We talked about regression to the mean in the last study hall and, welp, that’s what happened Tuesday. Mizzou’s offense is where we thought it was before the blitzing Florida.
There have been corrections along the way. Games where Mizzou has played more cleanly, and others where it’s been tough. Florida was an outlier on one side, but the shift back toward the Tigers’ baseline was swift against Mississippi State.
Missouri was awful. Every player on the roster had a rough night. In a way, it was predictable. The Tigers were floating on good vibes after a huge win over the Gators. Meanwhile, a desperate group of Bulldogs was reeling after buzzer-beater loss to LSU.
Coach Ben Howland’s squad was 0-3 in league play but is better than that record. Everyone on the Mississippi State bench knew how hard it would be to dig out from four consecutive SEC losses. It was a perfect storm, and one made all the more perfect for a long ugly history of Missouri sucking at the Hump in Starkville.
- 2013: MSU was awful, Missouri won 78-36
- 2015: MSU won 52-43
- 2017: MSU won 89-74
- 2018: MSU won 74-62
- 2019: MSU won 68-49
- We don’t need to spend a lot of time here. When you shoot as poorly as Missouri and don’t play stout defense, things go poorly.
- We know the offense is inconsistent, but MU’s defensive slippage is worrying. Through four SEC games, Kentucky (1.09 PPP), Tennessee (1.04 PPP), Florida (1.13 PPP), and now MSU (1.14 PPP) have all had offensive success against Missouri. During non-conference play, Mizzou was looking like a fearsome defense, but that hasn’t translated after two weeks of conference action. Sure, scoring 0.71 points per possession will get you precisely nowhere in college basketball, but neither will allowing up north of 1.10 points per possession on defense.
- Mizzou fumbled the ball and was beaten on the glass. I can’t imagine a Cuonzo Martin coached team struggling in a game where they decidedly lost both of those categories.
The game was over quickly. Missouri was sluggish out of the box, turned the ball over on six possessions in the first 10 minutes (and a seventh just inside those 10 minutes). They took more than 8 minutes to score their second basket. It was bad. It didn’t get better.
Your Trifecta: Kobe Brown, Mark Smith, Parker Braun... sure
On the season: Dru Smith 23 points, Mark Smith 21 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 15 points, Javon Pickett 12 points, Kobe Brown 10 points, Mitchell Smith 6 points, Xavier Pinson 5 points, Torrence Watson 3 points, Tray Jackson 2 points, Reed Nikko 1 point, Parker Braun 1 point
After a loss to Tennessee, I talked about role players leading MU in crucial categories, and here we are, with only Mark Smith making the trifecta. And even Mark’s performance wasn’t great. It just wasn’t awful. He had 8 points and a few other stat-box fillers.
Parker Braun getting into the trifecta while playing five minutes of mop-up duty and making two shots tells you all you need to know about how the night unfolded.
Meanwhile, Torrence Watson and Mitchell Smith achieved negative game scores in a combined 44 minutes.
Maybe Missouri just needed more Braun?
I feel like I’m jumping around, but I’m not sure we learned much from this game except one clear thing:
The win over Florida was far more an outlier than a trend, and this performance was closer to the real Missouri than we’d like to think.
No, I’m not saying Mizzou is going to lose the next dozen or so games by 30-plus points. But the situation on offense can no longer be merely labeled a struggle. In the wake of last night’s anemic outing, the Tigers were 108th nationally in adjusted efficiency, according to KenPom. The nights where they shoot well aren’t indicators of their true character. Instead, they tell us MU can function in fits and spurts.
In their nine games against power conference teams (plus the AAC), their points per possession in those games are telling.
- Xavier: 0.72
- Butler: 0.92
- Oklahoma: 0.94
- Temple: 0.91
- Illinois: 0.94
- Kentucky: 0.90
- Tennessee: 0.89
- Florida: 1.37
- Mississippi State: 0.71
Can you spot the outlier?
In those games, MU has scored 557 points on 605 possessions, producing 0.92 PPP. That raw efficiency is roughly equivalent to 315th nationally, per KenPom. And that’s with the win over Florida in the mix. Remove it, and MU tumbles to 0.866 PPP.
The good news? The defensive sledding gets a little easier. Mississippi State was always going to be hard on a Tilmon-less Tigers thanks to Abdul Ado and Reggie Perry. They’re terrific defenders around the basket, and Perry is a first-round offensive talent. Alabama is up next, and the Tide runs hot and cold offensively. Their overall defensive metrics are also mediocre.
Maybe the loosening of the defense will help the Tigers kick start their offense. But they need to make some shots. Oh, oh... and defend better.
Because the thing about Alabama is...they can score it.