 0.417 0.6 0.1 0.7 16.70% 25% 20.80% 4.20% 0% 16.70%
Jontay Porter 27 5.10% 0.5 0.1 0.308 0.3 0 0.3 0% 0% 23.10% 15.40% 7.70% 15.40%
Synergy Sports Tech

No, you’re not reading the chart wrong.

Analytics, which I stress are just a guide, hint that Geist has been as good as Robertson. Obviously, context matters. What’s time and score? What defensive personnel is on the floor? What actions or spots make them vulnerable? There’s no universal call. And even if the first and second options are covered up, you may wind up with Kevin Puryear taking a spot-up 3-pointer in the left corner, which leads to this.

Zooming out, though, and taking a macro view, there’s not a player on this roster whose metrics state a clear case for them being a go-to option late. When we compare Robertson (0.942 PPP), Geist (0.943) and Barnett (0.845 PPP) for their efficiencies out of timeouts, there’s not a huge gap between the first two. The only area where Robertson owns a distinct advantage is launching late-clock jump shots.

There’s the potential for Robertson to make a play to win the game in regulation, especially considering he’s shown an ability to shoot well on the move off hand-offs or ball-screens. The issue, though, is actually getting him the ball.

And that’s where Cuonzo enters the picture. Take a gander at how his past teams have fared with SLOB plays.

Is Cuonzo Martin SLOB-Y?

Season # Team GP % Time Poss / Game Points PPP FGm FGM FGA FG% aFG% %TO %FT %SF %Score
Season # Team GP % Time Poss / Game Points PPP FGm FGM FGA FG% aFG% %TO %FT %SF %Score
2016-17 324 California Golden Bears 34 3.80% 2.6 1.7 0.64 1.4 0.5 1.9 28.10% 32.80% 16.90% 12.40% 9% 30.30%
2015-16 260 California Golden Bears 34 3.70% 2.5 1.9 0.741 1.3 0.6 2 32.80% 38.80% 12.90% 9.40% 9.40% 34.10%
2014-15 341 California Golden Bears 32 3.80% 2.5 1.5 0.6 1.3 0.6 1.8 32.20% 37.30% 20% 6.30% 3.80% 27.50%
2013-14 210 Tennessee Volunteers 35 4.80% 3 2.4 0.792 1.5 0.7 2.2 33.30% 37.80% 14.20% 16% 11.30% 36.80%
2012-13 225 Tennessee Volunteers 33 4.20% 2.7 2 0.733 1.3 0.8 2.1 38.20% 42.60% 17.80% 6.70% 3.30% 34.40%
2011-12 176 Tennessee Volunteers 34 4.80% 3.2 2.4 0.769 1.6 0.9 2.5 35.70% 43.50% 16.70% 7.40% 5.60% 32.40%
2010-11 159 Missouri State Bears 35 4.70% 2.9 2.4 0.816 1.3 0.9 2.2 40.80% 45.40% 16.50% 11.70% 8.70% 39.80%
2009-10 66 Missouri State Bears 36 4.90% 3.3 3 0.916 1.5 1 2.5 41.10% 50.60% 15.10% 10.10% 5% 39.50%
2008-09 141 Missouri State Bears 5 3.60% 2.4 1.8 0.75 1.6 0.4 2 20% 25% 0% 16.70% 16.70% 33.30%

Generally, Martin’s teams have been below average operating in the situation Mizzou would have found itself in had Geist called timeout.

That doesn’t mean Martin has those numbers running through his head, and to be a coach is to have the self-belief that you can put your team in a position to win. The fact he called Geist over to give counsel is evidence enough that the Tigers coach probably preferred an alternative to Geist plowing toward the rim. If he had his druthers, I’d feel safe betting Martin would like the chance to sketch something out in a huddle.

I’m merely pointing out that, historically, it’s been a weak spot.

Meanwhile, Geist driving the ball in transition is usually worth 1.15 PPP, and the junior shoots 60 percent in those situations. That’s better than a sideline play or heavily contested 3-pointer launched late in the clock.

What the last play of regulation underscores again is Mizzou’s lack of a reliable point guard to facilitate good offense or a slasher with the prowess to conjure a play from thin air.

Now, maybe Mizzou gets good news on Thursday and Michael Porter Jr. is cleared to return. Inserting a likely top-5 pick in the NBA draft into your lineup would certainly change how Mizzou approaches the end stages of tight games. But given what’s been reported, it may take Porter some time to reacclimate, if he even sets foot on the floor at all.

For as much as Robertson’s improved, he’s still not a guy you can give the ball to, step back and let him create. Barnett occasionally shows flashes, but he’s better as a cutter. Jontay Porter can be deadly in roll-and-replace actions, but those can be slow-developing. More often than not, opponents direct manpower to deny Robertson easy catches and good looks, putting the onus at times on Geist.

Right now, Mizzou and Martin are in a position where they have to go with the best pick from a menu of flawed options — a situation that will only be resolved when new personnel arrives.

Stated another way: Man, I hope MPJ’s checkup goes well.