Avoiding Turnovers

When a team loses possession of the ball prior to shooting or scoring, it’s a turnover.

A team that rarely turns over the ball has more possessions and chances to score. The more chances you have to score, the better opportunity you have to win.

What percent of a team’s possessions result in a turnover?

The answer is a team’s turnover percentage.

TO% = TO / Possessions

For example, in the first regular season game between North Carolina and Duke, North Carolina turned the ball over 2 times over 65 possessions.

North Carolina’s turnover percentage was 3.1%.

TO% = 2 / 65 = .0308 * 100

This means only about 3% out of every North Carolina possession ended in a turnover.

Pace Independent

Turnover percentage is pace-independent.

This means how fast or how slow a team plays has no bearing on its turnover percentage.

Why is this important?

A team’s philosophy has a lot to do with how many possessions per game it averages.

For example, Virginia averaged around 60 possessions per game in the 2017-2018 season.

Arizona State averaged almost 12 more a game (72 possessions per game).

If a team averages more possessions per game, there are more opportunities to turnover the ball. Pace of play doesn’t help or hurt a team’s turnover percentage.

Turnover percentage doesn’t factor in pace of play.

Forcing Turnovers

On the other side of the ball, an opponent’s ability to force turnovers can play into a team’s turnover percentage or how it avoids turnovers.

If a team has a bad turnover night, remember, it’s likely equal parts of bad offense and good defense by the opponent.

KenPom estimates turnovers are influenced by the defense less than 51% of the time.

This means if a team is good at forcing turnovers, the team is probably helped by its opponent’s poor offense too.