Better Know An Opponent: Missouri (redux)

The Gamecocks continue through their portion of the season with nothing but return games from prior match-ups (this Saturday’s game in College Station is the exception) as they welcome Missouri to our Columbia for the first time ever.

Many Gamecock fans will remember these Tigers from our close-but-not-quite defeat at their hands earlier this year out in Missouri.  That game involved a lot of fortunate bounces and the absence of Laurence Bowers.  The Missouri basketball program assures us that Bowers will not be missing this time around, and if the bounces are also not going our way, it could be a long evening.

Team

Four Factors
USC O
MIZ D
 
MIZ O
USC D
 
NCAA
eFG
46.6
(263)
46.2
(78)
50.2
(97)
48.8
(191)
48.6
TO%
23.0
(305)
17.8
(290)
19.1
(117)
21.2
(115)
20.2
Oreb%
38.4
(18)
27.5
(27)
39.6
(6)
33.2
(234)
31.9
FTR
35.8
(174)
28.7
(40)
34.0
(230)
45.0
(326)
35.8
Adj. Tempo
66.5
(155)
68.3
(70)
66.1
Shooting
USC O
MIZ D
 
MIZ O
USC D
 
NCAA
FT%
67.6
(232)
75.0
(23)
69.1
2P%
46.0
(236)
44.5
(72)
50.3
(64)
49.1
(232)
47.5
3P%
31.9
(262)
33.5
(185)
33.9
3PA%
31.7
(207)
34.5
(221)
31.8
(205)
31.5
(120)
33.0

The Tigers do most of their offensive damage at the rim, though not necessarily from making shots.  Rather, Missouri hammers the offensive glass in a way that should remind you of how the Gamecocks looked prior to the start of SEC play.  They make the most of these additional opportunities by converting baskets from both the inside and the outside at an eFG of just over 50 percent, and largely avoiding turnovers.  While their numbers don’t jump off the page aside from offensive rebounding, given the schedule against which they’ve compiled those statistics, they’re a near-elite offense.

It’s tough to see how Carolina will be able to slow down Missouri.  The Gamecocks don’t really do a good job of anything on defense, though they’ve been steadily improving when it comes to forcing turnovers as the season has worn on.   But Missouri should be well-positioned to hammer the Gamecocks on the offensive glass and score at will from the interior.  Even Missouri’s weaknenss – getting to the free throw line – won’t be up for exposure by Carolina, as what’s a weakness for the Tigers is a fatal flaw for the Gamecocks, a complete inability to stop teams without resorting to fouling.

On the other side of the court, South Carolina will continue their hunt for something they do well aside from offensive rebounding, which itself hasn’t particularly stood out in conference play.  South Carolina has shot woefully from 2P% (41.3 percent, last in the SEC), 3P% (29 percent, 13th in the SEC) and FT% (64.7 percent, 12th in the SEC) in conference games.  While we haven’t been especially great at the other things we do, it’s clear what’s killing us.

While Missouri’s defense hasn’t been overwhelmingly stellar in either non-conference or SEC play, they are likely good enough to hold Carolina at or below the 0.92 points per possession the Gamecocks put up in this match-up earlier in the season.  That night, Carolina found ponits by creating additional opportunities through offensive rebounding, where they grabbed over 36 percent of their misses.  But Missouri is a formidable rebounding team on the defensive end, and with the return of Laurence Bowers in late January, no one has posted an offensive rebounding percentage above that 36 percent (and this list includes Florida, Kentucky, and a hilarious 11.5 percent rate from LSU).

Individual

Missouri
%Min
%Poss
eFG%
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
FTM-FTA
2PM-2PA
3PM-3PA
Phil Pressey
83.6
25.5
43.5
3.0
7.3
38.1
25.3
63-80
82-195
36-118
Earnest Ross
62.9
21.5
50.0
6.7
15.2
8.8
20.5
47-69
59-129
38-103
Alex Oriakhi
62.4
19.5
57.6
15.1
22.7
2.8
15.8
89-120
98-170
0-0
Keion Bell
57.0
21.0
56.4
4.7
13.7
11.8
19.7
66-75
95-162
10-33
Jabari Brown
55.9
18.9
50.8
1.8
10.0
6.6
16.7
58-72
30-70
45-122
Laurence Bowers
54.3
22.7
57.1
9.7
14.8
8.3
12.6
31-46
116-205
16-40
Tony Criswell
43.1
16.3
44.9
11.7
16.3
6.8
14.4
25-42
48-107
3-10
Negus Webster-Chan
41.1
10.6
38.7
3.8
10.6
7.5
23.3
9-13
8-25
14-50
Ryan Rosburg
17.8
10.6
42.3
12.2
10.3
5.9
14.2
8-14
11-26
0-0
Stefan Jankovic
17.2
18.5
44.9
7.8
11.8
8.6
11.8
18-20
10-23
11-36
Carolina
%Min
%Poss
eFG%
OR%
DR%
ARate
TORate
FTM-FTA
2PM-2PA
3PM-3PA
Lakeem Jackson
74.2
16.9
57.1
9.0
15.5
15.2
23.9
20-59
98-173
2-4
Eric Smith
68.1
16.9
40.2
1.5
5.6
21.7
28.5
31-48
40-103
17-60
Bruce Ellington
53.4
22.4
38.1
2.7
7.4
15.4
25.1
32-51
48-128
17-65
Brian Richardson
49.0
20.8
50.0
4.0
10.3
12.4
16.1
30-41
36-88
40-104
Brenton Williams
48.9
22.2
53.5
1.5
8.0
13.5
17.1
63-77
43-91
37-93
Mindaugas Kacinas
47.2
15.9
54.7
9.9
13.4
8.1
27.6
31-46
48-78
3-18
Michael Carrera
42.4
26.9
48.2
15.4
25.0
8.3
20.1
68-92
71-150
5-13
RJ Slawson
40.2
17.2
45.6
12.1
13.9
7.0
22.9
35-52
37-76
3-15
Damien Leonard
32.0
17.3
34.3
5.8
10.6
6.8
22.7
13-17
13-42
14-57
Laimonas Chatkevicius
22.1
23.1
43.5
10.8
19.8
8.1
28.8
17-30
27-63
2-6

In that last match-up, the Gamecocks held their own on the inside against everyone who wasn’t named Alex Oriakhi, who went 4-4 from the field and 10-10 from the line (chipping in five offensive rebounds for good measure).   The rest of the Tigers combined to go 10-26 from 2PA however, and that – coupled with an abysmal 18.5% night from outside – kept Carolina in the game, despite our complete inability to keep Missouri off the foul line.

That plan isn’t likely to be replicable, in that it relied heavily on the absence of one of Missouri’s finest interior presences – Laurence Bowers.  As Martin said in his presser:

“A guy named Arthur Bowers (Laurence Bowers) is back on the floor. You can argue that he’s a first-team all-league player. If he hadn’t missed the games that he missed, he probably would be a first-team all-league player. I know him well from my years going up against him (while at K-State). You don’t lose a guy that’s so long, so athletic, that’s a shot-blocker, that can rebound and now what he’s done is that he can make those perimeter shots, along with attacking the rim. You don’t lose a guy like that and become a better team.”

Absent a complete disappearing act against Arkansas, he’s been a force since returning (as he was before he left), and if Carolina couldn’t match-up with Oriakhi without Bowers, it’s incredibly difficult to understand how they might stop a team who puts both of them on the floor.  Bowers doesn’t get to the foul line in the same way Oriakhi does, but he nails the shots he takes, is a rebounding force on both ends, and doesn’t turn the ball over.  The combination will likely be determinative.

One match-up where Carolina got the better of Missouri last time out was Bruce Ellington’s stout defense against Phil Pressey.  Pressey’s game thrives on dishing out assists, and Bowers – who takes 43 percent of his shots from the rim – has two-thirds of his makes on assists.  His return makes Pressey a much better player and a much more difficult match-up for the Gamecocks.

The rest of the Missouri cast also brings their own problems.  Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross are both impressive players, though neither brought their best against Carolina the last time out.  Both take and make just over 20 percent of Missouri’s shots when they’re on the court and do so at a very efficient rate, which means teams can’t simply turn their focus to the more prominent three Missourians and expect not to pay for it at the hands of the other members of their starting five.

The Gamecocks will try their best to answer most likely with a heavy dose of Ellington and Smith on the outside, though unfortunately neither of them bring anywhere near enough offensive to trouble the Tigers – both are shooting under 40 on 2P% and 30 percent on 3P%, so the Gamecocks will have to look for them to create offense through assists (Smith’s rate is still in the top 500 nationally) and avoiding turnovers (which neither of them do well, with over a quarter of the possessions they use being turnovers).

If that roster construction keeps up, that means there’s only one spot for our two best offensive threats – Williams and Richardson.  As the season has gone on, Brenton has really separated himself offensively from Richardson in two ways – he gets to the line more often, and he’s able to make his 2s.

However, it’ll be tough to get those guys on the court if we’re going to see significant minutes from both Michael Carrera and Lakeem Jackson, as seems likely, since the Gamecocks will likely want a larger post player in the game to contest Bowers and Oriakhi.  Carrera should be able to do damage on the boards and through getting to the rim (and getting fouled while there) no matter who he’s playing – he really has been the brightest spot of this season by a mile.  Jackson continues to make the shots he takes at an impressive clip, but his rebounding has slowly tapered off as the competition has stepped up, and his shot-selectiveness necessarily makes it easier for him to hit shots at that higher rate.

Down low, it’s likely to be a rotating cast, as Carrera, Chatkevicius, and Slawson – all of whom commit over six fouls per 40 minutes – try to handle the post presence that Missouri will bring.  We’ve seen a significant uptick in minutes for Chatkevicius recently, as he’s played over 25 minutes in each of our last three games.  Unfortunately, none of those have been particularly successful outings aside from rebounding, though he did also block three shots against Georgia.  His fellow Lithuanian Kacinas is likely to see some minutes given the foul trouble these guys are sure to find themselves in.

Lastly, it’ll be interesting to see if Damien Leonard sees any playing time, as he hasn’t touched the floor since his six minutes in Tuscaloosa.

Predictions

KenPom: 76-64 L (15%)

TeamRankings: 74-65 L  (20%)

While Carolina has certainly played a bit better in its last two outings, it’s in over its head against the Tigers.  Unlike Ole Miss, there simply aren’t match-up advantages for Carolina to exploit.  Missouri has taken a while to get its whole roster assembled and playing cohesively, but it seems to have figured that out, which is how you end up doing things like beating Florida.

I will say, I’m very surprised to see the Vegas line come in at just 9.  I really do think this is one of those games where the match-up is so against us that we will struggle mightily to stay in it.  I hope I’m wrong, but that’s my read of this game.  We’re just not well-suited right now to bang on the interior against a team like Missouri, and if they have any sense, they’ll spend the game feeding the paint and making us beat them by defending inside.  We had three guys foul out against Georgia – don’t be surprised if you see three more disqualified Gamecocks at the end of this game (though we’ll have to keep it close for those guys to get enough minutes to rack up all the fouls, or for the officials to swallow their whistles late).

But as a general rule, you’d rather trust the market than one man’s opinion, and the market says there’s hope yet on the evening.  Either way, the season continues, and as always, it’s worth checking out the action to see how (or if) the team develops, and if they can’t put together a little magic for one evening to give the home crowd something special.  It’ll be a daunting, daunting task.

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About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
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One Response to Better Know An Opponent: Missouri (redux)

  1. Gary says:

    After about the first four minutes of the game, Frank should put Williams in for Smith and use Smith to sub for Ellington the rest of the game. We need either Williams or Richardson in for most of the game to give us a scoring threat from the wing. And having both of them in the game would be even better. I think the reason we probably won’t see Brenton and BRIch much together is because they are not our best options defensively.

    I would play Kacinas more than Slawson. Slawson has not had a good year. He has not reached his potential, for reasons that I don’t know. Or perhaps he just does not have the potential that I thought he had. Kacinas did pretty well in his limited minutes against UGA, and I think he is the better choice.

    I don’t like USC’s chances in this game. Missouri is more talented. If USC is to win, they must have a good shooting game, and that is something that has been rare for this team. And Lakeem Jackson must be active on the boards and score a little.

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