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Study Hall: When Mizzou finally turned the corner

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study hall 2020

We’ve reached the end of my post-season project here now it its fifth week. Study Hall for the season but broken down by:

  1. Mizzou vs Everyone
  2. When Mizzou won
  3. When Mizzou lost
  4. Mizzou on a skid
  5. Mizzou recovers

The last few weeks haven’t been fun. But we’re moving on and we’re better people for having gone through it. We’re at the final nine game stretch, where Mizzou kind of sorted themselves out. The offense was changed up, and Cuonzo Martin gave the keys to Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith. It turned out okay.

Here are the games we’re looking at:

  • vs #47 Arkansas
  • at #37 LSU
  • vs #33 Auburn
  • vs #102 Ole Miss
  • at #47 Arkansas
  • at #169 Vanderbilt
  • vs #48 Mississippi State
  • at #102 Ole Miss
  • vs #60 Alabama

This is an average KenPom rank of about 72nd, So not exactly murderers row, but expected when you have two games against Ole Miss and one against Vanderbilt. Both pull the overall average down a bit. The average drops to 45th if you take out those three. So with that understanding of the caliber of opponent we have a better idea of what the stats mean.

Team Stats

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  • The PPP is where we get an idea of what kind of team Missouri was down the stretch: They were 0.03 points per possession better than their opponents, it’s a slim margin. If the average opponent was 72nd in KP, and Missouri was +3 in the efficiency margin, that would have snuck them just inside the top 50.
  • The turnovers were down, and Missouri’s rebound margin was nearly +3: Which means they were getting more shots than earlier in the season. Generating more looks is a good way of getting more points per possession.
  • Notably Missouri’s 3-point shooting was still awful, but they were dragging their opponent down with them.

So Missouri was essentially playing even with their opponent but getting more offensive rebounds which was just enough to give them an edge.

They were also playing at a faster tempo. Go figure.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Xavier Pinson, Dru Smith, Reed Nikko

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For the first time in all of these exercises we have our first new name atop the trifecta.

Right now Xavier Pinson has his name in the NBA Draft mix. He’s not on any draft boards so the likelihood of him being picked is low. This is a good thing for Missouri because any progress to be made next year is made by Pinson returning to school and taking another step forward in his progression.

Pinson took some steps forward late in the season as the Tigers offense was modified to take advantage of his strengths. He still struggled with consistency, but the swings were less wild. If he can trim those down further Missouri has the primary option they’ve needed the last few years.

The fact Reed Nikko was placed in the third spot is more reason to point out the obvious holes in the roster. Jeremiah Timon only played four of the final nine games, so maybe if he returns to school and can provide what Nikko did, with some improved defense it makes Missouri better.

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Six players with a Floor Percentage above 40%, but most notably is Dru Smith isn’t one of them. If Missouri is going to turn a corner next season it’s mostly going to be done with the guys on the roster. Pinson being a big part of that, but Dru Smith has to be more consistent in shooting the ball. A third wing option would have alleviated some of the scoring pressure off of him,

But even through this stretch of improved play, Missouri got virtually nothing from its wings. Mark Smith played in four of the games and had little impact, but Javon Pickett and Torrence Watson were virtually absent.

There is a path forward for this roster

It’s narrow, and probably not even the kind of growth Missouri fans want to see, but individual improvement can go a long way. If they would just get anything from Watson or Pickett (or possibly getting more minutes from Kobe Brown on the wing) it would make things easier for the rest of the roster.

But there isn’t a transfer left on the market who will have the kind of impact as Tilmon and Pinson returning. With the new offensive approach and emphasis on Pinson and Dru Smith, just having a more consistent shooter on the outside would go a long way. That and a consistent post presence.

When Nikko was consistent, he provided a bare minimum of what you would want from Tilmon. He still fouled a lot, but he converted opportunities around the rim. His production in under 20 minutes was akin to 15 points and 9 rebounds per 40. If Missouri can get that level of production from the 5-spot next year it would mean a lot.

More than anything, you hope that even without any significant contributors added in this offseason that the last nine games is what Missouri can turn into on a more consistent level. In their wins they played at a near top 30 level, in the losses the bottom fell out. But you don’t have to be top 30 to show improvement. If Mizzou would have landed somewhere in the 50s there would have been more hope.

The job next year is to at least be the team they were down the stretch. It was good, not great, but better than the bad. 5-4 isn’t going to win any championships but in the SEC, but it should get you into the NCAA tournament.