December 1, 2011

Inside Frank Haith's hot start

At some point, the questions about last year will cease to be asked. But six games into a new regime, last year is still very much relevant to Missouri basketball.

Most of the questions of Frank Haith and his players have focused on the change from Mike Anderson and the "Fastest Forty Minutes in Basketball" to a somewhat more conventional style. But it turns out, the biggest changes for these Tigers have not been on the floor during games.

For the past five seasons, questions about Missouri's upcoming opponents drew a common answer (or some variation thereof): "It's not about what they do. It's about what we do."

Anderson's teams did what they did. They pressed, they looked for baskets in transition, they tried to make up for getting beat on the boards by wearing teams out and turning them over.

What Anderson's teams did not do was spend a lot of time worrying about the style their opponents would play.

Mostly, Andersons approach worked. He won nearly two-thirds of his games at Missouri (111-57). But when Anderson's Tigers ran into a team that had success slowing the game, they struggled. When Missouri scored more than 70 points under Anderson, it went 97-29 (a .770 winning percentage). When the opposition held Missouri to 70 or below, the Tigers were just 14-28. Five of those wins came in the 2008-09 Elite Eight season. In his other four years, Anderson was 9-26 when his teams failed to score 71 points.

There are better indicators of the way the team is playing than simple scoring. Both Anderson and Haith continually stress defense first. As mentioned, Anderson's teams' biggest strength was forcing turnovers. Their biggest weakness was rebounding. How does Haith's first team compare with Anderson's five in those categories?

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