It’s sometimes funny to me that I write these Study Hall pieces. I’ve always been more of an “it’s not about the destination, but the journey” kind of guy, and reviewing game stats from an analytical standpoint is very much about the destination.
Missouri’s game against Alabama was equal parts journey and destination, as the Tigers built up a 22 point lead halfway through the second half, only to have 21 points of it shaved off with 1:11 to play. The build-up and and near let down were equally thrilling and heart-wrenching. The destination ended with a Missouri win by 3 points. For the Tigers, it was the third time they’ve taken on a top 10 foe and come away victorious, and for the Tide, it was their first conference loss on the season.
I don’t think you can simply look at this game as a whole unit. In the first half Mizzou used two 7-0 runs and an 8-0 run to give them a commanding 44-28 lead at halftime. Then for seven minutes into the second half they extended their lead to 22. Then Alabama went on a 29-8 run, and were only held off by some late Mizzou defense and a couple Xavier Pinson free throws. We’ve seen Missouri do this before, build up a big lead and relax, and end up in more of a dog fight than they expected at the end. In the past, as things have gotten tight, Mizzou has always seemed to come up with the one play to keep it from getting too close, but against Alabama it never happened until Mitchell Smith came up with a blocked shot on Herb Jones, and Xavier Pinson converted two free throws... and even then you had to hold your breath as Alabama took their last shot.
- Obviously both teams weren’t great on offense: but I calculated the last 12 minutes or so and figured out Missouri had about 20 possessions over that time, and scored just 10 points. Alabama scored 29. So while Bama was putting up 1.45 points per possession, Missouri was averaging just a half of a point for every trip. If you narrow down further to the harrowing minutes between the 6 minute mark and the five minute mark, Alabama had 10 possessions and scored on 9 of them. Meanwhile Missouri was 0-5 from 3, had two turnovers, and scored just two points on their 10 possessions. So 2.0 points per possession vs 0.2 points per possession over 10 possessions is how you erase a 20 point lead in a hurry.
- Not to continue to harp on the possession by possession stuff, but according to StatBroadcast there were 39 first half possessions, and Missouri scored 44 points (1.12 ppp). They were 17/25 from inside the arc, and forced 8 turnovers. Cut to the second half and there were 37 possessions and Mizzou put up just 24 points (0.64 ppp). They were 8-17 from inside the arc, and forced just 5 turnovers. Meanwhile, Mizzou had just 6 TOs in the first half and 10 in the second half, or a 15% rate vs a 27% rate.
Alabama has the number 2 Adjusted Defense in the country, and Missouri is a tough team who fields a good defense (though not a great one). So to some degree Missouri should have expected some tough sledding on offense. It’s why they were attacking off misses and trying to beat the defense down the floor. It worked in the first half, and even at times in the second half. And then as the lead ballooned and Alabama continued their struggles in scoring, Mizzou just went to what wasn’t working, their half court offense.
Your Trifecta: Kobe, Tilly, X
On the season: Jeremiah Tilmon 28 points, Xavier Pinson 22 points, Dru Smith 19 points, Mark Smith 14 points, Kobe Brown 8 points, Javon Pickett 3 points, Parker Braun 2 points
After the first half if you’d have told me that both Mark Smith and Dru Smith wouldn’t be in the trifecta, I wouldn’t have believed you. They were one of the main reasons why Mizzou was up as big as they were at halftime. But in the second half they combined for just 3 points on 12 shots and four turnovers.
So it’s weird to see Xavier Pinson and Jeremiah Tilmon on the list because they felt like non-factors. Pinson only took six shots and Tilmon took seven. They combined for 18 points, but sometimes it’s about what you don’t do as much as what you do... do. Tilmon only had a single turnover and 3 fouls, and while X had 3 turnovers, he also had four steals. While Dru missed 12 shots and had six turnovers, and Mark missed 9 shots and had a couple turnovers himself.
But a deserved win for Kobe Brown. An Alabama native who was not offered by Alabama and he had a nice game. After dealing with some foul issues in the first half, his second half was excellent with 9 points on 7 shots and 4 rebounds.
So in a normal world, you’d really prefer to see Dru and X’s usage flipped, with Tilmon up over 20%. Missouri had a tough time getting their pick-and-roll game going thanks to Alabama’s on the ball defense, so Tilmon wasn’t able to get any easy looks. And that’s probably why you see Pinson with such low usage.
Should also mention it’s entirely possible Missouri missed Javon Pickett in the second half. Pickett has a knack for getting a bucket or two when the offense is scuffling a bit. So Pickett’s ankle injury looks like it might be more impactful. He tried to give it a go but was clearly uncomfortable, and Cuonzo Martin quickly turned to Torrence Watson. It also forced Mark Smith and Dru Smith into long minutes.
Let’s not make this a Study Hall of Complaints though
Missouri won. They’re 13-3 and firmly in second place in the league standings. There’s also this little tidbit from Dave Matter last night:
One perspective on today's game: From Dec. 2013 to Jan. 2018, Mizzou went 1,502 days between wins over an AP ranked opponent.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) February 6, 2021
In the last 56 days, the Tigers have beaten three top 10 teams. https://t.co/SMy7qspiEP
1,502 days is a little over 4 years.
In the results-based industry like sports so clearly is, we do often forget to take notes during the journey. Cuonzo Martin’s first three years at Missouri were certainly bumpy. From losing top players to injury, to the last two years of more losses than wins, but it’s crescendoed a bit this year. An environment built for the kind of culture Martin cultivates, one of empty arenas and floundering youth has given way to grizzled veterans and self-determination.
I’ll never be convinced this Missouri team is a great team. But they’re definitely a good one, and they know each other, and pull together even when things don’t look great. In a lot of ways this team reminds me a lot of the 93-94 Undefeated Big 8 Championship team. They don’t quite have a shot maker like Paul O’Liney, or a consistent offensive guard like Melvin Booker, but they’re tough like that team. They’re rarely the most talented team on the floor, much like that team... but it doesn’t matter because they win games. And winning is more fun, even when they turn your stomach in knots while watching a 22 point lead dwindle to just a single point.
But consider this, once Alabama had cut it to one Missouri came up with three stops and three defensive rebounds to secure the win. Mitchell Smith, the oft-maligned forward known mostly amongst the vocal part of the fanbase for missed three point shots, came up with a game saving block and altered another layup attempt in the waning moments. This team is good because of guys like Mitchell who are fine with zero appearances in the trifecta as long as the team gets the win.
Ole Miss is Wednesday night. Another road game and a chance to keep this train rolling on.
The rest of your SEC results, and standings:
- Georgia 73, Vanderbilt 70
- Mississippi State 75, South Carolina 59
- Ole Miss 86, Auburn 84
- Tennessee 82, UK 71
- Texas A&M - Arkansas PPD
- Florida - LSU PPD
- Alabama 10 - 1
- Missouri 6 - 3
- Tennessee 6 - 4
- Arkansas 6 - 4
- Florida 6 - 4
- LSU 6 - 4
- Mississippi State 5 - 6
- Ole Miss 5 - 6
- Georgia 5 - 6
- Kentucky 4 - 6
- South Carolina 3 - 5
- Auburn 4 - 7
- Texas A&M 2 - 6
- Vanderbilt 1 - 7
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.