Editor's Note: Whoops, I forgot to include the link to Missouri's KenPom page. Basically, all this is is a regurgitation of stats on that page, and the applications of those statistics.
Here we go, the big one. The one we've been looking forward to for, I dunno, 48 hours? Seriously, though, I'm nervous as hell for this one.
Missouri is damn good this year. Statistically, even better than us. And, they love beating us. Especially in basketball, where we are the big kid on the block. And the place is going to be packed-to-the-brim, with loud Missouri fans everywhere, screaming out "M-I-Z-F-K-U".
You know the drill.
Just, this time, it's about as big as it gets. This is, I think, the biggest Missouri basketball game in like 5 years. I mean, according to Leo Lyons, this isn't their National Championship; it's even bigger. That's obviously hyperbole, especially for a team that (again, statistically) could legitimately get to the Elite Eight, but still. It shows just how much they hate us; just how desperate they are for a victory.
But, all of this passion, it isn't the only reason people are picking them to win. Usually, when it comes to Kansas vs. Missouri in basketball, Kansas is favored. If you pick Missouri, it's almost always because of the whole "in a rivalry game, anything can happen". And, that's true, really. But, that isn't really the case this time. Sure, the same passions, the same craziness, the same rivalry aspects apply. Except, this time, we've got two evenly-matched teams.
So, insert mass hysteria.
(Further previewing continues, by another 1000 words-or-so, after the break...)
Coming into the season, most weren't quite sure if the Missouri Tigers were an NCAA Tournament team. I know I wasn't. I mean, sure, they had the talent to get there, but there balls-to-the-wall style surely would cause them to drop some stupid games along the way, which would come back to bite them in the ass. In the end, I had them pegged as a bubble team, maybe making it, maybe not.
Well, they've blown that out of the water. They started out well, picking up solid W's over USC and Cal in the non-con (both Top 32 teams, in KenPom). But, more impressively, they never really slipped up. That was what was supposed to kill this Missouri team; losing to shitty teams. But, thier only non-con losses were to a damn good Xavier team (by 4 on a neutral floor) and to a pretty good Illinois team (admittedly by 16, but still; in St. Louis). That's it. Both surefire NCAA Tournament teams, both currently listed in the Top 22 of KenPom's rankings. Of course, a lot of that non-conference good will was destroyed when they opened up Big 12 play with a loss in Lincoln. But besides another bed-shitting along the way (a 16-point loss to K-State in Manhattan), they've been, in a word, awesome thus far this conference season. They beat Colorado and Iowa State by a combined 76 points. They won in Stillwater, they won in Austin. They crushed Baylor at home.
All of this pretty much means one thing: they're an NCAA Tournament team no matter what. But, the real question from here on out is how high of a seed. They could, conceivably, get into the Top 3 Seed lines, if they win enough big games and are within a game (or even tie) of the conference champion lead. Or, they could slip-slide all the way down to a double-digit seed. Monday night is their first trial to really determine anything.
The real highlight of their team; 6th best in all of college basketball. Holy shit.
Effective FG% (13th) -- A big reason why their offense is so good is their incrediblye ability to simply make shots. That's all, just makin' shots. And they really don't have any one player who hits everything (although, Demarre Carroll is 96th in the country at eFG%), it's just they have 7 players who see decent PT who have an eFG% over 50%. Seriously. Everyone is dangerous.
Turnover % (12th) -- This is the other thing they are just ridiculous at. They never, ever turn the ball over. Which kind of goes against the stereotype of high-pressure teams; giving the ball up a bunch is just part of the deal. But, the Tigers hold on tight to the ball.
Offensive Rebounding % (71st) -- A solid number, but not nearly as dominant as the past two categories. They don't have enough pure size to really dominate the offensive glass, especially against taller opponents like Cole, but eat up smaller teams. They are definitely good enough to pay attention the Morris' ability to box out.
FTA/FGA (171st) -- The only thing they are bad at. Honestly. They don't get to the line that much, which again makes sense given the large propensity of their offense is run through their two stars; forwards Leo Lyons and Demarre Carroll. They do drive the ball some, but not an exorbiant amount.
- 2-point FG% is the real highlight of the Tigers' offense; even better than their 3-point FG%. Also worth of noting; they are a terrible shooting team (65.7% as a team) from the free throw line. So, don't be too worried about fouling 'em.
- Their ball distribution is quite fabulous, really; they are 20th in the country at A/FGM. Again, watch out for the kick-ins to Lyons and Carroll with the subsequent kick-outs. That is a major part of their offense.
While the offense is what is Final Four-caliber, the defense really isn't that far behind. No, really. 22nd in the country. Or, in the objective world of numbers, just slightly behind us. Scary, huh?
- Effective FG% (58th) -- A solid, but not spectacular, showing here. I hate analyzing these types of rankings, because there really isn't a whole lot to go off of. I mean, they'll give you some open shots, but they cover you, too. So, we'll just leave it at that.
- Turnover % (11th) -- Now this, this is a stat that is easy to interpolate. They turn you over a shitload. A lot like Nebraska, except with more height and better athletes. Essentially, their entire defensive goal isn't to play solid D for thirty seconds and force you to take a really bad shot; it's to steal it from you. Simple and schoolyard as that. If there wasn't a shotclock, it wouldn't effect the Tigers' D too much. It isn't very often that the shotclock runs out, we'll just put it that way.
Offensive Rebounding % (179th) -- This is where you can hurt him. So often, the Tigers' D is so far extended, they give up open lanes for offensive rebounding opportunities. Morris twins, here's your chance to show up big time. In a game where we desperately need you, let's see it. Cole, you too, but that's a given. The key will be the extra second-chance opportunities and, more importantly, points that we get from the Law Firm.
- FTA/FGA (244th) -- This goes hand-in-hand with the incredibly high turnover %. When you go after that many balls, and try to steal the ball as often as they do, it is inevitable that they slap a few arms along the way. They certainly don't shy away from fouls; it's almost as if Mike Anderson wants everyone to pick up at least a couple of fouls a game. The average team shoots 40 free throws for every 100 field goals, a helluva lot. So, if we can hit our freebies, something we've been much better at recently, there's some more free points right there.
- They are really, really good at limiting the 3-point field goals. No, seriously; they're only giving up 30% from out there. Should be interesting to see, as much of our offense is based off of the open three. This just highlights the fact that, when we are given an open three, we absoultely have to knock it down. I'm looking at you, Relly Ice.
- As far as everything else goes, they're pretty average. They steal the ball more than anyone else in the country save two teams, but that is to be expected given their ungodly turnover %.
J.T. Tiller G -- Tiller is the Tigers' point guard, and is therefore their highest assist man. He isn't much of a three-point shooter, preferring instead to drive the ball into the lane. Most importantly, he is their top defender; the shutdown defender who will likely draw Sherron Collins. He steals the ball a shitload, so that's dangerous. Hopefully, Sherron can break free and have a huge-ass game; we will really need it.
Zaire Taylor G -- Their clutch player, I'm guessing, given the fact that he was the player they gave the ball to with 5 seconds left and a tie score against Texas. Zaire didn't disappoint, driving in and scoring an and-one to clinch the victory. Taylor is second on the team in assist rate, behind Tiller, and is another fine defender. He is terrible from three, though (again, just like Tiller).
Matt Lawrence G -- Matt Lawrence really only has one main role on this team; to be the three-point shooter. Shoot, shoot, shoot. He's taken 118 threes on the year, making 43% of them. However, because he actuall controls the ball so rarely (really, he is only a catch-and-shoot kind of guy), he turns the ball over second-fewest in the entire country. That, combined with his incredibly efficient eFG%, has him ranked 2nd in the Offensive Rating category. Damn. So, in a way, KenPom is kinda-sorta saying that he is the second-best offensive player in the country. Not really, of course, but still. On defense, he is kind of a liabilty, and will likely be hidden away on Brady. But he is a damn good three-point shooter; stay on him, Brady.
Leo Lyons F -- The real star of the Tigers, good ol' Leo is just as crazy as he is good. He draws more fouls per 40 minutes than anyone else in the country, which is particularly impressive given their team-wide low FTA/FGA. He only shoots 74% from the line, so that isn't frightening, but still scary, as far as foul trouble goes. I doubt Cole will guard Leo, but Demarre isn't much easier to handle. He is a really good rebounder both ways, and steals the ball a bunch for a big guy. All in all, he is probably better than Demarre Carroll, effectively making him the team's best player. But, really, it is Player 1 and Player 1A. They are both so dangerous, it's scary.
Demarre Carroll F -- Carroll is a more efficient offensive player, possesses a much better eFG% (60% to 52% for Lyons), and draws quite a few fouls himself. He also steals the ball a shitload, particularly for a 6'9" F. He is good about not turning the ball over, too. I kind of want to say he is better, too. See what I mean, though? Both are so freakin' dangerous, it doesn't seem possible to contain them both without getting into foul trouble.
Bench -- Missouri goes 11 deep, without anyone else really seeing a big-time minutes. But, all six bench players will likely get in, and all will have some impact. I'm not going to spend the time going over every player, so here are just the players who are particularly good/bad at something. Kim English is really their only other good three-point shooter, at 40%. Other than that, they can shoot 'em from out there as much as they want. (They don't, though, as a team; only shoot 32 threes for every hundred twos, which is 188th in the country). Keith Ramsey is a really, really good rebounder, particularly defensive. Miguel Paul really isn't Chris Paul's cousin. That's about all of the relevant information.
Really, there are a couple of huge keys in this one. Gigantic. These are the things that, without fail, will decide the winner and loser. They follow.
- Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers -- Missouri's biggest offensive strength is not turning the ball over. Their biggest defensive strength is forcing a bunch of turnovers. Really, they are a walking support of what the coaches always say; turnovers decide ballgames. So, we need to do two things. One, and something we have more control over, is we can't do the stupid turnover thing. Just can't have it. I'm particularly worried about Tyshawn. But, really, everyone needs to make an effort to take care of the ball. Holding on to the ball is the key to staying in the game. It would be disastrous to give away fast break points constantly, cause we make really dumb passes. And, two, turn them over. This is going to be easier said than done, and as long as we aren't turning the ball over, I'm not as concerned about it. But still, if we can get a couple of well-timed turnovers, it could go a long way.
- Offensive Glass -- Missouri's D is pretty damn good, but they get in trouble in two areas: offensive rebounding and fouling you. So, let's take advantage of their weakness (and our kind-of strength) and win big on the offensive glass. I figure they'll pay special attention to Cole, so I'm really looking at you, Law Firm. Particularly the two Morris members. Kieffer, McMorris. The onus is on you. Let's see another huge game from you two; we all know we need it. You should have plenty of opportunities for free second-chance points. Let's see 'em.
Make Your Free Throws -- No matter what happens, we're going to be at the free throw line tomorrow night. A lot. So, while we're there, we might as well hit 'em all, right? Seriously, though, we've got to hit a large majority. It's just gotta happen. The Morris twins are way better, now, particularly Marcus. Let's hope everyone else can have a really good night with the freebies, along with the Morris twins.
Match Their Intensity -- Really, this might be most important. Yes, I know it's the Border War, and yes, I know it's a rivalry game. And of course, this is more than just your typical rivalry game, like we said; there are a shitload of implications with the Big 12 and the NCAA Tournament and all of that stuff. But, still, I have a nasty feeling that no matter how "up" we get for this game, and we will surely be intense, they'll be a little more amped up. This is bigger than a National Championship, 'member? So, yeah, just make sure we match their intenstiy, m'kay?
OK, I'm toast. I stayed up way too late writing this, and am now completely gone. OGT coming tomorrow, hopefully it's a gigantic one with everyone there. Four digits should be the goal, with an eye towards 1200, or maybe even 1500. I don't know; it should be an awesome game, between two legitimate second-weekend teams in one of the most intense rivalries in the country. Really, it might be the Big 12's Biggest Game of the Year, with the only possible competitors being KU-OU and MU-OU, depending on what happens until then and shit.
I can't wait.
I can't fucking wait.