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Missouri has a higher floor this year. Now comes a lengthy test of the Tigers' ceiling.

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Consider this your Sunday Live Thread.

Your Trifecta: Clark-Woods-Phillips

Your Season Totals: Puryear 16, Phillips 14, Gant 10, Clark 8, VanLeer 7, Wright 7, Walton 6, Isabell 5, Woods 5. Freshmen 43, sophomores 22, juniors 13, seniors 0.

Missouri 81, Savannah State 50

Mizzou
SSU
Pace (No. of Possessions) 68.0
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.19 0.74
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.45 0.85
2-PT FG% 61.0% 35.1%
3-PT FG% 33.3% 31.8%
FT% 84.2% 37.5%
True Shooting % 62.9% 40.0%
FTA/FGA 33.9% 13.6%
Mizzou SSU
Assists 14 11
Steals 7 2
Turnovers 13 18
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.62 0.72
Mizzou SSU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 9.7 14.6
Offensive Rebounds 10 13
Difference +0.3 -1.6

One of the best things about well-designed computer ratings is that they can give you input no matter the opponent. You don't have to simply say "Well, they beat the No. 339 and 342 teams in the country, so it doesn't count." Every game counts for something, and the fact that Missouri rose from 194th in Pomeroy's rankings before the UAPB game to 166th today tells us that the Tiger exceeded expectations, even against meager competition. That's good. Certainly better than the alternative.

Of course, this has been the trend all season. Mizzou's floor appears higher in 2015-16 than it was last year, which means that against a certain level of competition, the Tigers look the part. They started the year 167th, beat Wofford and UMES, and rose to 144th. After three games against power-conference teams, they were 185th. Rose to 169th against mid-majors, fell to 194th against majors. Sometimes you've got a volatile team that plays up for big games and falls asleep against lesser competition, and sometimes you've got the opposite. Mizzou has the opposite. Physically and mentally, the Tigers just haven't had what it takes to beat real teams.

So now come the real teams. Mizzou is 7-0 against teams ranked worse than 120th and 0-6 against teams ranked better ... and there is officially one game remaining against a team worse than 120th (No. 147 Auburn comes to town next Saturday). Pomeroy gives Mizzou a better than 50% chance against Auburn, Mississippi State (No. 117) and Tennessee (No. 103) at home and suggests 5-13 is the most likely SEC record for the Tigers overall.

I guess that sounds about right to me, but depending on Missouri's confidence and readiness, I could see that slipping to about 2-16 or rising to maybe 7-11. This team has proven itself to actually be good at some things -- the Tigers are 23rd in 2PT% allowed now! They get to the line almost as much as they send opponents to the line! They're still completely hopeless on the offensive glass, but they're not awful on the defensive glass!

It's just that we've only seen these things in cameos against power-conference teams, and if the problem is strength and athleticism ... well, that's the one thing the SEC is guaranteed to have.

Regardless, winning two games by 84 points is certainly a nice palate cleanser, a nice reminder (for players, for coaches, for fans) that this team has Division I athletes that can do things from time to time. Now they just need to do them a) more and b) against bigger, stronger, faster players.

Some notes from this game:

  • True Shooting % back over 60%! It had been a while. And Mizzou did it inside the 3-point line, too. Lovely. And by the way, the Tigers are back to 69% from the free throw line, 175th overall. The Illinois game was the outlier, not the norm.
  • The rebounding edge wasn't quite what you would want to see against a team that is 281st in offensive rebounding, 248th in defensive rebounding, and 299th in effective height. Sometimes it's a give and take with flawed teams -- the Tigers were doing wonderfully at moving the ball around and putting the ball in the basket and lost focus on the glass. Still, after a rough start in this regard, they did better.
  • It's the same with ball handling. The one thing SSU does reasonably well is force turnovers (133rd in Turnover %); that they only had two steals is maybe a happy sign. Meanwhile, SSU turns the ball over like crazy, and Mizzou certainly took advantage of that.
  • SSU managed to outdo UAPB's 2-for-33 performance on 2-pointers, but allowing only 35% shooting on 2s is still very much within the realm of acceptability.

Mizzou Player Stats

(Definitions at the bottom of the post.)

Player
AdjGS GmSc/Min Line
Wes Clark 26.2 1.14 23 Min, 22 Pts (9-10 FG, 1-2 3PT, 3-3 FT), 3 Reb (1 Off), 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk, 3 TO, 1 PF
Russell Woods 11.7 0.65 18 Min, 7 Pts (3-3 FG, 1-2 FT), 3 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk, 1 PF
Terrence Phillips 10.9 0.52 21 Min, 7 Pts (3-4 FG, 1-1 FT), 4 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 PF
Kevin Puryear 8.2 0.55 15 Min, 8 Pts (2-5 FG, 4-4 FT), 4 Reb (1 Off), 1 Ast, 1 PF
Namon Wright 7.6 0.33 23 Min, 11 Pts (4-9 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2-2 FT), 8 Reb (2 Off), 2 TO, 2 PF
K.J. Walton 5.2 0.31 17 Min, 10 Pts (3-6 FG, 2-2 3PT, 2-2 FT), 1 Stl, 3 TO, 1 PF
Ryan Rosburg 5.0 0.33 15 Min, 5 Pts (2-3 FG, 1-3 FT), 5 Reb (1 Off), 1 PF
Jakeenan Gant 4.2 0.19 22 Min, 4 Pts (2-5 FG), 5 Reb (3 Off), 1 Blk, 1 TO
Tramaine Isabell 1.7 0.11 16 Min, 5 Pts (1-6 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-2 FT), 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO
Cullen VanLeer 0.7 0.04 17 Min, 2 Pts (1-2 FG, 0-1 3PT), 2 Reb (1 Off), 2 Ast, 2 TO, 2 PF
Adam Wolf -0.1 -0.04 3 Min, 0 Pts (0-1 FG, 0-1 3PT), 2 Reb
D'Angelo Allen -0.5 -0.07 7 Min, 0 Pts (0-1 FG, 0-1 3PT), 1 Reb
Jimmy Barton -0.8 -0.27 3 Min, 0 Pts (0-1 FG, 0-1 3PT)
Player Usage% Floor% Touches/
Poss.
%Pass %Shoot %Fouled %T/O
Wes Clark 32% 67% 4.4 53% 30% 8% 9%
Russell Woods 11% 81% 1.8 55% 28% 18% 0%
Terrence Phillips 11% 80% 5.8 88% 10% 2% 0%
Kevin Puryear 23% 47% 3.0 40% 34% 26% 0%
Namon Wright 27% 36% 1.7 0% 70% 15% 16%
K.J. Walton 30% 34% 1.9 0% 55% 17% 28%
Ryan Rosburg 15% 49% 1.2 0% 51% 49% 0%
Jakeenan Gant 14% 29% 0.8 0% 83% 0% 17%
Tramaine Isabell 29% 22% 3.0 37% 38% 12% 13%
Cullen VanLeer 12% 35% 2.8 75% 13% 0% 13%
Adam Wolf 17% 0% 1.0 0% 100% 0% 0%
D'Angelo Allen 7% 0% 0.4 0% 100% 0% 0%
Jimmy Barton 17% 0% 1.0 0% 100% 0% 0%
  • Hot damn, Wes Clark has found his rhythm. His averages are now back around what we would expect -- 39% on 2-pointers, 40% on 3-pointers, 79% on free throws. Now that he's progressed back to the mean, that probably means his recent torrid streak (60%/62%/86%) isn't bound to last much longer, but this was a nice reminder that last year's injury didn't tamp down his ceiling.
  • Russell Woods' last four games: 6 PPG on 67% shooting, 7 RPG. That's useful.
  • Namon made a 3-pointer! 11 points on nine shots still isn't great, nor is 1-for-4 from 3-point range, but when you were 2-for-12 in your last five games, that's good. And going 3-for-5 on 2-pointers after going 4-for-18 in your last five? Also good.
  • I like when the top four players on the AdjGS list are all at 40% or higher in %Pass. I have no idea if there's any correlation between that and winning ... but it SEEMS like there probably is, huh?

Summary

Okay, guys, you got your confidence back. Now keep it this time.

The coming week, Mizzou is given only a 15% chance of beating Georgia in Athens (projected losing margin: 10), then has a 61% chance of beating Auburn (projected winning margin: 3). Using those odds, there's a 9% chance of starting SEC play 2-0, a 33% chance of going 0-2, and a 58% chance of going 1-1. So that sets the bar. Let's see what happens.

---

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.