Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tigers are road weary, on to Stillwater

There is no shame in losing at Texas, which Missouri did last Saturday, 71-58. The Longhorns are a hot top-10 team rapidly climbing up the rankings. What’s frustrating is that this was a great opportunity to pick up a huge road win that would have bolstered Missouri’s NCAA Tournament resume. All this glory and opportunity was tantalizingly within reach throughout the game as Texas struggled at the free throw line, allowing Missouri to hang around.

In the end, the Tigers (17-4, 3-3 in Big 12 play through last Saturday) simply couldn’t keep Texas in check in the rebound department, and Missouri couldn’t muster even the tepid shooting performance that might have pulled off the upset for the Tigers.

Texas outrebounded Missouri 40-28, and it certainly seemed worse than that. Particularly early on, the Longhorns grabbed rebound after rebound, essentially playing shoot-till-you-make it en route to a 10-0 lead. Missouri stabilized, but they were already doomed to chase Texas and its 10-point lead all night.

The first-half injury to Laurence Bowers, likely a concussion, surely hurt Missouri’s rebounding chances, not to mention the offense. The Tigers made just 33.9 percent of their shots, including only 4 of 18 (22.2 percent) of their three-pointers. Justin Safford took the most shots, usually a sign of a struggling Missouri offense, and he made exactly one of 10.

You know it’s a bad night when Texas’ Dogus (pronounced “Doge”) Balbay, a player teams don’t bother guarding as though he’s the worst player on a 7th grade girls team, outscores Mizzou’s Marcus Denmon, an all-Big 12 candidate. Balbay does great things other than scoring, but he was averaging over 12 points per game less than Denmon. It’s tough to win at Texas that way.

Really, Missouri is finding it’s tough to win anywhere on the road in the Big 12. In Big 12 play, Missouri is 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road heading into Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State.

It’s worthwhile to compare Missouri’s road struggles under coach Mike Anderson to the rest of the conference. Here’s a look at Anderson’s home and road records since his arrival for the 2006-07 season, compared to the Big 12 totals both during his time at Missouri and for the league all-time:

Anderson: 25-10 (.714) at home, 13-20 (.394)

Big 12, since 06-07: Home Teams 281-142 (.664), Road Teams 142-281 (.336)

Big 12, all-time: Home Teams 918-465 (.664), Road Teams 465-918 (.336)

For starters, you can see Big 12 road teams only win one out of every three games. So, on average, Big 12 teams will only win two or three of their eight conference road games.

Also, the difference between Anderson’s home and road win percentages (.320) is almost the same as the difference between home and road win percentages for all Big 12 teams all-time (.328). So the difference between how often Missouri wins at home and on the road is about on par with the league average, actually a bit less pronounced.

Yes, it’s tough on the road, and Mizzou’s road struggles are clearly not unique. In the Big 12’s 14 completed seasons, only one team (2001-02 Kansas Jayhawks) has gone 8-0 in conference road games, while 20 teams have gone undefeated in home conference games.

That being said, Missouri will need to pick up a decent road win or two somewhere to earn a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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