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Mizzou Hoops Player Review: Xavier Pinson

The point guard started well, faded down the stretch and then left the program. What do his numbers tell us?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Missouri at Oklahoma IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou Hoops has been in offseason mode for all of nine days, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was more like nine months.

Of the 11 players that saw minutes in Missouri’s 2020-2021 season, we know with almost complete certainty that seven of them won’t be back in black-and-gold next season. None of the five seniors have indicated a return for an extra year of eligibility, and that’s reflected in the five-man recruiting class of 2021.

Missouri is also losing both Xavier Pinson and Parker Braun to the transfer portal, moves that aren’t necessarily surprising for those reading the tea leaves (or scrolling the timelines). Cuonzo Martin and his staff have already landed Pinson’s replacement in Green Bay transfer Amari Davis, and they’re deep in the hunt for Braun’s (to go along with the other extra scholarship they were carrying).

Today we’re starting our annual practice of reviewing the Mizzou Hoops roster player-by-player, taking a look at the good and the bad of what they accomplished in the recently passed campaign. To be honest, most of these posts will feel more like moratoriums considering much of the roster won’t be back.

But by examining how this year’s team succeeded and failed, we can begin to identify a framework for success in the coming seasons.

To start, we’re going to look at the team’s most enigmatic (former) player: Xavier Pinson. Pinson began the year as perhaps the most exciting and polarizing talent on the team... and ended with an extended stay on the bench in Missouri’s first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Oklahoma.

Xavier Pinson By the Numbers

Season Minutes % Usage Rate Offensive Rating Points % Effective FG % True Shooting % Off. Rebounding % Def. Rebounding % Assist Rate Turnover %
Season Minutes % Usage Rate Offensive Rating Points % Effective FG % True Shooting % Off. Rebounding % Def. Rebounding % Assist Rate Turnover %
2020-2021 63.1 30.7 97.1 18.5 46 52.1 1.9 10.1 24.5 21
2019-2020 59.3 26.8 98 16.5 44.5 52 3.1 10.8 27.8 22.2
2018-2019 44.2 19.6 95.9 10 49.7 55.3 4.8 12.6 26.1 30.6

What went well?

Xavier Pinson has always been a high-volume, low-efficiency guard, so there was some risk in restructuring the offense to fit his skillset. For the most part, however, Pinson’s efficiency numbers stabilized despite his incredibly high usage rate. X improved on his true shooting and efficient field goal percentages by developing an average three-point jumper and continuing to convert at the free throw line. He also improved some of the marginal parts of his game, creating only 3 fouls per 40 minutes, improving his turnover rate and posting a career-high 2.4 steal percentage.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Georgia
Xavier Pinson improved his three-point jumper as a junior, but dips in his free throw attempts and two-point efficiency depressed his overall offensive rating.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

What didn’t go well?

As the primary driver of Missouri’s offense, Xavier Pinson needed to put the pieces of his evident talent together — create for his teammates while using his explosive athleticism to create points at the rim. But despite his marginal offensive improvements, Pinson became less effective as a creator and a close-range scorer. Pinson’s 24.5 assist percentage was the lowest of his career, dropping by 3.3 percentage points from his sophomore season. And while Pinson had a team-high 30.7 usage rate and shot percentage, both his free throw attempts and two-point shots decreased — along with the percentages at which he shot them. Instead, Pinson spent much of his time working on a three-point shot that, while improved, still wasn’t good enough to justify his stagnation in close-range shots. Pinson also didn’t improve much as a defender, despite posting a career-high steal percentage — his 104.3 defensive rating at Basketball Reference was the worst number of his career.

What’s next?

For Pinson he’s looking for a new home, obviously. But what he’s looking for, I’m not sure. Pinson’s effort defensively is lacking, and he’s not an efficient scorer unless he’s being fouled. He also had a coach who rebuilt the offense last year to better suit him, and funneled more possessions through his hands than any Mizzou player since 2009. Rumors have him looking hard at Auburn, which seems fitting because recent Bruce Pearl teams focus less on perimeter defense and more blocking shots around the rim. Regardless of where Pinson ends up, I do wish him well (as long as it’s not at Missouri’s expense).

For Missouri, they very clearly need to replace production lost. And even though Pinson was often unreliable from game to game, Missouri doesn’t beat Tennessee, Arkansas or TCU without him. They’ve signed Amari Davis, who in some ways fits the profile of Pinson, a lithe 6’3 guard with questionable shooting... but they still need to do a lot more.

Sam Snelling