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The Verdict: Wichita State Post-Game Analysis

Mizzou notched a quality non-conference win Sunday against Wichita State. Did they do it by achieving our pre-game goals?

Missouri guard Sean East dribbles around Wichita State guard Xavier Bell in a game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Mizzou Arena. It was Shaw’s fifth game of the season where he scored at least 20 points. (Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation)

Welcome to The Verdict series. You may have become acquainted with these pieces in the past, and in efforts to improve them, we’ve made a few subtle changes. Prior to each game receiving the full treatment, we’re going to release a series of pre-game keys to watch for in each matchup. After the results are in, we’ll return to those keys and analyze the performance with data and film. Credits for statistics to Ken Pomeroy, Synergy, Pivot Analysis and Matt Watkins.

Note: Pre-Game keys are in standard font. Post-Game analysis and data are in bold and italics.

In what seems to be the last chapter of a four-game series with Wichita State, Mizzou prevailed Sunday afternoon by scratching out an 82-72 victory. In doing so, the Tigers moved to 7-2 on the young season and took home the series by a 3-1 count. Sunday marked the first victory by the home team in this series dating back to 2020.

Mizzou raced out to a 10-0 lead just minutes into the game and continued to have a lead ranging from 2 points to 11 the remainder of the way. Things got dicey at times, most notably WSU trimming the lead to just 2 points with approximately 4 minutes remaining. Yet each time the Shockers got within striking distance of the lead Mizzou came up with a big play. Both Caleb Grill and former Paul Mills student, Connor Vanover, hit clutch jumpers to keep WSU at bay.

And with that, let’s get to the keys. We’ve carried over the keys in unabridged format, but an entire view of the Pre-Game piece can be found here: The Verdict: Wichita State Pre-Game Keys - Rock M Nation

Win the Paint

Mizzou has been a bit inconsistent here this season. Facing its toughest interior task of the season, Mizzou performed exceptionally well in Pittsburgh. Facing a team that had length for days and complemented that with elite rebounding and two-point shooting figures — on both ends — Mizzou took the game to the Panthers. Mizzou won the rim battle shooting 14-23 and allowing a 5-14 effort. The Tigers won the offensive rebounding battle 31.4% to 26.5%. Per my own hand-tracked stats, Mizzou had paint touches on 58% of possessions and fashioned 1.237 points per possession (“PPP”) on those trips. They didn’t back down and they were rewarded handsomely.

A similar challenge awaits. Offensively, Mills’ Shockers want to get to the bucket. They do this in all manner of ways. Nearly 41% of their shot attempts come at the rim and they finish at an elite 1.27 points per shot (“PPS,”) rate. Comparatively, only 41.6% of their shots come from jumpers, which rates among the nation’s lowest. And that makes sense, as they’re converting at a below-average 0.93 PPS.

  • WSU Rim Offense: 40.4% Usage — 1.27 PPS
  • Mizzou Rim Defense: 37.7% Usage — 1.11 PPS
  • Result: 33.8% Usage — 1.22 PPS

  • WSU Jumper Offense: 41.6% Usage — 0.93 PPS
  • Mizzou Jumper Defense: 50.4% Usage — 0.85 PPS
  • Result: 52.9% Usage — 0.72 PPS

Mizzou did well in preventing attempts at the rim and forcing WSU instead to rely on their jump-shooting. While the rim efficiency on defense wasn’t great, it was on jump shots. Mizzou effectively changed what the Shockers wanted to do and clamped down on their second option on offense.

Wichita State’s preferred methods of attacking the paint are via the ballhandler on ball screens, off-ball cuts and traditional post-ups. Bell, Rogers and Beverly are the primary pick-and-roll weapons. Bell and Beverly are more geared to get downhill and pressure defenses. Rogers is a mix and he utilizes a pull-up skill. The entire team gets into the action on cuts, the most effective of which are their bigs, Pohto and Ballard on lob attempts. For their back-to-the-basket efforts, look primarily for Pohto to be featured.

  • WSU PnR Ballhandler Offense: 17.8% Usage — 0.966 PPP
  • Mizzou PnR Ballhandler Defense: 10.3% Usage — 0.800 PPP
  • Result: 14.4% Usage — 1.154 PPP

  • WSU Cut Offense: 7.8% Usage — 1.519 PPP
  • Mizzou Cut Defense: 8.3% Usage — 1.019 PPP
  • Result: 3.3% Usage — 1.667 PPP

  • WSU Post Up Offense: 10.5% Usage — 0.800 PPP
  • Mizzou Post Up Defense: 4.1% Usage — 0.846 PPP
  • Result: 2.2% Usage — 0.000 PPP

Mizzou got dinged a bit, especially late, losing containment on WSU ballhandlers. However, they were able to contain it for much of the game and keep the usage rates low enough where the efficiency didn’t kill them. Elsewhere, Mizzou really put the clamps on WSU’s post-up and cut offense. What to this point had proven to be a big portion of the Shockers’ offensive game plan — and efficient at that — was not on Sunday. And that’s a credit to Mizzou’s defense.

Mizzou’s ball screen defensive looks:

Evidence of Mizzou’s quality rim defense:

A couple moments where the paint presence faltered, most often when caught in a defensive disadvantage:

On the other side of the ball, Mizzou has similar goals offensively, but they go about it a little differently. Like Wichita, they do feature a pretty heavy share of pick-and-roll activity. They also like to free teammates for easy baskets with off-ball action. Unlike Wichita, Mizzou is perfectly fine spraying the ball after establishing a paint touch for a spot-up opportunity from outside. As such, their shot profile is quite a bit different.

  • Mizzou Jumper Offense: 53.4% Usage — 1.01 PPS
  • WSU Jumper Defense: 54.5% Usage — 0.79 PPS
  • Result: 61.7% Usage — 1.03 PPS

  • Mizzou Rim Offense: 38.1% Usage — 1.22 PPS
  • WSU Rim Defense: 33.5% Usage — 1.01 PPS
  • Result: 28.3% Usage — 1.18 PPS

Much like WSU, Mizzou was forced into giving up a share of their prime opportunities at the rim. Unlike WSU, Mizzou is a team capable of making that work by virtue of their jump-shooting abilities. The Tigers saw a 10% decrease in rim chances though their efficiency wasn’t bad. They also saw an 8% increase in jump shots, but once again performed within range of expectation. Put simply, Mizzou is capable of winning at the rim or via jumper. WSU isn’t. And that was a big factor Sunday when both defenses got stiff in the paint.

As you can see, something will have to give. Wichita WANTS to prevent close-range scoring opportunities. In exchange, their opponents have hoisted a fair number of jump shots. Mizzou, conversely, is okay with that tradeoff. Mizzou has shot it pretty well, and WSU has defended those chances well. Something will have to give. Yet pulling this back on track, Mizzou cannot neglect working for these close-range chances. WSU is elite at preventing them. Mizzou is above average at finishing them. How can they do it?

  • Mizzou PnR Ballhandler Offense: 14.5% Usage — 1.000 PPP
  • WSU PnR Ballhandler Defense: 14.1% Usage — 0.806 PPP
  • Result: 19.8% Usage — 1.063 PPP

  • Mizzou Cut Offense: 8.5% Usage — 1.288 PPP
  • WSU Cut Defense: 7.6% Usage — 1.280 PPP
  • Result: 4.9% Usage — 1.500 PP

  • Mizzou Spot Up Offense: 25.5% Usage — 1.013 PPP
  • WSU Spot Up Defense: 28.5% Usage — 0.681 PPP
  • Result: 31.2% Usage — 0.923 PPP

These numbers indicate that Wichita has struggled a little bit containing the primary on-ball screen actions. Mizzou has excelled in this area, somewhat surprisingly to me. Sean East II has been dynamic with his newly featured three-point game. Nick Honor has struggled a bit, but still features the patented pull-up with defenders don’t play it right. Both will be vital factors on Sunday. Additionally, Mizzou’s off-ball threats will have to be active. Tamar Bates, Caleb Grill and Co. cannot afford to set up camp. Wichita has been excellent covering spot-up chances. However, they’ve leaked oil a bit on aggressive shooter defense, allowing opponents quality chances when they move. Mizzou must require WSU to make a choice on how to defend — and punish them no matter their choice.

The difference in this game was largely Sean East and Connor Vanover’s work in ball screen offense. Though not reflected in the numbers above, Vanover helped hold the WSU defense honest and Mizzou notched 10 points and 8 attempts from the roller in their pick and roll offense. East carried the rest of the load. Mizzou was proficient, but not excellent in their spot-ups and simply didn’t get much headway opening cutting lanes. The Tigers instead relied heavily on East’s abilities to navigate various ball screen coverages to create high quality looks for himself and teammates.

On multiple occasions, Mizzou’s ballhandlers shredded WSU’s coverage at the point of attack:

They were also able to use this action to free up teammates via the pass, including traditional rolls to the basket and spot-up opportunities:

Mizzou was able to manipulate defensive coverages by getting creative with the screener, both rolling and popping, and creating offense through that avenue:

Control the Game Flow

Wichita and Mizzou offers something in an interesting contrast. As the number below reflect, both teams want to play a little fast, but they go about it in different ways. The Tigers have hunted in transition but have also been fine playing into late-clock (last four seconds of shot clock) situations. Conversely, Wichita State doesn’t play in the open court, but rarely uses the entire clock, preferring to hunt early offense looks.

  • Mizzou Transition Offense: 22.1% Usage — 0.985 PPP
  • Wichita Transition Offense: 12.7% Usage — 0.824 PPP
  • Result: 13.6% Usage — 1.091 PPP

  • Mizzou Late Clock Offense: 12.2% Usage — 0.793 PPP
  • Wichita State Late Clock Offense: 3.3% Usage — 0.737 PPP
  • Result: 6.2% Usage — 0.000 PPP

Welp, this was a complete whiff on my part! Mizzou was neither particularly in need of transition offense or late-clock opportunities to determine the outcome Sunday. Their early clock pick and roll offense typically carried the load.

Although we haven’t seen it much this year, or at least to the extent of a year ago, turnovers could play a large role in this game. Wichita plays a decidedly half-court defensive game. Every single possession thus far has been man to man. Covering shooters and turning away rim chances is their vice, and turnovers created is the opportunity cost. Mizzou as we well know, wants to turn opponents over. If they can do it via live ball steals, and boost pace via open court offense, even better. What type of game Sunday turns out to be in this regard could play a significant role in the outcome.

  • Mizzou Offensive Turnover Rate: 17.1%
  • WSU Defensive Turnover Rate: 12.3%
  • Result: 12.2%

  • Mizzou Defensive Turnover Rate: 20.6%
  • WSU Offensive Turnover Rate: 15.3%
  • Result: 24.3%

Mizzou was able to dictate the nature of this game, especially early when the Shockers simply could not handle the ball. Mizzou was able to build a 10-0 lead on the back of 7 early turnovers by Wichita. Though the turnover force rate slowed, WSU was never able to recover.

Both teams pride themselves on protecting the ball, but only Mizzou really focuses on terminating possessions defensively via takeaways. This is further seen in their defensive steal rates:

  • Mizzou Defensive Steal Rate: 12.9%
  • WSU Defensive Steal Rate: 6.9%
  • Result: 17.6%

Give Yourself the Best Chance to Win

This may sound silly. And to some extent, it is. However, Mizzou’s lineup usage has been the thing of much conversation lately. We’re not going to rehash what’s transpired up to this point, as the coaching staff has seemingly used home “buy” games to tinker, and used road games — especially Pittsburgh — to exploit. Post-game, we’ll feature a lineup usage analysis to see which path was chosen.

Let’s take a look at the results.

Mizzou vs. Wichita State On/Off Efficiency Analysis

Player On Court On/Off Impact
Player On Court On/Off Impact
East 64 32.38
Carter 53 -26.54
Honor 52 12.05
Grill 47 46.83
Vanover 30 -7.13
Bates 25 -53.05
Robinson 24 -21.47
Shaw 22 38.12
Butler 17 -26.48
Pierce 9 20.14
Lewis 2 -14.58
Carralero DNP DNP

As the table reflects, Noah Carter, Tamar Bates and Anthony Robinson had outings where their impact wasn’t up to snuff. The good news for Mizzou was that Aidan Shaw, Connor Vanover, Nick Honor and Caleb Grill more than offset their performances with great ones of their own. Sean East deserves his own special plug in that he played the most minutes and had a tremendously positive impact. East’s emergence will be featured in a piece by Matt Harris in the coming days.

Mizzou vs. Wichita State Most Used Lineups

PG CG Wing CF/Post CF/Post Duration Poss. Margin PPP Opp. PPP Net Rating
PG CG Wing CF/Post CF/Post Duration Poss. Margin PPP Opp. PPP Net Rating
Honor East Bates Shaw Carter 8:11 14 8 101.41 43.46 57.95
East Robinson Grill Carter Vanover 5:02 10 1 123.76 113.44 10.31
Honor East Grill Pierce Majak 4:48 8 3 170.54 131.19 39.35
Honor East Grill Carter Butler 4:06 7 -3 70 112 -42.01
Honor East Grill Carter Vanover 3:16 7 9 195.68 60.21 135.47

While the top lineups weren’t perfect in terms of being the best Mizzou had to offer, they were pretty good. Mizzou’s starting lineup was the most used and was very effective, which can be explained by the quick 10-point lead. Interestingly, Mabor Majak appears in this table. He was used as a defensive substitution in the first half, and I’d imagine was expecting to be removed at the next dead ball. However, the game went minutes on end with no stoppages and that grouping held their own. All in all, Mizzou’s most frequent lineups carried a +18 margin. And that’s exactly what you’ve been wanting to see.