Minnesota: Stealing Is Not The Answer
“You know, my first year at FIU we were top ten in the country in steals. We certainly were not that last year. I think that number will go up…” – Richard Pitino at Big Ten Media Day
“In fact, the Gophers had the 23rd best steal rate among 351 D-I teams (including teams transitioning in). Only Ohio State, who boasted one of the nation’s best defenses, was better among conference peers.” – LateNightHoops.com
Head coach Richard Pitino has talked about more steals as a way to improve the 2014-15 Gophers, but the Gophers aren’t likely to improve their defense much by creating more steals. Last season was already very good and the team’s top thief has graduated (Austin Hollins).
Minnesota’s defense was a bigger concern than offense a year ago and it has an opportunity to meaningfully improve its defensive turnover percentage (18.7%, 147th in the nation in 2013-14) this season. The opportunity to increase steals isn’t significant; however non-steal turnovers could rise considerably.
Minnesota’s defensive steal rate was among the top 25 in the nation (23rd). Their non-steal percentage was better than only 10 teams out of 351.
Of the 22 defenses with better steal rates than Minnesota, all of them had higher total turnover percentages than the Gophers and it’s not close. Pitino’s team had a defensive TO% of 18.7. Only one of the 22 better Stl% teams was within 1.5% (Georgia State at 20.1%).
Looking at the 50 best Stl% teams, only 2 had a lower total TO% than Minnesota.
Now, we always focus on the fact that shooting is what matters most. Ultimately the Gophers must reduce their opponents’ eFG%, but can they improve their defensive non-steal turnover rate? The answer to that question is yes.
The tougher questions relate to why the non-steal turnover percentage was so low a year ago and what measures can be taken to address it. We’ll save some of our insights for now, but you can share your thoughts and suggestions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments section below this article.
Finally, we took a quick look at conference-only figures. The graphs below show teams ranked by their steal %, non-steal % and total turnover %, respectively. Again, this view demonstrates a similar breakdown of turnover percentage tat we see in the full season numbers.