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Study Hall: Kentucky 87, Mizzou 66

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If Reed Nikko is in the Trifecta, Jeremiah Tilmon probably had a pretty bad game.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Again, I was in Boston for this one and didn’t see one second of this game. Sam’s already written most of what you need to know about, but let’s see if we can pick a few other things from the stats.

Team Stats

One thing I find pretty useful once we’ve gotten pretty deep into a given season is to compare a team’s expected points in a given game (based on season averages) to what was actually scored in a given game. It can be useful in reinforcing how random it is to put the ball in the bucket, especially from long range.

Missouri beat Kentucky in Columbia because the Tigers let the Wildcats attempt a lot of 3s, something they aren’t very good at. UK responded with a 2-for-20 performance from long range, 24 percentage points below their season average. On Saturday, the Wildcats were nearly 30 percentage points above their season average. Progression to the mean stinks when the other team does it.

Here’s a summary of Kentucky’s Saturday night shooting compared to season averages:

  • 2-pointers (18-for-35, 36 points): +0.4 points vs. UK’s season average, +4.1 points vs. Mizzou’s season average allowed
  • 3-pointers (10-for-16, 30 points): +13.5 points vs. UK’s season average, +14.6 points vs. Mizzou’s season average allowed
  • Free throws: +1.5 points vs. UK’s season average, +0.4 points vs. Mizzou’s season average

(I’ll use the 3-point shooting for translation: UK attempted 16 3-pointers on Saturday. The Wildcats have made 34.3% of their 3s for the season, which means they would make about 5.5 of those 16 3s on average, producing about 16.5 points. Instead, those 15 shots produced 30 points, +13.5 points above season average.)

So the shots Kentucky took generated 15.4 more points than what UK would normally expect and 19.1 more points than what Mizzou normally allows. Add that to a third straight ball-handling disaster, and you’ve got a 21-point loss despite decent rebounding.

In the last two wins of Mizzou’s now-defunct five-game winning streak, Missouri produced a BCI of 2.14 while holding opponents to a 1.04. I openly wondered if they had taken a couple of steps forward in this department.

If they did, they followed those steps with nine steps backwards. BCI, last 3 games: Opponent 2.41, Mizzou 1.00. That forces you to shoot well and rebound well to win. It also means that if a good opponent goes 10-for-16 from 3-point range, you’re dead meat on a stick.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Robertson-Barnett-Nikko

Here are the games in which Reed Nikko has found himself in the Trifecta:

  • vs. Kentucky, a 21-point loss in which Jeremiah Tilmon contributed minus-4.5 Adj. GS points
  • vs. Auburn, an 18-point loss (Tilmon: minus-6.7)
  • vs. North Florida, a blowout win (Tilmon: plus-7.2)
  • vs. Utah, another 18-point loss (Timon: minus-5.2)
  • vs. Wagner, a blowout win (Tilmon: plus-1.9)

Nikko has been a valuable, underrated resource this year, making easy shots, playing sturdy defense, and producing both the second-best offensive rebounding rate (behind Tilmon) and defensive rebounding rate (behind Porter) on the team. And if he’s in the Trifecta, a) the game wasn’t close, and b) Tilmon probably didn’t have a good game (minus-1.5 Adj. GS PPG in the games above). Him being in the Trifecta is about as much of a bad sign as Jontay being in it is a good sign.

Kassius Robertson did almost literally everything he could in this one. He played basically point guard and shooting guard at the same time and did a pretty good job of it. And aside from Jordan Barnett (who was again rather camped out at the 3-point line, with seven 3-point attempts to four 2s and no free throws), he got almost no help.

By the way, in games in which Barnett shoots at least three free throws, Mizzou is 7-3. When he doesn’t, the Tigers are 11-8. Not an enormous difference in win percentage (0.700 vs. 0.579) but a difference all the same.