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A KenPom Preview: Missouri (Again)

As always, much of this data is based off of Missouri's KenPom page. And, for further reference, check out our first KenPom preview of the Tigers.

Because the first KP preview of Mizzou was done "correctly", with the new format I've established, and it doesn't make a helluva lot of sense to regurgitate the same information, I will be conducting this one differently. I will be basing a lot of my analysis on the last game between the two teams, that not-so-awesome February 9th night that no one really wants to remember, as that actually provides us data. Again, if you want their actual statistical figures, check out either Missouri's KP page or the first KP preview. It's all there...

Opening Thoughts

Here we go.

A win here all but locks up the Big 12 Title for us, although it isn't anything official. But, we're playing for more than just another Conference Championship.

It's the most important thing, but not the only. No, we have revenge to serve Missouri. Plus, Kirk Hinirch is in the building, attending the ceremony to watch his number hang in the rafters. Now, whether he deserves the honor or not is debatable, but that doesn't really matter. What does is that it's happening, and that everyone that is there should yell their ass off when it goes up. 

But, seriously, the game is big. Really big. A helluva lot of importance going on, here. And while it wouldn't be an upset, really, for either side to win, it's a game we should win. Not a game we really should win out of potential embarssment, but a game we should win just because we're even teams, and we're at home. And not just any home; Allen Field House home.

We don't lose very often at Allen Field House home. And, with Sherron stroking it again, the freshmen higher on the learning curve than they were back on February 9th and an ability to limit 27 turnovers and 2-15 shooting from three, I feel good.

I'm feelin' really good.

The Background

I don't have the time to go back to the Civil War. Actually, if you really want to bone up on the incredible history between the two schools, click here. It was done over at RMN way back when before the football game (doesn't Kerry Meier's pass seem like it was, like, 7 years ago? This basketball season is all I'm really concerned about at the moment, honestly, so everything else kind of fades away and seems like it happened ages ago), and is incredibly well done. Read it, if you want.

But, back to basketball. Basketball background. As I mentioned in the open, this game has gigantic Conference Championship implications. MIssouri pretty much needs a win to win the league, where a loss would force them to win their last two (vs. Oklahoma, @ Texas A&M) while also having Kansas lose our last two (@ Texas Tech, vs. Texas) just to tie. So, yeah, they really need to win. At least from that perspective.

Plus, there's that whole NCAA Tournament thing. Given these two teams' resumes, they are fairly similar, although our non-con W's against Washington and Tennessee are slightly better, IMO, than theirs against California and USC. Still, getting swept by the Tigers wouldn't be too hot for our seed line. And, finally, we've got this homecourt winning streak thing going on, right now. I don't want to blow it, like, ever, but especially not against Missouri. We'd hear about it for ages.

The Offense

Like I said, we're going to be doing it quite a bit differently, this time around. So, with so much riding on this game, I figured we'd just focus on the last game between the two teams. Basically, I'll do a quick review of both what we did well in our first matchup, and what we didn't do well. Then, repeat the same for D. That should give us a better preview of today's game (yikes - I'm like way late on this...) than simply overviewing their KP page.

What We Did Well...

Offensive Rebounding -- This was, really, the key that let us stay in the game throughout 40 minutes. Obviously, Cole played the biggest of roles in this, and really the only role. The Law Firm, as a whole, had a pretty shitty game. Particularly the Morris twins. The Morrises have taken significant strides forward since, though, and the trip to Columbia is looking more-and-more like just a blip on the radar. Mario Little's fairly rapid descent is more concerning, but maybe he can bounce back tomorrow.

Even if he can't, though, it isn't a huge deal. The big thing is to keep Cole fresh. In the first game, we rode Cole nearly every second of the second half, as there wasn't another post player who was playing well. As long as we get the Morrisses/Little/Quintrell  to play decent enough to get Cole some time on the pine, we should be A-OK. Cole can, and should, dominate the glass on both sides if he's fresh and rested. If not, it will very likely be a repeat of what happened in Columbia.

2-Point Field Goals -- While our overall FG%, and eFG%, were fairly disappointing, that was severely affected by the terrible 3-point FG%, which we'll get to in a second. Inside the arc, in all actuality, we were money. We shot 21-40 from two, higher than 50%, making plenty of tough shots. Obviously, a bunch of this is Cole doing his thing, and that needs to continue. Cole's domination should be priority number one, because it should be there for the taking. Missouri just doesn't have the size to match up with him, and he is dominant enough to take over games. However, the key is, yet again, the Morrisses. I'd imagine that Mike Anderson will focus more on Cole than they did in Columbia, so McMorris and Kieffer need to be able to hit the open shots. Do that, and pick up some second-chance points for good measure, and we're good.

What We Didn't Do Well...

3-Point Field Goals -- Absolutely awful. People will point to the turnovers as to what made us lose, and we'll get to that in a second, but I'd say our complete inability to knock down a three is what killed us. In the first half, when Relly Ice was stroking it, he hit two straight threes on two consecutive possessions. We didn't hit another three before-or-after. All year long, we've made the big, clutch three to stem the momentum of the other team, extend our lead, and push us to victory. We never, ever got that shot in Columbia. Sherron was in the middle of his elbow-induced cold streak, and the Local Boys were off from the perimeter. Hopefully, one of the Locals can get hot and Sherron can keep up his torrid pace from Monday night's second half, and it won't be an issue.

Turnovers -- 27 turnovers is a helluva lot worse than awful. There isn't really a word to define it in the english language. Plenty of things contributed to it, though. For one, the Paige was as hostile as hell, and our young players kinda-sorta freaked out, a little. For two, Missouri's pressureized, in-your-face D really altered our game, particularly in the second half when we were merely attempting to get it across. When we attacked it with an idea to score, like in the first half, we were tearing it up. Then, Missouri changed their press attack, went to a zone-look, and we never really completely figured it out. The good thing, though, is that instead of merely a day to prepare, this time NCHCBS had 5. A lot more shit you can prepare for in those 4 extra days.

So, with both of the turnover-inducing problems hopefully to be solved, I don't think it will be nearly the issue. Obviously, we'll still turn the over; we do it against everyone, and Missouri's as good as anyone in the country at forcing them. But, I just want us to limit it under 20, and I'm happy. That's all.

The Defense

Same as the offense, except defense. You're intelligent, though, I probably should have just let you figure it out on your own.

What We Did Well...

eFG% Defense -- But we always, always, always do this well, so no real big deal, here. Just, keep sticking hands in faces, keep sliding your feet, keep helping out. We play as good of team D as just about anyone in the country, despite being the 11th youngest team out there. That's pretty damn impressive, and all props go to NCHCBS. Defense is priority #1, and it's what has gotten us through oodles of offensive pratfalls.

Defensive Rebounding -- Yet again, any-and-all props go to Cole. He's just a freaking beast on the glass, and no one can really compete with him on the Tigers. Few can in the country, really. That's only when he is healthy and rested, though. Again, I'll mention the imperativeness of continuing to give him breaks. He just completely died in Columbia towards the end, and it severely limited our offensive effectiveness.

What We Didn't Do Well...

Turnovers -- I know, we're terrible at forcing them. But, Monday showed just how different our team is when we are forcing them/having them given to us and when we aren't getting them at all. In the first half, Missouri had 10 turnovers, IIRC, and we were winning by 16. In the second half, Missouri had 3, and they stormed back to win. With our downright dominant our defense can be, it's practically death to steal away possessions on a consistent basis. They just don't have the ball enough to overcome the low percentage shots they're forced into taking by our D. And they just can't win.

The Keys

If you've followed along with the preview, these should be fairly expected. We don't need all of these things to break right to win, but we can't have all of them shade the other direction, where even a superhuman effort from Cole probably won't be able to rescue us like it nearly did February 9th in Columbia.

1) Make Threes -- I stand semi-alone on this issue, at least as far as anyone coming out and saying it. But, and I'll stand by this, I think this is the most important element to any game we've played in all season long. Sometime, when we have another big-time break, I want to analyze how we've done comparing our 3-point FG% to our W-L in those games. If that makes sense. Anyways, the reason why we lost in February was largely because we never could get that one, momentum-swinging trey. It's easier to switch momentum with the backing of Allen Field House, so it doesn't need to be even done often. As long as they are well-timed, and occur more than twice, both in a single one-minute period. That's all.

2) Morris Twins -- This has everything to do with Cole getting rest. Even if McMorris and Kieffer don't do much at all in the actual stat lines, as long as they play well enough to give NCHCBS enough confidence to sit Cole down on the bench, they've been semi-successful. For the billionth time, Cole was tired as hell at the end of the game up in Columbia, and that's why we lost. So, the Morris twins need to play well, at the very least, so we can afford to sit Cole. Because a rested Cole is as dominant as they get. A non-rested Cole isn't nearly as good. (Excellent analysis, I know).

3) Good Sherron -- I wanted to talk about this a little more, and this isn't a key in the traditional sense of the term, really, but I thought I'd mention it. When we last played Missouri, Sherron was in the middle of his mid-year slump. The same time he slipped on that elbow brace, his shooting went, relatively of course because it still wasn't all that bad, into the shitter. He wasn't making those money shots, he wasn't calling for the ball in order to take games over late. But now, after two downright ridiculous performances against lesser teams (Iowa State and Nebraska) and his display in Norman, I have a feeling he's back. And while J.T. Tiller is an excellent defender, and will certainly limit Sherron more than he has been these past three games, this is the Sherron that is awesome. The All-American Sherron. The Sherron that will make it in the NBA. The Sherron that has shown flashes throughout his career, including last year's stretch run. The Sherron that is as scary as anyone in the country. The Sherron that hits 30-footers.

Photo detail

Yeah, that Sherron.(Nick Krug -- KU Sports)

Closing Thoughts

That's all, for now. I'll be putting up the OGT an hour-and-a-half before tip tomorrow. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it, but the Tivo is all rarin' to go, so I'll be popping over here postgame to talk up what I hope to be a W. It's the first OGT I'll miss, IIRC, since they completely blow up, so hopefully it doesn't end too poorly. As long as Denver's here, though, we should be good. Oh, and I'll mention this tomorrow too, but I'll plan to have a second thread go up at half. Even without me and the Chatty Kathy (aka KC88), I have a feeling this is going to be a big one.