Coming off a walloping against Tennessee, the big question revolved around just how good Missouri actually is.
Coming in with a lofty No. 12 ranking, the Tigers laid a fat egg against Tennessee. Yet successful seasons hinge on preventing bad losses from becoming a death spiral. This is where you’d expect experience and cohesion to benefit Mizzou. And with a difficult first four games of the season lined up for them in SEC play, they were always going to navigate some choppy waters.
I don’t think any of us expected them a Tennessee to unfold the way it did, but Saturday was an opportunity for MU to show it could dust itself off. Turns out, they recovered pretty dang well.
Packed house or not, Bud Walton Arena is a difficult place to win. Arkansas feeds off their defense and can turn a single transition bucket into a huge run. However, MU was up to the task defensively and increased the degree of difficulty for typically efficient shots. No, Missouri’s shotmaking hasn’t resolved itself, but the Tigers went on the road against a team they were not expected to beat and walked out of with a 13-point win.
- One quick look at the some of these stats and there’s no way Mizzou should have won: For a team that struggles to score, putting up 20 fewer attempts is normally fatal, especially in BWA. Had Nolan Richardson still been in the coach’s box, you'd have assumed Mizzou got its doors blown off. But Arkansas shot just 26.8 percent, and, for the most part, MU kept them off the glass. Holding an opponent to less than one point per shot in their building gives you a heck of a chance to win.
- The only one of the four factors Missouri lost was turnover rate: Coach Cuonzo Martin will loathe the fact MU coughed the ball up 21 times, but his team’s dominance on the glass offset those gaffes. Meanwhile, MU’s ability to convert at the rim and draw fouls was more than enough to create high-quality scoring chances when they squeezed the rock.
- Missouri’s PPP was really average: Again, blame turnovers. Arkansas needed a ton of shots to score, which is a credit to MU’s defense. The Tigers did a fantastic job running shooters off the line and forcing them to take contested attempts in the paint. Against an Arkansas team who hadn’t been challenged by anyone in the top 75 of KenPom (slight fudge, Auburn is 72nd), it was a good strategy.
Your Trifecta: Tilly, X, Kobe!
Pinson and Tilmon put on a show, and we were all just along for the ride. Even watching the highlights of the game, it was pretty much Pinson to Tilmon, Tilmon, Tilmon, Pinson to Tilmon, Smith to Tilmon, Pinson. Anytime the Tigers needed a play, the duo delivered, punishing Arkansas inconsistent ball-screen defense and flubbed rotations. And it’s a good thing, because...nobody else really stepped up.
Kobe Brown played well enough while stuck in foul trouble, getting on the boards and converting on his limited shots. But the rest of the team? Yikes.
At the other end, Mitchell Smith was really good defensively. Like usual, he was able to defend multiple positions and affect a ton of shots around the rim. Meanwhile, Mark Smith and Dru Smith made some timely 3s.
We mentioned above Missouri’s ball handling woes, but really it came down to Mark Smith (8 TOs) and Dru Smith (6 TOs) who had two-thirds of the Tigers’ miscues. So, it was a rough night for the tandem of Smith and Smith, but the rest of the rotation proved steady with the ball in their hands, with no one else posting a turnover rate above 7 percent.
But I can’t get past just how much this was simply Pinson and Tilmon being great. Pinson’s usage was below 30 percent for just the second time this season. The other occasion: Illinois. In what are arguably Missouri’s best wins, Pinson put together quality outings.
So, now we know that ‘Good X’ needs at least one other good night from the Tilmon-Mark-Dru combo to beat solid teams. If all four are in lockstep, Mizzou can find another gear.
No matter where you place this team on the spectrum, outliers are a fact of life. In the immediate aftermath, Tennessee’s rout on Wednesday might fall in the category. The Vols are the clear contender for the regular season title, but they’re not immune from weird nights early. On Saturday, the Vols dominated Alabama in the paint and at the free-throw line, but the Crismon Tide shot 50 percent from the 3-point arc — drilling 10 shots — to overcome those hurdles on the road. Point being, we know Tennessee is good, but maybe not quite the juggernaut they appeared to be a couple of days ago, and Mizzou might not be as much of train wreck. One outcome rarely defines a season.
Over the next couple of week, it’s going to be interesting to see which teams seemed poised to finish in the upper half of the standings. It also puts added weight on matchup between teams vying for them — like the one on Saturday in Fayetteville. I’m confident Arkansas will be among the top six in the conference, while Florida, LSU and Missouri seem like decent bets to join them. And I don’t think we can dismiss Kentucky or Alabama.
Through two games, Missouri’s treading water, but they’ll need to hold serve against weaker opponents. One of those games arrives Tuesday with a road trip to Mississippi State, one of the teams projected to be at the bottom. I’ll admit they’re better than I expected, but not that much better. Still, the Bulldogs play a style of defense and have the interior size which could cause some issues for Mizzou. Plus, Cuonzo Martin is just 1-4 against Ben Howland since taking the job in Columbia.
And as we’ve seen so far, results this season are pretty unpredictable.
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.