Welcome back, Tiger fans. It’s 2023, can you believe it? I’m back with another Rock M Digest, a weekly column where I, Madame Editor, share with you my must-read picks from the last week of 2022 for the Rock M Nation content of the week. These stories made me think (sometimes too much), laugh, smile, cry... you get the picture. Since I have the distinct pleasure of reading everything on this wonderful website — I love reading it all, I swear — I want you, the readers, to know what you should be checking out if you don’t have time to read all the content. And there was A LOT of content this year.
At the bottom, I’ve gathered up my favorite quotes of the week and presented them with no context.
FYI: There are links to the stories in both the recommendations & the quotes so you can reference it if you so choose.
By Parker Gillam
Parker’s really finding his groove these days on the beat, and this piece on Brady Cook’s (surprise) labrum surgery shows both empathy for his situation while taking a good look at his improvement.
He encourages readers to perhaps reconsider some of their judgments, at least until we see Brady fully healthy. And to remember how we saw him play some of his best football at the end of the season, despite playing with a torn throwing shoulder. Good stuff.
By Matt Harris
If you’ve read anything by our resident hoops statistician, Matthew J Harris, you’d know that he loves both data and film study, so who better to analyze Mizzou’s defensive schemes? This awesome piece starts with analyzing the Tigers’ strategy in the late stages of the Wichita State game, where Mizzou slowly and methodically was able to worm its way back into the game using 1-3-1 zone. That snippet of game time, Matt points out, has foreshadowed what we’ve seen the past five games. Why are the Tigers using a cobwebbed model that many programs just aren’t utilizing nowadays? Because it works for them, based on the athleticism and size of Gates’ team, of course!
Per Harris, “The Tigers have spent 24.3 percent of defensive possessions playing zone, turning the 1-3-1 from a wrinkle to a staple. The recent uptick is why MU ranks 48th nationally – and ninth among high-majors – for zone usage, per Synergy Sports tracking data. It’s not just quantity, either. Mizzou’s allowing just 0.686 points per possession, ranking 15th in Division I.” Furthermore, he stated, “In four games against KenPom top-100 teams, MU has only allowed 0.867 PPP when playing zone. That efficiency metric spikes to 0.941 PPP in man-to-man. Practically speaking, it’s the difference between being competent and ranking 332nd nationally in raw defensive efficiency.”
Basically, you need to make it a point to check this post out. Come for the superb explanation, and then stay for the film clips, which wonderfully put it all into a visual medium for further understanding. WE LOVE TO LEARN HERE AT ROCK M!
By Matt Watkins, with video assist by Matt Harris
Well, this was a particularly fun one, as Mizzou delivered an absolute shellacking to a rival on a cold (and I mean C-O-L-D) and blustery night in downtown StL. So how did it happen? Why, by killing it in all of the key areas necessary, of course! They really “brought the ‘Paign” as Watkins so aptly wrote, and rebounding aside, the Tigers’ game plan and execution were pretty masterful in this one.
After going through the factors deemed necessary for a Tigers’ win (some of which Watkins predicted incorrectly— the horror!), the Matts presented a whole feature-length’s film worth of clips to spread some holiday cheer. It’s a must read, and pretty humorous at that.
By Nate Edwards
In his final BTBS of the 2022 season, Nate reminded us of what a football team looks like that’s missing 8 starters. So fun! Turns out, you need your better players to beat a team who fields a high-functioning offense. And even when facing even a less-than-good defense, you still need players who can reliably catch the ball.
Basically, the most important thing we learned is this: this game taught us nothing. However you view the Eli Drinkwitz regime at Missouri, this game likely did nothing to change your perspective. I know I normally save the quotes for the bottom, but I’ll include this lengthy one here:
“Regardless of why this team is the way it is, he [Drinkwitz] certainly is out of excuses. There will be a handful of Odom leftovers still on the roster next year, sure, but it will overwhelmingly be his team. There is no concern of a contract extension issue as that happened already. There should be no whispers of him looking for a new job for more money as he is going to get a substantial raise over the next five years just by showing up. And there’s no opportunity to whine about investment in the staff, either, as he has roughly $1.5m to spend on his next assistant hire (or maybe he gives them all a $150,000 raise, I dunno). The excuses are officially gone. Whatever happens next year is 100% on him and we’ll figure out what that means when we get there.”
By Sam Snelling
First of all, I will never get tired of typing that score. It’s just so pretty. And as Sam points out in his new Study Hall — you can tell he’s having so much fun writing these these days — Mizzou blitzed Kentucky. The final score to those of us who tuned in (what a game for me to actually miss in person, huh?) wasn’t indicative of the fact that the Tigers put the Wildcats away multiple times in the second half and the game was never really all that close, even after halftime when the ‘Cats went on a mini-run to cut the lead to 9.
What’s truly fascinating is this— this Tigers team ran over BBN without truly great shooting. As the stats show, the Tigers got almost nothing offensively from Carter, Shaw, or DeGray. And the teams were basically even shooting percentage-wise. But the Tigers valued the ball wayyyyyy more and made their free throws.
As I’ve said countless times, the Study Halls are what brought me to Rock M. There’s something so enjoyable about seeing how Mizzou fared against its competition in an fun and easy-to-read charts, to go along with Sam’s conversational tone.
By Brandon Kiley
Quarterback talk, whether it be Drinkwitz’s inability to seemingly develop one or the fact that QB1 this season was playing with a torn shoulder (see Parker’s piece above), was the name of the game at Rock M this week. And for good reason, as a proper quarterback is essential to the overall success of a team. It provided Gary Pinkel with a great deal of success, after all, one that we can only hope Eli Drinkwitz reaches in Columbia.
BK realizes this is not the ONLY thing keeping Missouri from being successful — that O-Line, yikes! The lack of offensive direction, yikes! — but it is extremely important, and he has the stats to prove it!
Out of Context Quotes of the Week
“Similarly, I found it just as (or, let’s be honest, more) pleasurable watching Mizzou land haymaker after haymaker on the hapless Illini on December 22. Each successive indecency committed against Illinois — the countless drained threes, the and-ones, the uncontested dunks — hit so good every single time. I sort of lost track of the score (it was that one-sided) and was more enjoying the comedy of watching bad guys get pancaked than I was watching the good guys get away with murder.” —Josh Matejka, The Revue
“To play Mizzou, you’re going to get good looks, but if you don’t make them, you can get put into a spin cycle in a hurry. Kentucky finished with a 1.09 Offensive Rating, which is really good! But they were just 0.882 in the 1st half. That isn’t going to cut it against this Mizzou team.” — Sam Snelling, Study Hall
“Incredibly, her shot was ill-conceived and rather heroically blocked by Katlyn Gilbert, and the Tigers reclaimed possession, sealing the game. Or so we thought.” —Adeen Rao, Women’s Hoops Recap
“But the main lesson learned was that Eli Drinkwitz continues to fall below expectations when it comes to calling plays at Missouri and this defense is excellent as a unit, rather than reliant on specific individuals.” —Nate Edwards, Beyond the Box Score: Depleted
“Mizzou sliced and diced Illinois until all that was left was a meatless carcass. Fortunately for Illinois, the sub-zero temperatures prevented the smell of the rotten remains to permeate the facility.” —Matt Watkins, The Verdict
“Mizzou’s brand of basketball is not unique to one theme; instead, the team thrives on disorder and mayhem, turning opponent mistakes into easy baskets.” —Brandon Haynes, Open the Gates
“There’s two categories the rest of these games fall in: swing game or upset potential. The opener against Kentucky will set the tone for the rest of conference play and falls into the latter category. Road games against Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn will also be tall orders, but picking up a win in one of those games would certainly classify as the signature win of Gates’ first season and would become the foundation of this team’s résumé.” —Parker Gillam, What SEC play has in store for the Tigers
“A mix between the holiday excitement, a bowl game type atmosphere — a good bowl, not the Gasparilla — and two regional rivals vying for a massively oversized trophy simply pushes all of the right buttons… And it’s even better when Mizzou puts their size 12s up the Chief’s hind-parts.” —Matt Watkins, The Verdict
“If Mizzou can find offense on the road in Bud Walton… I think you can dive into the deep end of the Dennis Gates Kool-Aid pool.” —Sam Snelling, Study Hall