If you haven’t already had enough Braggin’ Rights content, I’m here now to talk about the numbers!
Basketball itself can be a funny game. Missouri had an awful three game stretch, capped off with an atrocious loss to a bad team in Charleston Southern. It doesn’t matter that the 346th rated 3-point shooting team somehow shot 45% on 10-22 from deep. Statistically speaking, that’s an outlier. Such as Mark Smith going from 7-of-9 against Southern Illinois, and not being able to hit the broad side of the barn against Illinois.
Missouri is 7-4, with one remaining non-conference game before they start SEC play. Once you’ve hit 11 games, you pretty much are who you are at this point. You can move the needle a little in one direction or the other, but Mizzou is statistically unlikely to suddenly become a good shooting team.
That doesn’t mean they won’t get to some sort of statistical mean by the end of the season, and we certainly hope the end result is better than 305th in the country from behind the arc. Still, I think it’s fair to say that 78th in the country (last year’s mark) is probably out of the question. But maybe just being not awful from deep, while fielding an elite defense, and being good around the rim, is enough to make the difference.
To the Braggin’ Rights Stats!
- Illinois came into the game leading the country in rebounding, I don’t know if you heard that statistic during the broadcast. They’re currently #3 in Offensive Rebound Rate, and 64th in Defensive Rebound Rate. One thing I think was undersold, was Missouri is a very good rebounding team as well, and Martin traditionally is a very good rebounding coach. His teams board. So the expected rebound margin was a nice surprise, but not altogether shocking. But as Missouri was extending their lead, Illinois was not getting offensive rebounds. They had just 4 on 25 shots.
- Things we knew about Illinois going into the game? They don’t shoot a lot of threes, and they also don’t make a lot of them either. For all Missouri’s struggles from behind the line, Illinois is right there with the Tigers in percent from behind the arc. They’ve adapted by not taking a lot (contrary to Missouri, who takes 40% of their shots there). If everyone makes their season average from behind the line, Illinois would’ve shot 4/14 (leaving them at 62 points), and Missouri would’ve done the same... scoring one less three to leave them at 60 points. Game flow doesn’t always dictate things that way, but it’s an interesting point for how valuable the ability to sink 3-point shots is in today’s game.
- Turnovers are always an issue with this team, but Missouri turned the ball over 7 times in the final 4:29 of game play. If they’d have valued the ball the way they did over the first 35 minutes (12), they would have only turned the ball over another couple times at most. That’s the difference between a 20% and a 28% turnover rate. After 7 TOs in the first half, that was where they were headed also. Instead, ball handling fell apart down the stretch and nearly cost them the win in BCI, and did cost them the overall four factors win.
Your Trifecta: Dru Smith, Javon Pickett, Kobe Brown
On the season: Mark Smith 18 points, Dru Smith 15 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 14 points, Javon Pickett 10 points, Xavier Pinson 5 points, Mitchell Smith 3 points, Kobe Brown 3 points, Torrence Watson 1 point
Beating Illinois when you didn’t play good offense has to feel pretty good. Not that Missouri shouldn’t be used to this kind of offensive performance by this point, but still. To get virtually nothing from Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon, and have a 14 point lead in the second half goes to show how important team defense is to Cuonzo Martin’s bunch.
In the first half the Tigers were scuffling, and Dru Smith was the salve. He applied himself where needed and gave the offense the boost they needed. In the second half it was strictly a Xavier Pinson and Javon Pickett half. Both scored 11, and were efficient. Well, they were efficient until Pinson decided to kick the ball around in the last 3:30 of the game. Pinson lost himself a trifecta point by turning the ball over four times in that span. By doing that, he let Kobe Brown sneak in, off the strength of his four steals in 13 minutes.
That the offensive numbers are as ugly as they are really reflect where this game was won. Mizzou did what they needed to do, made a few threes in the first half (4-10), crashed the glass in the second half, and made their free throws down the stretch.
But only having one player with a usage above 25% and a Floor% north of 40% meant they were going to need to be creative to score points. In my column yesterday, I mentioned that by 10 games in you are who you are going to be. And Missouri just isn’t a good offensive team.
This doesn’t mean they can’t improve offensively
In fact, I think they can. But what we’re talking about is going from 0.98 for raw efficiency (where they are now) and moving toward 1.01 or 1.02 (about where they were last year. It’s easy to see how that happens since most of the parts are the same as a year ago. Dru Smith isn’t the same kind of player as Jordan Geist, but he’s close to the same level of production. Missouri is still looking for a Puryear guy who can give them garbage points with more frequency.
I still don’t think we’ve seen the best version of this team offensively. Tilmon has been all over the place, Mark Smith has been inconsistent, Torrence Watson has been absent. They’re capable of being better, even if it’s not leaps and bounds better. If you want the good news?
This team defends better than any Mizzou team since J.T. Tiller was in the back court. No matter when they step on the court, they’re going to work defensively and make life miserable for the opponent. The way the SEC is trending, that’s going to be enough to win on a lot of nights.