I’ve got a couple different plans on how to use these stats going forward.
For one, I do plan on some minor changes/upgrades to Study Hall next year. This past year, I was playing catchup due to some staff turnover (hiring people actually takes up a lot of time, you have to like... read submissions and stuff, it’s wild) and it prevented me from turning Study Hall into what I really want it to be. So I hope next year I’ll have things fully fleshed out and ready and raring to go by the time the season starts.
But as a review of this past season, I wanted to look at things in a couple different ways. So I’m planning on running a few more of these. We’ll take a look at:
- The Anatomy of a Win
- The Anatomy of a Loss
- The down turn
- The recovery
Basically, I plan on deconstructing what Missouri did when they won, lost, what went wrong in the middle of the year, and what changed down the stretch.
In the meantime we have — ALL THE STATS — to parse over for how the season went. So if you don’t want to read anymore, I’ll sum it up by saying... it went okay.
Now to the numbers!
- One of my favorite things is when people say Cuonzo Martin teams play slow: They really don’t, they don’t play fast but the difference between Missouri (#267 in Tempo) and and someone 100 spots higher in tempo (#167 in UConn) are two measly possessions per game. Most college teams play kinda slow. There are only 88 teams who play at 70 possessions or faster, even with all the rule changes to encourage more pace. So Cuonzo Martin’s teams play slightly slower than average, but they’re within the margin of 125 different teams who play within the 65-68 possessions per game.
- I think I was initially really struck by how poorly the 3-point shooting was: For both teams. We know a lot at this point how poorly Missouri shot the ball this season, but their only benefit was they seemed to infect their opponent with awful shooting as well.
- If Cuonzo builds his teams through Defense and Rebounding: This version was mostly just okay as a Martin team. They defended really well early as a necessity, then struggled without Jeremiah Tilmon and Mark Smith, then recovered a bit at the end. But the rebounding overall was just a marginal win for the Tigers. If they want to make the NCAA tournament next year with most of this same group, that needs to improve.
- Turnovers too, weirdly enough this team is still weirdly prone to coughing the ball up: Adding a bonafide point guard with Dru Smith should have helped, but Dru’s TORate was about the same as the rest of the team. When you struggle to score the ball, giving up possessions like that is going to make it even more of a challenge and one this team didn’t need.
Your Season Trifecta: Dru Smith, Mark Smith, Xavier Pinson
On the season: Dru Smith 45 points, Mark Smith 25 points, Xavier Pinson 23 points, Kobe Brown 19 points, Javon Pickett 15 points, Jeremiah Tilmon 18 points, Mitchell Smith 16 points, Reed Nikko 13 points, Torrence Watson 8 points, Tray Jackson 3 points, Parker Braun 2 points, Axel Okongo 1 point
Final tally above.
Clearly Dru was the page turner, and Xavier’s late season surge boosted him into the top three. Having a guy who missed seven games, and didn’t play starter level minutes in the final four games, placing in the three was part of the problem for Missouri this year. They had enough talent to be good, but playing without Tilmon and Mark for long stretches early in conference play caused a bit of a cratering, and there wasn’t anyone to pick up the slack.
Last season when Mark injured his foot, Torrence Watson was there to pick up the slack. He produced the kind of outside shooting the Tigers needed. But this year Watson was mired in a season long slump. He hit 13 threes in two games, and 21 in the remaining 29 games he played.
The Tigers largely got consistency from Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith, but neither provided the potency offensively to give the team the boost they needed in the absence of realible shooting.
If you take Dru Smith’s year and replicate it next year, and simply take the good version of Xavier Pinson more often than not, plus a healthy Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon, it might be enough for this team to get back on the right path. One of the things that really stands out to me is the lack of a real usage guy. Pinson is the closest at 28%, but even then he’s at the very bottom of what KenPom considers a “Go-To” guy.
Missouri just needs its better players to be more high usage.
Maybe I’m stubborn (in fact I know I’m stubborn), but I still don’t see this team as necessarily being as far off the preseason projections we had for them here. I thought there was a giant soft middle in the SEC and Mizzou was in that soft middle. A bit of luck and they could’ve easily been 11-7 instead of 7-11. But they didn’t get that luck. They got the opposite of the luck needed.
They played their worst game of the season against a bad opponent who turned in their best shooting night of the season. Their best offensive threat on the interior, and top defender around the rim, got hurt right as the competition ramped up in conference. Then their best outside shooter (and the only guy to hit more than 30% from three) goes down for an additional stretch.
But it is the coach’s job to stock the roster.
Martin should have backup plans that can help, and the backup plans didn’t generate the help needed until Pinson’s late season stretch.
Seeing the offensive regression take place as it did was startling to watch. I think there was an expectation going into the season that this team would be slightly better on both ends of the court, and for whatever reason, they were statistically worse. Because of that, there was a feeling of regression despite increased wins in conference play.
Mizzou finished the season on a bit of a high note— they finished with 7 wins in conference, which is better than the five from the previous year. Overall the conference was down, and maybe that was enough to give the Tigers the boost. But going into the offseason, Missouri needs to approach next year with a little more of a do-or-die attitude. This group is going to thin out after next year. As I noted yesterday, five graduating seniors next year means for most it’s the last go. It’s also time to see the plan is working. Missouri needs to be in the conversation for a tournament bid next year.
At the very least, it’d be nice to see them healthy.