DISCLAIMER: WARNING - STATS POST
(The following post digs further into some Basketball Stats. You've been warned)
As observant readers have surely noticed in the the numbers recaps, there is one area where Marquette almost always comes out a winner. Even in games where we lose, Marquette wins the Turnover Rate (TO Rate) battle. Turnover Rate, of course, is the number of turnovers / possessions. An average TO Rate is 20%, or a turnover every one in five possessions. The sole exceptions in conference play have been a push against Cincinnati and a loss in the first Seton Hall game, which was still close. Regardless, MU has come out on top in twelve of fourteen contests during the Big East.
Ken Pomeroy of Basketball Prospectus has just released an outstanding article that talks about Tennessee. We highly recommend looking at that article before continuing with the rest of this post, but if you're just interested in the highlights, here they are:
- Tennessee's defense is highly dependent on forcing turnovers
- They're one at the best teams in the country at this thanks to their press
- However, turnovers are more under the control of the opponent's offense than they are the result of TN's defense (this is the key point)
- In conference play, opponents aren't turning the ball over as much
- When opponents manage to keep the turnover rate below 20% (average), then Tennessee's defense really suffers
- Therefore, when Tennessee faces higher quality opponents that are able to protect the ball, then Bruce Pearl's squad is in trouble
Marquette is good at both aspects of turnovers
Marquette is a team that is reluctant to turn the ball over. While we are certainly nowhere near a team like Texas, who is #1 in the country at protecting the ball, we turn the ball over 2.7% less than our opponents usually force. In other words, an opponent that usually forces 20% turnovers (1 in 5 possessions), will only force 17.3% TO Rate against Marquette. These numbers are consistent for the entire season as well as just conference play.
In addition, we are a good team at forcing our opponent into turnovers. On average, we force our opponents into 4% higher turnover rate then their average. In other words, an opponent that usually commits 20% TO Rate will end up with a turnover rate of 24% against Marquette. Our difference here is also consistent for the entire season as well as conference play. Our opponent's turnover rate is correlated with our defensive efficiency, which is just a fancy way of saying that more turnovers = better defense. This sounds intuitive, but not all teams have a correlation with TO Rate (like Notre Dame - scroll down).
What happens if an opponent manages to protect the ball against Marquette?
Above are the five conference opponents that have done an above average job of protecting the ball against Marquette. Yes, Marquette lost four of those games! In the five games listed above, our opponents are averaging 1.14 points / possession. During conference play, when our team forces an opponent into above average turnovers (>20%), our opponents are averaging 0.91 points / possession.
In conclusion, the bad news is that when Marquette doesn't force turnovers, our defense does suffer just like TN. However, unlike Tennessee, our defense is not as risky as a press and our turnover defense has been consistent from non-conference to conference play. Marquette still does a decent job defending on at the three point line (#23 in the country) and from inside the arc (#61) in the country. This is a different view than TN, who ranks 280th in the nation at 2-point defense.
The ultimate concern for Marquette would obviously be matching up with an NCAA opponent that protects the ball very well. We would still be at risk like Tennessee (let's hope we don't draw Texas), but not as vulnerable as Tennessee.
Starting tomorrow, Rutgers only protects the ball at a rate of 21.2% (below average). More on this later in our Rutgers preview.