Thursday, March 18, 2010

Turnovers, and their importance

Georgetown went into this year's Big East tournament as the 8th seed and an enigma, and came up one possession short of winning the whole thing.

There's one very good reason that the Hoyas played so well last week - they stopped committing turnovers. While Georgetown has averaged turning the ball over about 21% of the time, they only gave it up 15% of the time in the BET.

Here's the game log from the tournament:
.                             TO Rate
Opponent           Result    Game  Opp Avg
South Florida        W       16.2    18.1
Syracuse             W       17.6    22.7
Marquette            W       14.1    22.2
West Virginia        L       11.3    19.8
The first two columns should be self-explanatory; the third column is G'town's TO rate in the game, the final column is their opponent's average TO rate forced on the season.
Not only did the Hoyas reduce their turnovers by ~30% during the BET, they gave up the ball progressively less, relative to the competition, in each game.

The correlation between TO rate and post-season success is nothing new. Let's take a look at the past three post-seasons (2009 never happened, got it?).
2006 Post-Season
(season avg = 18.8)
.                             TO Rate
Opponent           Result   Game   Opp Avg
Notre Dame           W      14.2    15.5
Marquette            W      14.2    20.1
Syracuse             L      29.1    22.1
Northern Iowa        W      17.0    19.0
Ohio St.             W      13.4    20.2
Florida              L      21.4    22.4
The 2005-6 team was JTIII's first true success story at Georgetown, beating two very good Big East opponents before the debacle against the Orange in the BET. Since Notre Dame never forces many turnovers, the first game was not a surprise, but the Hoyas held onto the ball against Marquette and won, and were a turnover disaster against Syracuse and lost.

The results were similar in the NCAA's: faced with a purported superior foe (tOSU), Georgetown simply refused to waste possessions and this led to the upset.  In the next round, Georgetown gave the ball up more than 20% of the time and lost.

2007 Post-Season
(season avg = 22.0)
.                             TO Rate
Opponent           Result   Game   Opp Avg
Villanova            W      15.2    23.1
Notre Dame           W      15.7    20.9
Pittsburgh           W      15.9    18.5
Belmont              W      19.4    19.4
Boston College       W      18.2    18.1
Vanderbilt           W      19.5    21.8
North Carolina       W      13.4    21.4
Ohio St.             L      24.0    20.2
The story is even simpler in 2007 - during the run to the Big East title, the Hoyas never gave up turnovers even 16% of the time after averaging 22% throughout the year.  And in the NCAA, facing a superior opponent in North Carolina, Georgetown managed one of their lowest turnover rates all season to pull the convincing upset.  But the party came to an end with a sloppy performance in the re-match against the Buckeyes.

2008 Post-Season
(season avg = 21.2)
.                             TO Rate
Opponent           Result   Game   Opp Avg
Villanova            W      23.9    23.4
West Virginia        W      17.5    22.6
Pittsburgh           L      20.1    20.5
MD Baltimore Count   W      25.1    19.0
Davidson             L      32.3    24.0
In 2008, the Hoyas just didn't have the magic touch. They overcame a generous game against Nova by shooting out of their minds from behind the arc [17/28 3FG], and overcame a sloppy game against UMBC by out-athleting them. Otherwise, turnovers meant losses.

Is this year's BET a harbinger of an NCAA tourney run?  The Hoyas certainly showed that they are capable of hanging on to the ball for a multiple game stretch, but looking at 2006 and 2007, it only takes one careless game to end the season.

So, if there's nary a mention of turnovers is the game, things are looking up.  But if you hear Bill Raftery dwell on the high number of turnovers Georgetown is committing, be nervous, very nervous.

Bonus summary table!!
.                          Post
Year    Result    Season  Season   Net   Opp Avg
2006     4-2       18.8    18.2   -0.6    19.9
2007     7-1       22.0    17.7   -4.3    20.4
2008     4-2       21.2    23.8    2.6    21.9
2010     3-1       20.9    14.8   -6.1    20.7

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