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Missouri's KenPom ranking is as high as it's been in nearly 2 years. So there's that.

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Your Trifecta to date: Walton-Puryear-Hughes.

Yeah, I'm way behind this year. Took me five games into the season to write a basketball post. Sorry. But you're getting one now! Let's give the Study Hall treatment to all of Missouri's first five games at once!

Missouri 77.4, Opponents 63.8

Mizzou
Opponents
Pace (No. of Possessions) 73.0
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.06 0.87
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.28 1.02
2-PT FG% 53.6% 42.0%
3-PT FG% 31.6% 24.8%
FT% 71.4% 66.7%
True Shooting % 55.6% 44.6%
FTA/FGA 34.8% 31.5%
Mizzou Opponents
Assists 15.2 11.8
Steals 7.8 5.8
Turnovers 13.8 15.4
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.67 1.14
Mizzou Opponents
Expected Offensive Rebounds 11.5 14.3
Offensive Rebounds 10.0 12.6
Difference -1.5 -1.7

To date, Mizzou has lot to two teams in Ken Pomeroy's top 70 and beaten three teams ranked 219th or worse. The Tigers nearly upset No. 11 Xavier and flirted with the idea of losing to No. 219 Tulane, but based purely on the ratings, the season has unfolded as it was supposed to so far. If that continues, the Tigers will be 7-3 -- upcoming wins over NC Central, WKU, Miami (Ohio), and EIU and a loss to Arizona -- when Jordan Barnett becomes eligible and Mizzou goes to St. Louis for Braggin' Rights.

So what is Missouri good at so far?

Defense. The Tigers haven't ranked in the top 100 in Pomeroy's defensive ratings since Mike Anderson was coach, but they are 85th so far, having allowed more than 62 points just once despite a slightly above average tempo. Opponents are averaging 0.87 points per possession so far.

More specifically, FG% defense. Mizzou is currently ninth in Effective FG% allowed. Perhaps as importantly, the Tigers aren't actually bad at anything else on defense. Opponents haven't shot 3-pointers very well (25%), and Mizzou ranks in the 100s in the other Four Factors categories -- turnovers, rebounds, and fouls. There might be a little bit of luck in here (and playing three bad teams hasn't hurt), but a lot of this seems to be legitimate.

Finding more easy shots. Mizzou ranked 220th in the country in 2PT% last year and a ghastly 310th the year before. The Tigers are a healthy 70th so far this year. Considering the Tigers' lack of size, that's impressive. But Mizzou guards have done well inside the arc -- KJ Walton is 18-for-28, Frankie Hughes 14-for-28, Willie Jackson a ridiculous 17-for-23. That probably isn't sustainable, but if there's just a little bit of regression, it's still a relative strength.

And what is Missouri bad at?

3-point shooting. Again. Mizzou's making a cool 31.6% so far, 247th in the country. Granted, that's an improvement over last year's No. 314 ranking, but still. The hope was that Cullen VanLeer and Frankie Hughes would help to open up defenses a little more this year. VanLeer is a decent 10-for-25 (40%), but Hughes is 13-for-41 (32%). Everybody else: 7-for-29 (24%). Eww.

Blocking shots and getting them blocked. 262nd in Block% on offense, 250th on defense. But we kind of knew that was going to happen with this team's size.

Offensive rebounds. This is arguably not as bad a weakness as feared, but Mizzou still ranks 196th in OR% despite playing three bad teams. Russell Woods has put together a strange résumé so far this year -- 13 offensive rebounds, only eight defensive rebounds -- but no one else has more than 8 ORs.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
K.J. Walton 13.7 0.83 82 Min, 54 Pts (18-30 FG, 0-2 3PT, 18-20 FT), 16 Reb (8 Off), 5 Ast, 10 Stl, 5 TO, 9 PF
Kevin Puryear 12.7 0.47 134 Min, 63 Pts (22-49 FG, 2-7 3PT, 17-21 FT), 33 Reb (3 Off), 6 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk, 5 TO, 5 PF
Frankie Hughes 10.3 0.41 127 Min, 74 Pts (27-69 FG, 13-41 3PT, 7-14 FT), 15 Reb (4 Off), 8 Ast, 7 Stl, 1 Blk, 12 TO, 4 PF
Willie Jackson 8.2 0.44 93 Min, 37 Pts (17-23 FG, 3-6 FT), 28 Reb (7 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 6 TO, 9 PF
Cullen VanLeer 6.4 0.19 169 Min, 36 Pts (13-31 FG, 10-25 3PT), 11 Reb, 14 Ast, 4 Stl, 3 Blk, 9 TO, 13 PF
Russell Woods 6.4 0.37 87 Min, 29 Pts (10-16 FG, 9-13 FT), 21 Reb (13 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk, 5 TO, 15 PF
Terrence Phillips 5.7 0.22 132 Min, 34 Pts (11-35 FG, 2-10 3PT, 10-13 FT), 18 Reb (1 Off), 25 Ast, 4 Stl, 12 TO, 15 PF
Reed Nikko 5.7 0.40 71 Min, 27 Pts (12-18 FG, 3-4 FT), 12 Reb (1 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 Blk, 3 TO, 10 PF
Jordan Geist 5.4 0.30 91 Min, 20 Pts (5-21 FG, 3-8 3PT, 7-9 FT), 17 Reb (2 Off), 9 Ast, 8 Stl, 4 TO, 5 PF
Mitchell Smith 3.7 0.48 23 Min, 13 Pts (6-7 FG, 1-5 FT), 8 Reb (2 Off), 2 Blk, 3 TO, 5 PF
Brett Rau -0.7 -0.33 4 Min, 0 Pts (0-0 FG), 1 TO
Adam Wolf -0.7 -0.18 8 Min, 0 Pts (0-2 FG, 0-1 3PT, 1 Reb (1 Off), 1 PF
Trevor Glassman -1.4 -0.69 4 Min, 0 Pts (0-1 FG, 0-1 3PT), 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 TO, 1 PF
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
K.J. Walton 26% 51% 2.9 35% 35% 24% 6%
Kevin Puryear 23% 41% 2.3 32% 44% 19% 5%
Frankie Hughes 34% 32% 3.2 33% 49% 10% 8%
Willie Jackson 17% 53% 1.6 33% 44% 11% 11%
Cullen VanLeer 12% 37% 2.0 67% 25% 0% 7%
Russell Woods 15% 45% 1.5 26% 35% 29% 11%
Terrence Phillips 20% 37% 4.4 71% 17% 6% 6%
Reed Nikko 16% 54% 1.7 41% 42% 9% 7%
Jordan Geist 16% 32% 2.7 61% 24% 10% 5%
Mitchell Smith 26% 47% 1.8 0% 47% 34% 20%
Brett Rau 12% 0% 0.7 0% 0% 0% 100%
Adam Wolf 12% 0% 0.7 0% 100% 0% 0%
Trevor Glassman 37% 11% 6.3 66% 11% 0% 23%
  • K.J. Walton played 43 minutes in the first three games and 39 in the last two. While he's a little foul-prone, you could argue he should be playing much more than that. In terms of per-minute production, he's set the bar far higher than anyone else on the team. 60% shooting, 90% from the free throw line, and 10 steals? That's pretty much exactly what we were hoping we'd see from him. Teams will sink off of him and try to make him shoot from the outside; he was better at that than advertised last year, but we'll see what happens.
  • This team doesn't have a go-to guy. Well ... that's not quite right.
  • This team's go-to guy is a freshman shooting guard who is probably being asked to do too much. Frankie Hughes has attempted 20 more shots than anyone else on the team and has a waaaaay-too-high 34% usage rate, and after shooting 9-for-14 against Alabama A&M, he's since gone 18-for-55 (33%). This reminds me a lot of what Teki Gill-Caesar had to deal with as a freshman. That wasn't optimal, and neither is this.
  • Terrence Phillips had eight assists against Northwestern State on Saturday and has a nice 25-to-12 assist-to-turnover ratio for the season, but his shooting (31%) has been dreadful and is dragging down his Adj. GS potential. He was 9-for-19 in the first two games and 1-for-14 in his next two. That's just two games, though, and I'd assume he starts to gravitate more toward the 38% he hit last year.
  • Willie Jackson has been exactly what I hoped: a scorer of easy baskets and a good rebounder for his size. He'll probably never be a go-to scorer or anything, but he could be one hell of a role-player-plus.
  • Reed Nikko is averaging 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes, and his minutes are going to be limited this year, but I like what I see so far. He's made two-thirds of his shots, he's been a decent defensive rebounder (plus, he and Russell Woods are doing a decent job of clearing opposing bigs off of the glass so that Kevin Puryear, Jackson, Phillips, and Jordan Geist can clean up misses), and he has as many assists as turnovers.
  • Gonna probably need more from you moving forward, Kevin Puryear.

Summary

Mizzou ranks 129th in Pomeroy's ratings after five games; it is the Tigers' highest rating since -- and I swear I'm not BS'ing you on this -- December 5, 2014. Ranked 129th, they got blown out at home by Oklahoma that night, and that was that. Mizzou's projected record is now 14-16, which is right around the bar most of us set for whether or not Kim Anderson gets a fourth year in charge in Columbia.

This is good. Well, not good, but decent. Now the challenge is for the Tigers to keep it up. And if Jordan Barnett ends up taking scoring pressure off of Hughes, more improvement could be in the cards in the coming weeks.

Talking about a projected 14-16 record as "decent" tells you a lot about expectations, but ... it's something. Now to keep it up on Monday against NCCU.

---

AdjGS: a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game. The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

Usage%: This "estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor" (via). The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team's offensive outcome.

Floor%: Via Basketball-Reference.com: Floor % answers the question, "when Player X uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?". The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Touches/Possession: Using field goal attempts, free throw attempts, assists and turnovers, Touches attempt to estimate "the number of times a player touched the ball in an attacking position on the floor." Take the estimated touches and divide it by the estimated number of possessions for which a player was on the court, and you get a rough idea of how many times a player touched the ball in a given possession. For point guards, you'll see the number in the 3-4 range. For shooting guards and wings, 2-3. For an offensively limited center, 1.30. You get the idea.

Anyway, using the Touches figure, we can estimate the percentage of time a player "in an attacking position" passes, shoots, turns the ball over, or gets fouled.