If you are looking for the main thing holding back Maryland and Florida State from greater success last season, look no further than sloppy ball-handling. Those two teams finished right in the middle of the ACC standings, but also finished in the bottom two in conference game turnover percentage. The average team in the nation turned the ball over on 20% of its offensive possessions. In conference play, the ACC average was even better at 18.4%. Maryland was dead last in the league at 22.4% with Florida State slightly better at 21.2%. To put that in perspective, in an average game of 66 possessions, Maryland would turn the ball over three more times than an average ACC team. That’s three fewer scoring opportunities for a team that wasn’t all that great at shooting the ball anyway. The same was basically true with Florida State. So does either squad look primed to reverse their turnover woes this year? The answer is that probably only one of these two squads has the ability and the will power to make it happen.
Maryland looks to be the team with the best chance to break that heavy turnover chain on the offense. For starters, Mark Turgeon clearly is aware of the problem and has a goal of fixing it. In a September ESPN podcast he discussed it with Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg. In part of the interview he talked about trying to get better with ball-handling during the team’s summer trip, when he said, “We’ve worked really hard on a lot of things since the season ended. We weren’t great with the ball in the Bahamas, either. Some games, we were pretty good. One of the games, we were pretty bad, so it looked like last year. So it’s something we haven’t corrected but continue to think about.” Another thing is that Turgeon does not have a bad track record as a coach in this area. In fact from 2006-10 at Wichita State and Texas A&M, his teams finished among the top 90 teams in the country in this metric. Turgeon also knows that junior wing Dez Wells is a key to the team’s overall improvement because Wells’ 108 turnovers in 2012-13 are extremely high for a wing player. Even with two young point guards learning on the fly — freshman Roddy Peters and sophomore Seth Allen — look for Maryland to at least get close to the league average in offensive turnover percentage this season. That should be enough to give the Terps a good enough overall offense to reach their goal of becoming an NCAA Tournament team.