Florida State and Maryland’s Turnover Quandary: Which School Can Fix the Problem?Posted by Brad Jenkins on October 17th, 2013
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.
On the other hand, don’t look for similar improvement from Florida State in this area. Usually we get excited when a school returns nine fairly significant players. However, when seven of the returnees have an individual turnover percentage of more than 21 percent that isn’t such a good thing for the offense. Of course we should expect some improvement just because the Seminoles had to rely so heavily on freshmen in key ball-handling roles last year. But based on Leonard Hamilton’s history, we should not expect too much of a leap. During his last 10 seasons at FSU, Hamilton has had numerous good teams, especially on the defensive end. But the highest national finish his team rated in offensive turnover percentage was at #182 in 2007. In the other nine years the Seminoles have finished far lower. During the Hamilton tenure, Florida State has been good at many things, but ball-handling is obviously not a point of emphasis. Like Maryland, FSU took a foreign trip this past summer, traveling to Greece for multiple scrimmages with their national team. In the ACC Sports Journal‘s 2013-14 ACC Basketball Preview edition, Ira Schoffel reports that Florida State was so impressed by the Greek team’s halfcourt offense, that “by the end of the of the trip, Hamilton said, the Seminoles were beginning to adapt some of that philosophy to their own game — not taking the first good shots they found but trying to work for even better ones.” That may not be such a good idea. More passing and longer possessions for this Florida State team may in fact work against their goal, probably keeping that turnover rate at a crippling level.