When a game is close it’s easier to dissect. In a close loss you can pick apart the minutiae of the numbers to try and discern which one thing could’ve gone slightly better to give Mizzou the edge.
In a game like this, where you lose by 22 points, the reason is clearer and it makes these posts more difficult. You can pick up the stat sheet and basically just throw it out. One team was clearly better, shot better, defended better and over the course of 40 minutes, it became a blowout.
So instead of an intense look at each set like we usually do, let’s talk about what’s really the issue with this team and program and how it came to manifest in an ugly 20+ point loss to a South Carolina team, who’s playing better, but still were barely inside the top 100 in KenPom at the start of the day.
- When Missouri hired Cuonzo Martin, they (and he) made a gamble in year 1, and that gamble didn’t pay off. But it was a bet they could have a huge turnaround from the Kim Anderson years, with an infusion of elite talent. The turnaround was moderate but it got them back into the NCAA tournament, despite missing out on an entire season of the play of Michael Porter, Jr. Year two was derailed by Jontay Porter missing the entire season with lottery pick projections preseason. And now, year three Missouri has again missed its most talented player for a large portion of the season.
- These injuries have completely changed the perspective of the program. With Tilmon, Mizzou wasn’t great but they also were not as forlorn as they’ve seen the last few weeks. The Tigers were holding steady in a relatively disappointing mid-50’s kenpom rating. Without Tilmon and without Mark Smith, the Tigers are saddled with Dru Smith as their best offensive weapon, and in turn have struggled with any level of offensive consistency.
- To make matters worse, losing both Tilmon and Smith means the defense is going to suffer as well. With both on the floor for the Tigers, they’re 14 points points better per 100 possessions, or roughly 10 points per game different from the squad Martin ran out versus South Carolina.
Mizzou was better than last season, if only slightly. It wasn’t the kind of growth you wanted to see but it was growth. As long as there is progress you can keep buying in, but progress continues to be stunted by events outside of the control of anyone in the program.
Your Trifecta: Javon Pickett, Reed Nikko, Tray Jackson
On the season: Dru Smith 29 points, Mark Smith 23 points, Javon Pickett 15 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 15 points, Kobe Brown 14 points, Mitchell Smith 8 points, Xavier Pinson 8 points, Reed Nikko 4 points, Torrence Watson 6 points, Tray Jackson 3 points, Parker Braun 1 point, Axel Okongo 1 point
This is not the way you remain competitive in games against even the middle of the pack of the SEC. Positive GameScores from Pickett, Nikko, and Tray Jackson, and then Parker Braun. For any positive which was put out there by those three, it was undone by Torrence Watson, Mitchell Smith, and Kobe Brown.
I said the other day Missouri basically needs three or four guys to play well in order to be competitive. Leading in the GameScore or making the trifecta isn’t an indication of playing well in this box score. Pickett was ineffective and finished with just 8 points. It was his offensive rebounding which bumped up his score. Nikko was kind of the same story. And Jackson only played 16 minutes. So while Mizzou needs three or four guys to play well, it needs those guys to also be gobbling up minutes.
So when you have three players combine for 62 minutes and net a negative GameScore, that’s bad. When Dru Smith fails to reach double digits and turns the ball over five times, that’s even worse. Without Tilmon and Mark Smith the margin of error decreases to a virtual zero for this team, and they just don’t have the dogs to mask over the mistakes.
Should’ve gone to Parker Braun on offense more, I guess. But overall, a nice showing for Jackson. In a game where most of the rosters lack of athleticism ended up with 9 blocked shots, Jackson was one of the few guys with the springs and length to get to the glass and finish contested layups.
Mizzou has fallen to 105 in KenPom. They dipped to 103 last year before a road win at Texas A&M. It’s the only other time Mizzou has reached this low of a ranking under Cuonzo Martin.
This season has really gone down a path I think was possible but pretty unlikely at the start of the season. There wasn’t a lot of reason to think, with the pieces coming back, that the Tigers would be this bad offensively. Dru Smith has largely met expectations, but lacking Tilmon and improved efficiency around him, he’s forced to take on a larger scoring role than expected. Mark Smith has been streakier than expected, and none of the sophomores appear to have taken a step forward.
So what do we need to see from here on out?
Other than “something please anything”? I want to see some renewed energy with Tilmon back. More consistent minutes for Tray Jackson. But even if they’re able to recover a bit down the stretch with Tilmon in the lineup and Mark Smith healthy, there’s still a lot of work in the offseason this teams needs to accomplish. And maybe more on the coaching staff to fill out a spot or two where they can get some effective scorers.
Here are the rest of the results from the SEC:
- LSU 73, Ole Miss 63
- Auburn 75, Kentucky 66
- Mississippi State 86, Tennessee 73
- Florida 61, Vanderbilt 55
- Arkansas 82, Alabama 78
- Georgia 63, Texas A&M 48
And the current standings:
- LSU 8-0
- Auburn 6-2
- Kentucky 6-2
- Mississippi State 5-3
- Florida 5-3
- South Carolina 5-3
- Arkansas 4-4
- Alabama 4-4
- Tennessee 4-4
- Texas A&M 4-4
- Missouri 2-6
- Georgia 2-6
- Ole Miss 1-7
- Vanderbilt 0-8