COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin and his few remaining players from last year will see a familiar face in a different uniform on Saturday — and another sobering reminder of how MU’s roster rebuild does not. never worked as expected.
After three seasons at Mizzou, Xavier Pinson is Louisiana State’s starting point guard. He’s more of a playmaker than a scorer for LSU — his points are down, his assists are up — but his mere presence in Will Wade’s backcourt helps tell the story of Mizzou’s recent misadventures with the transfer portal.
Pinson had probably exhausted his welcome to Mizzou – there was internal relief when he left the team last March, multiple sources confirmed – but when exploring replacements, the Tigers never resumed the game. lost production.
Martin was hoping Ball State transfer Boogie Coleman and three-star rookie Anton Brookshire would fill the team’s needs at point guard. They did not do it. Mizzou (10-18, 4-11 Southeastern Conference) begins a four-game losing streak in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. game at LSU, where Pinson wears the same No. 1 he wore for three years at Missouri. He returned from knee surgery mid-season to keep LSU’s NCAA Tournament hopes afloat.
People also read…
“I talk to him all the time. We’re keeping in touch, so it’ll be fun,” Missouri forward Kobe Brown said Friday before the Tigers left for Baton Rouge. “It will be like the good old days competing against each other in training.”
“We watched a movie about him and he did a great job for his team,” Martin said. “I know he’s been a little absent, but he’s doing a good job as a facilitator for his team and making plays.”
Back to the departure of Pinson. The tension between Mizzou’s coaches and the junior escalated last season, culminating in Pinson’s remarkable place on the bench in the deciding minutes of the Tigers’ first-round loss to Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament. Pinson missed a jumper on what became his last possession of the season. He exited the match with 5:52 to go and Mizzou ahead by one point. On the bench, he put on his warm-ups, strapped on his COVID mask and barely moved. He entered the NCAA transfer portal three days later.
Based on his announced school picks, Pinson certainly seemed determined to play against his former team this season. He first announced he was considering between SEC teams Georgia and Auburn (plus Nebraska), but later chose LSU, a program that has been ensnared in an NCAA investigation for alleged violations of the recruitment for more than three years.
Now leading for Wade’s Tigers (19-9, 7-8 SEC), Pinson is attempting fewer shots and free throws per game despite playing more minutes. His 3-point shooting went from 33.6 percent last year to 28.4 percent, while his scoring went from 13.6 points per game to 10.4. His assists fell from 2.9 to 4.6 per game, although his turnover rate fell from 18.9% to 22.9%. A deeper dive into advanced metrics reveals his PER (player effectiveness rating) has gone from 17.0 to 15.6, while his KenPom offensive rating is about the same: up from 97.1 last year to 97.8.
Pinson has missed six games with a knee injury but has returned to the starting lineup for the past five games, including Wednesday’s 26-point night in a loss to Kentucky. He has totaled 26 assists in the last three games. Other metrics show Pinson attempting more rim shots and significantly fewer jumpers inside the 3-point arc.
“Just looking at the games we’ve watched,” Martin said, “he passes the ball more, he distributes more, gets into the lane, does different things.”
“I would say I feel like with us he was shooting better from 3 points,” said MU guard Javon Pickett. “Now I feel like he’s going down the hall a lot more. He is always cunning in this aspect.
Meanwhile, for the first time in Martin’s five seasons, the Tigers don’t have a consistent leader on the ground in the backcourt. Kassius Robertson, Jordan Geist, Dru Smith or Pinson have taken turns in this role for the past four years, but a committee approach has failed this season. Brown and his younger brother Kaleb sometimes spelled Coleman. For a time, Martin tried to transfer Green Bay Amari Davis to the point. Brookshire started three games but didn’t last in the rotation and has since been sidelined with a wrist injury.
It’s not that the Tigers have failed to replace Pinson, but the imports are nowhere near matching the exports, namely Pinson and Smith, an All-SEC player last year who turned pro.
In this case, coach recruitment evaluations did not translate into on-field production. Martin frankly admitted it on Friday.
“First and foremost, I hope I don’t sound like I’m putting the blame on anyone, because I take full responsibility for everything in and out of this program,” he said. “So I want to be clear there. If that ever happened, it never did with me. I thought the two guys coming in (into the season), of course, (were) Coleman and Anton, and also Kaleb in some areas and also Kobe. We thought we had ball handlers. But that was not the case. So we’ve had games where we really struggled in that department.
“Being able to handle the ball and make good decisions is very important,” he added. “I think these are areas in critical situations where we have struggled. And not a single person. »
The absence of a competent ball handler who can initiate the attack – and defend the other team’s playmaker – has been particularly noticeable in crucial late possessions in close games, when it seems that the Tigers don’t know who’s supposed to run the show. United have lost four SEC home games to one possession by a combined seven points.
The Tigers will need a solid offensive night to keep Saturday’s game close against one of the deadliest defenses in the country. LSU ranks No. 4 in adjusted defensive efficiency and No. 1 in steal percentage, slipping the ball on 15.6 percent of opponents’ possessions. Pinson wasn’t exactly a defensive threat at Mizzou, but he’s averaging a career-high 1.9 steals per game.