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Missouri Hoops Player Review: Torrence Watson

The blue-chipper from St. Louis started slow, but capped off his freshman year by catching fire.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We’re continuing our postseason review of the Missouri roster with a look at the final member of the freshman trio, Torrence Watson. If you want to catch up with our preview reviews, you can find links below:

Torrence Watson - Regular Stats

32 22.8 7.1 1.5 0.5 37.7 36.1 69.2

Torrence Watson - Advanced Stats*

%MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
%MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
56.7 103.0 5.0 15.9 1.05 (+.08) 1.02 (-.06) 49.8 51.7

Watson struggled mightily for much of the year, but turned in a brilliant final stretch to the season. What helped him flip the switch?

Sam Snelling, Site Manager: The initial adjustment was always likely to be a little longer for Watson due to the competition level he faced regularly in high school. On top of the competition level change Watson’s role was also incredibly different at Whitfield. He was asked to score and, well, not do much else. So switching from getting 20-25 shots or more on a given night to getting seven or eight shots and learning to defend.

Watson still isn’t where he needs to be but the progress he showed down the stretch offensively seemed to coincide with his improved defense. As his confidence grew in his off the ball movement, suddenly those shots start falling. I also think having Mark Smith go down with an injury, and Cuonzo Martin being forced to turn to Watson for the minutes and offense forced Watson’s learning curve to bend a little quicker. Overall you have to be happy that the switch flipped even if it was a little later than expected. It certainly sets him up well for a sophomore campaign.

Matt Harris, Basketball Editor: Sitting down and guarding et the stage for Watson’s resurgence. After a shaky start on the defensive end, the Whitfield graduate finished the year with the best defensive rating (0.777 PPP) of the Tigers’ freshmen trio and only trailed Mark Smith (0.615) among MU’s wings. Naturally, chatter focused on a shooting stroke that lagged coming online, but Watson’s prodigious prep production and flawless mechanics made you think it was just a matter of time before shots dropped. How quickly Watson could acclimate to jumping from Class 3A, where he was often the best athlete on the floor, to the parity of the high-major ranks loomed larger.

Watson grew into a consistent off-ball defender, allowing just 27.6-percent shooting on jumpers in the half court and held opponents to 20 of 78 shooting from behind the arc. He also improved trailing shooters sprinting off stagger and pin-down actions, giving up just 0.621 PPP on those possessions. Reliability on the defensive end translated into more minutes, which gave Watson the opportunity to shoot his way out of a slump.

You could see the pieces coalesce over Mizzou’s final six games, a span where Watson averaged 14.5 points and shot 47.4 percent from the 3-point line. The freshman also tried to get downhill, with MU running an action that had Watson sprint from a corner into handoff from Reed Nikko and look to turn the corner. Those facets of the offense – and attacking closeouts – diversified how Watson fit into the scouting report.

Meanwhile, Watson’s strong finish helped him stand out among freshmen wings with similar usage — capping a season where the numbers hint he played as well as a trio of top-60 prospects in Will Richardson, Jules Bernard, Aaron Wiggins.

In Good Company

Name School 247 Rank Usage MPG Off Poss/Gm Off PPP Def Poss/Gm Def PPP NET
Name School 247 Rank Usage MPG Off Poss/Gm Off PPP Def Poss/Gm Def PPP NET
Nate Hinton Houston 105 19.2 19.2 8 0.92 4.8 0.728 19.2
Torrence Watson Missouri 113 17.6 22.8 7.4 0.93 5.3 0.777 15.3
Will Richardson Oregon 46 15.8 24.3 7.3 0.845 5.8 0.699 14.6
Jules Bernard UCLA 55 22 17.2 8.1 0.937 4.9 0.846 9.1
Aaron Wiggins Maryland 42 18.9 23.6 8.5 0.969 6.5 0.927 4.2
Dane Goodwin Notre Dame 100 15.4 24.6 7.2 0.891 6.5 0.94 -4.9
Bryce Willis Stanford 144 16.4 25.1 8.5 0.714 6.6 0.894 -18
247 Sports, Sports Reference, Synergy Sports

Josh Matejka, Editor: Matt and Sam talked about it a lot during the season, but it did really seem as if Watson’s turnaround came with renewed confidence on the offensive end of the floor and renewed focus on his defensive effort. Watson often looked lost at the beginning of the year, content to miss an assignment on one end and throw up a three on the other. That’s not a winning formula for playing time under Cuonzo Martin. However, Watson was able to harness his athleticism and learn the ropes of Martin’s defense, which translated to more playing time and more opportunities to find his inconsistent shot, which he eventually did.

What would you like to see Watson work on during the offseason?

Sam Snelling: Watson can still get better offensively around the rim. He attacked with more frequency late in the season but his Free Throw rate was merely okay. Also, as good of a shooter as Watson is he was merely mediocre from the free throw line. Part of that stems from his frequency to getting to the line. Hopefully with another year of maturation he can improve on his ability to get to the rim and absorb the kind of contact that gets you to the free throw line.

Oh, and rebounding.

Matt Harris: My suggestion is the basketball version of suggesting more fiber in your diet. Watson finished with gusto, but his work rate on the backboards never perked up. Now, MU doesn’t send all five bodies crashing. Typically, three Tigers hang back to track down errant shots, while two sprint out or try to get back in transition. Still, Watson finished 20 games this season without multiple rebounds, including six where didn’t tally any on the stat sheet.

This next suggestion also applies to every guard coming back: finish better at the rim. In Watson’s case, converting only 25.8 percent (8 of 31) of the time won’t pass muster. Sure, he scorched nets from distance in the closing stretch, but Watson was a chilly 5 of 14 inside the arc. Improving that facet of his game will make him the potent force we think he can be, one who can torment opponents scrambling around in space by canning wide-open 3-balls or exploiting sloppy closeouts to put pressure on the basket.

Josh Matejka: Watson has proven that he’s not afraid to shoot from the outside, but I’m intrigued by the dimensions that could be added to his offensive game. He was a notorious slasher in high school, but was often the biggest and fastest, making finishing at the rim or picking up a foul a near given. In his first year of high major ball, Watson learned that going to the rim won’t earn you points. However, he understands the benefits of going to the basket, he now just needs to apply those same principles and prepare his body likewise. Sometime in the weight room and work on finishing through contact will be beneficial to him realizing his vast potential.