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Study Hall: Texas A&M 63, Mizzou 57

So much went right except for the missing of the shots!

study hall 2022

The frustration levels have to be sky-high in Dennis Gates's office. I know they’re quite high on the conversation channel between the two Matt’s and myself.

I never thought I’d see a game this season where Dennis Gates leaned hard into a 1-3-1 zone anchored in the middle by a 7-foot freshman. But it worked! For 40 minutes the Tigers followed a pretty simple game plan defensively. It was a game plan used by LSU, Virginia, and Auburn to frustrate the Aggies offensively and make a team that struggles to shoot the ball live outside the paint.

Wade Taylor IV is the SEC Preseason Player of the Year and a 1st-teamer last season. He excels in the pick-and-roll, and does a great job of living at the free throw line while getting fouled in the mid-range.

Missouri took that away, too.

It’s really a season of almosts, as Matt Harris pointed out on the podcast... Mizzou has played nearly even or ahead of their opponents in each SEC game. Against A&M they only held the lead at the 13:35 mark, but never got down more than 7 points and had just a 3-point deficit after a Tamar Bates layup with 3:21 to go. They even forced a turnover and had the ball back before Jordan Butler missed a potentially tying corner three. A&M scored on their next possession, Mizzou turned the ball over (one of 15 on the day), and they still had a chance to cut into the lead after getting a stop.

It’s a recurring script.

But let’s look at these ol’ numbers anyway.

Team Stats

2024 study hall tamu
  • Texas A&M shoots 26.5% from outside on the season and they were forced to take 27 (over half) of their shots from beyond the arc: and guess what? They only made 22% on the day. A large part of that was the game plan of playing a pretty flat 1-3-1 to prevent drives toward the basket. It didn’t help that the officials let Texas A&M cutters hang out in the lane (I think at one point I counted Andersson Garcia in there for about 6 seconds) but the 1-3-1 zone pulled Texas A&M out of everything they wanted to do offensively.
  • But going away from “what you do” comes with a drawback, not forcing turnovers: and the Tigers, even with taking a step back this season, are still one of the league's best at forcing you to turn the ball over. Zones don’t really cause havoc, and Mizzou wasn’t looking to cause havoc with their version. They wanted A&M to take jump shots.
  • The problem was what they did offensively: I honestly don’t know how anyone could have watched that game and thought for a moment that Mizzou didn’t do what they needed to do on defense. The issue was they turned the ball over 15 times and had another poor shooting night from distance. The Tigers had the 6th best 2FG% against the Aggies on the season, and if Mizzou would have just shot what teams shoot on average against Texas A&M, they would have made 3 more threes, or 9 points... or enough to win.

Even the rebounding margin favored the Tigers. If you look up and see a -4.3 that may not look great but with a team like A&M it's about margins, not wins. They’re the top offensive-rebounding team in the country by percentage at 43.7%, and Missouri caused that percentage to drop a full point.

The biggest issues I had with how they played were the fouls. A&M can’t shoot and they rely on offensive putbacks and free throws to move their offense along. Mizzou did a great job limiting their rebounding opportunities to be merely the average D1 team, but put them on the free throw line 37 times. Again it’s just a season of almosts.

Player Stats

Your Trifecta: Sean East II, Noah Carter, Tamar Bates

2024 study hall tamu

On the season: Sean East II 37, Tamar Bates 21, Noah Carter 20, Nick Honor 14, Caleb Grill 6, Aidan Shaw 3, Connor Vanover 3, Trent Pierce 3, Anthony Robinson II 3, Jesus Carralero-Martin 2, Jordan Butler 1

When deploying the 1-3-1, Gates opted to shuffle his lineup and inserted Jordan Butler. I liked this move. Butler is really pretty good defensively; he’s more agile than the other bigs (Vanover and Majak) and he rebounds better. So you were anchoring your zone with a lengthy player who can move and secure the boards. Butler rewarded Gates for his trust with 24 productive quality minutes despite nearly fouling out.

Tamar Bates had his toughest night in a while and he still gave you 16 points. When he figures out how to get to the free throw line consistently, he could be a nightmare. His three-point shooting didn’t carry over, but considering the offensive options, I’m okay with Bates taking as many shots as he did.

Some might look at Nick Honor’s -14 and think he was a problem, but he played pretty well. His one turnover was improperly given to him when Tamar fired a 95 mph fastball from the baseline late in the game and it was high and wide. Honor didn’t have a banner night shooting the ball; he also rimmed out two threes and had one taken off the board for being a split second too late. The bulk of that -14 came during a period where he was on the floor with Anthony Robinson II. Ant did not have a good night. Ups and downs are to be expected from freshmen and Robinson was definitely down against the Aggies. He missed a layup and three three-pointers and struggled with the physicality of the Aggie defense.

2024 study hall tamu

Aidan and Ant passing the ball back and forth to each other as the shot clock expires should tell you a good amount about how things go with a roster stretched too thin. A roster full of role players stretched to the brink.

Losing John Tonje hurt, losing Caleb Grill made it worse. And while Jesus Carralero Martin turns the ball over a lot and misses a lot of shots, he’s also one of the few guys who seem capable of making plays. We’ve seen that play out with Nick Honor, and while he’s beloved, Aidan Shaw doesn’t look comfortable dribbling the ball more than once. Maybe Trent Pierce can become that guy, but he’s not there yet. And since Tamar Bates has stepped up to take on more shot attempts, that’s freed Nick Honor to go back to a role he’s more comfortable in. He takes care of the ball and takes spot-up threes.

In a season of almost, this roster is just full of almosts. I don’t think Tonje and Grill being healthy turns this on its head, but with the slight margin this team has operated with they’re probably at worst 2-4 in the league instead of 0-6. Would having both of them flipped the result against Seton Hall? Maybe not, but it certainly would have against Jackson State. Nobody would be crowing about an 11-8 or 12-7 team. But some of the things I’ve seen people say border on lunacy.

I shouldn’t have to remind people of how special last season was. But one thing to keep in mind is it took a LOT of good fortune for Mizzou to land in that position. KenPom.com isn’t the end-all-be-all but possession data is usually reliable because it tells the whole story. Missouri earned its 7 seed by winning the games, but the possession data said they were closer to a 12 seed than a 6 seed. They were down by 10 points at Wichita State with 5 minutes to play and had just a 6.1% chance to win at that stage. They had just a 22% chance to make Dree Gholston’s banked-in three against UCF. They were at just 5% to win with 5 minutes remaining against Arkansas before a 10-0 run sparked the win. Then there was Tennessee, at 5.2% with under a minute remaining. Then just 24.5% chance to win in the middle of overtime against Mississippi State.

Last season Mizzou defied the odds in a good way. This year they’re doing the opposite. The odds say this team should have won at least a couple of these games so far and they haven’t. They will at some point, but it doesn’t make it easier to watch each game play along the same script and never catch the few goodwill breaks you need to change the outcome.

Up next is South Carolina, a team you were beating for the entire game and had a near 90% chance to win the game until their own late-game heroics. They just beat Kentucky at home as the Gamecocks are looking a lot like the way the Tigers did last year. Who knows, maybe they’re riding a little too high after taking down the Cats and the Tigers can sneak in and flip this script. They’re talking about a top 25 ranking now at 16-3. Mizzou could spoil all of that.


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 on 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.

%Min: This is easy, it’s the percentage of minutes a player played that were available to them. That would be 40 minutes, or 45 if the game goes to overtime.

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.

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. This combined with Usage Rate gives you a sense of impact on the floor.

IndPoss: This approximates how many possessions an individual is responsible for within the team’s calculated possessions.

ShotRate%: This is the percentage of a team’s shots a player takes while on the floor.

AstRate%: Attempts to estimate the number of assists a player has on teammates made field goals when he is on the floor. The formula is basically AST / (((MinutesPlayed / (Team MP / 5)) * Team FGM) - FGM).

TORate%: Attempts to estimate the number of turnovers a player commits in their individual possessions. The formula is simple: TO / IndPoss

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.

In attempting to update Study Hall, I’m moving away from Touches/Possession and moving into the Rates a little more. This is a little experimental so if there’s something you’d like to see let me know and I’ll see if there’s an easy visual way to present it.