I’m going to try to avoid complaining about the absolutely horrific officiating both teams endured, but I have to get a little off my chest. The game started and it was all kinds of fun. The reality is, Mizzou is a really good basketball team, and Illinois is a really good basketball team, and they were going after each other. Then the referees stepped in and made the game bad. What could have been one of the more epic College Basketball games of the year turned into an exercise in attrition, with Missouri holding on long enough to let the clock expire and claim their third Braggin’ Rights win in a row.
From a game flow standpoint, it wasn’t the most pleasant game to watch, largely due to the officiating. But it was spirited, both teams played hard, and you have to think it’s going to be a bright season for both squads. Now what matters...
We’ve talked about expectations for Missouri this season, and how our little site had a more positive outlook on the season for the Tigers than most prognosticators, both national and local. We projected a 6th place finish in the SEC, and most had the Tigers no better than 9th or 10th. At this point, I think it’s clear that Missouri is better than that. They still have a long haul to get through the SEC slate, but the good news is this team has met each challenge so far, even if it’s not always the prettiest.
- Moving on from the last game, Illinois was more than willing to play faster, so the pace was good: Both teams like to run off misses, and each had some fun in a quickly paced early period, but getting back into Mizzou’s preferred offensive approach after the last two opponents tried to slow them down... well, it was refreshing.
- It’s a little surprising to see how poorly Mizzou handled the ball: After a pretty clean start to the season with their ball handling, they were bolstered by their 3 point guard attack. But perhaps it was a manifestation of the game conditions, because Missouri’s ball handling fell apart. There were several turnovers due to charges and offensive fouls, but even then the rate at which Missouri was not getting shots off nearly clipped them.
- Illinois came in as one of the nation’s best rebounding teams: and this wasn’t close. Missouri, after really being mostly neutralized on the glass early this season, dominated Illinois on the boards. +3.6 in expected boards, but +9 overall.
Missouri split two of the four factors, but they narrowly lost the shooting, and while they won the Free Throw to Field Goal attempts by just 7%, but Missouri shot 83% while Illinois hit on just 60%. In a game decided by three points, that was all the margin they needed.
Your Trifecta: X, LeBron... err Javon, Dru
It really is remarkable what happens to Javon Pickett when he sees the old orange and navy. As a freshman, he had 16 points on 6 shots, and a 0.59 GameScore/Min in a 16 point win. As a sophomore he had 17 points on 10 shots, and a 0.44 GameScore/Min in a 7 point win. And this year, 14 points on 8 shots, a 0.52 GameScore/Min in a 3 point win. I tweeted this out, kind of as a joke, but not really:
Javon now vs. Javon at 7:01pm tonight pic.twitter.com/0ScWINumY5— 3x BRAGGIN RIGHTS CHAMPS (@RockMNation) December 12, 2020
The reference, if you don’t know, is a shot of LeBron James when he decided it was time to murder the Boston Celtics during the Heat’s championship season. Pickett is death to the Illini, and it’s just wonderful to see.
But this game really came down to Dru Smith being awesome on both ends of the floor, and Xavier Pinson learning to be a little lower usage, valuing the ball, and making smart decisions.
It has felt like Pinson has tried to force the issue a little too often this year. He’s clearly the team’s best at getting to the rim, and when he’s on there’s almost nobody who can stop him. But far too often he’s gotten in his own way. But against Illinois, Pinson took care of the ball and was efficient around the rim. A 1.24 points per possession is something you’ll take from Pinson game after game.
Not making the trifecta was Kobe Brown, probably because of his turnovers, but he had an otherwise great game (we’ll also ignore the late airball and missed FTs). He attacked the rim early, and made a couple big three-point shots. Basically, Javon Pickett being the Illini killer and Kobe Brown having a good night helped make up for the struggles of Jeremiah Tilmon and Mark Smith.
I don't expect Missouri to win a lot of games this year where Mark Smith takes 21% of the possessions, has an 18% floor rate, and fouls out. Or a 20% usage, 16% floor rate from Tilmon, who also fouled out.
Missouri really only got good performances from Pinson, Dru, Javon, and Mitch, they played a top 10 ranked team and won, and didn’t particularly play a great game. This isn’t like the Florida game last year. Good basketball teams find a way to get it done. And look, the officiating was awful and obviously impacted the game in a negative way. I do think it negatively impacted the game for both sides to a near enough equal amount though.
Let’s also give some credit here. Ayo Dosunmu is awesome. He got away with a couple plays, and was called on a couple, but I’ve watched Illinois multiple times this season, and several last season, and he was incredible. Illinois can take away that they didn’t give their best effort either. Trent Frazier was a non-factor, Adam Miller was limited with foul trouble and basically useless offensively. Missouri made Ayo and Kofi beat the team... and they nearly did.
But Missouri won! They’re 5-0, with two more scheduled non-conference games remaining, both home games against Prairie View A&M and Bradley, and they should win both. Dave Matter reported a potential game against Tarleton State also. Mizzou should be ranked this week, and will likely hold onto their ranking until Tennessee comes into Mizzou Arena to kick off SEC play on December 30th. Realistically, Missouri should be 7-0 or 8-0 heading into what would likely be their first top 25 matchup since 2013 (vs Florida).
Mizzou has a pretty damn good basketball team. These aren’t normal times AT ALL, but enjoy that fact, and the fact Mizzou is almost certain to be ranked in a top 25 poll for the first time since January of 2014.
True Shooting Percentage (TS%): Quite simply, this calculates a player’s shooting percentage while taking into account 2FG%, 3FG%, and FT%. The formula is Total Points / 2 * (FGA + (0.475+FTA)). The 0.475 is a Free Throw modifier. KenPomeroy and other College Basketball sites typically use 0.475, while the NBA typically uses 0.44. That’s basically what TS% is. A measure of scoring efficiency based on the number of points scored over the number of possessions in which they attempted to score, more here.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%): This is similar to TS%, but takes 3-point shooting more into account. The formula is FGM + (0.5 * 3PM) / FGA
So think of TS% as scoring efficiency, and eFG% as shooting efficiency, more here.
Expected Offensive Rebounds: Measured based upon the average rebounds a college basketball team gets on both the defensive and offensive end. This takes the overall number of missed shots (or shots available to be rebounded) and divides them by the number of offensive rebounds and compares them with the statistical average.
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.
Offensive Rating (ORtg): Similar to Adjusted game score, but this looks at how many points per possession a player would score if they were averaged over 100 possessions.
Usage%: This “estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor” (via sports-reference.com/cbb). 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 sports-reference.com/cbb: Floor % answers the question, “When a Player 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.