"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, January 18, 2010

MU now top 3-point team in the country at 43.4%

Treys, defensive steals and rebounds spell great shot at NCAA bid - so does Buzz activate Cadougan for Lazar's final run?

I know some of you believe I overanalyze stats sometimes, but this one is cut and dry. Mo Acker nailed all 6 of his treys Sunday and MU went 13 of 21 from behind the arc to finish the night as the best 3-point shooting team in the country at 43.4%. Sunday showed how MUs incredible 3-point shooting, defensive rebounding and ability to steal the ball could be enough to propel them into the NCAA tourney in March.

1. THREE-POINT DOMINATION. Last week I wrote about the “3-pointer trio” of David Cubillan, Darius Johnson-Odom and Mo Acker, and by the end of Sunday night they had hit more than half (87 of 172) of their three pointers this season. They were averaging 5 of 10 per game from behind the arc coming into Sunday, and then Buzz threw Providence a curve by starting all three of them and they gave Buzz an extra 5 treys above their average at 10 for 15 for the game. MU had not finished in the top 130 in 3-point percentage since Steve Novak graduated. That is the biggest reason (along with rarely turning the ball over) that MU scores 1.18 points per trip down the court to have the 7th best offense of 347 Division I teams.

2. NO SECOND SHOTS FOR OPPONENTS. MUs “Stud Trio” of Dwight Buycks, Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler have boxed out everyone all year to combine to grab almost half of all opponent’s missed shots between the three of them. Believe it or not, with Joe Fulce starting to get more minutes MU is now statistically one of the top defensive rebounding teams in the country. They combined to allow Providence, one of the top 10 offensive rebounding teams in the country, to grab only eight of their 36 misses (22% compared to their 40%+ average). Jamine Peterson came in averaging more than 10 rpg, but after being shut down for only one defensive rebound in 18 minutes he was frustrated and ejected from the game.

3. ONE OF BEST 7 TEAMS AT STEALING THE BALL. How important is the fact that MU steals the ball more than one of every eight times times the opponent brings the ball down the court? Consider that only six of the other 72 teams in “BCS” conferences steal the ball more than MU – and all but one of them are among the top 14 teams in the country (#7 Duke, #3 Kansas, #4 Nova, California, #14 BYU and #11 West Virginia are the only teams better than MU at stealing the ball). Sunday against one of the fastest teams in the country, MU stole the ball nine more times while allowing the Friars only three steals.

So MU often steals the ball before you can shoot, rarely let’s you have a second shot if you do get off a shot, and once MU gets the ball back with a steal or defensive rebound we nail three-pointers at the other end of the court at a dizzying pace as the 7th best offense in the country (based on points per offensive trip).


So how will MU look on Selection Sunday in light of the 11-6 record due to the close losses early on in the season? MU has four easy conference wins (DePaul twice and Rutgers and USF at home) that they must take care of – so just those wins would guaranty a 15-win season.

MU then needs one big road win at either Syracuse (the most difficult), UConn or Cincinnati for the resume, and if they get just one of those three they have 16 wins and the crucial big road victory to add to two big neutral court victories (Xavier and Michigan) for the resume.

Basically, Providence was the first of seven “other” games in which MU should be narrow but not prohibitive favorites – so with one of these seven games taken care of, MU needs to go 4-2 in six similar games down the stretch (at Providence, Pitt, at SJU, at SH and finally Lville and ND the final week). All six of those teams are better than NC State, which gave MU it’s one bad loss of the season, so Sunday was a good test of whether or not MU could handle most of those teams the rest of the season or if MU would have to fight through close wins. I’d say the 93-63 final score indicates MU could certainly go 4-2 even assuming a couple of nights of cooler shooting.

If that happens with one big road win, MU projects to finish 11-7 to finish 6th in the Big East behind only Syracuse, Nova, Pitt, WVU and Georgetown, one game ahead of Louisville and two games ahead of UConn and Notre Dame. (see www.kenpom.com for projections)

Not a huge margin of error, as going just 2-4 instead of 4-2 in those key six games could drop MU to 9th place in the Big East at 18-12 overall and in the NIT. However, if MU shoots treys, steals the ball and boxes out half as well as they did Sunday, they will get their one big road win and go at least 4-2 in the “other six” and be travelling to an NCAA location, particularly since one Big East tourney win is likely to make it 21-11.

THE CADOUGAN QUESTION. If MU keeps winning these games, then the question becomes whether Buzz take the red shirt off Junior Cadougan to give MU the depth of a 10th scholarship player that would let them really turn up the steals and survive foul trouble or a turned ankle down the stretch and really see how far this team can go. Junior looked completely loose and fast going through drills before the Providence game, and it sure will get tempting if MU continues to play like this. Obviously, we could regret it in 2013-14, but it must be tempting after Sunday to see just how good MUs top recruit from the class of 2009 could be down the stretch while keeping everyone else’s legs fresh even while pressing …


Oliver said...

If he is truly healthy and good enough to get 15-20 minutes, then activate him. There are too many variables through a four-year college career to not use him now.

Cubillan and Acker have been great lately, but are playing over their heads. We will need some bulk to defend bigger guards and some penetration ability at some point. Better point play may have been enough to win one of the games against Villanova.

Anonymous said...

Spot on, Oliver.

Four years is a long, long time. And if Buzz and this group can sneak into the tourney this year, that will only bolster an already impressive ability to recruit and bring in future talent.

Buzz said it in his press conference after the PC game: He's always considering what's best for the long-term future of the program and the players. In this case, he'll have to choose between two not-so-bad options: Activate Junior if healthy and able to be productive to make an unexpected run this year (not to mention giving Junior a jump on playing in big-time games with this group); or keep him redshirted so he's fresh and fully healthy for next season.

I lean toward activating him now.

Anyone else listen to Buzz's presser? He didn't even let Rosi finish his question about Junior before responding "Yep. Yes." I'll be shocked if we don't see Junior on the court in the next few games.

This is such an exciting season, and there's still so much more to go!