Non-Steal Turnovers Non-Existent for Gophers
January 26, 2014
The Minnesota Golden Gophers carry a 4-3 conference record into Nebraska today and are the on-paper favorite to win their next four games (and six of the next seven). However, their conference-worst defense will be further challenged with the lost of junior guard Andre Hollins (severe ankle sprain; date of return TBD).
Richard Pitino will insert super-senior guard Malik Smith into the starting lineup. Smith’s ability to knock down a 25-footer isn’t in question, but there are concerns on the defensive side of the ball.
Pitino’s defense was expected to generate a good amount of steals this season and it has. The Gophers are earning a steal on approximately 11% of the opposition’s possessions in Big Ten games this season. However, Minnesota’s total turnover rate is below 15% because they are not generating non-steal turnovers.
J.B. Bauer (@jbbauer612) has talked in more detail about non-steal turnovers (see More Than a Number: Steals Stinging Gophers from GopherHole.com [2/8/13]). It’s true that if your defense had a choice of (a) a steal or (b) a non-steal turnover, they’d want a steal that offers a transition scoring opportunity. In that regard, Minnesota’s defensive turnovers have been more of the “good kind.”
However, the Gophers non-steal turnovers have been so low that it’s concerning. Especially for a team that employs a pressuring defense at times.
With the Big Ten’s worst offensive teams as their next opponents, Minnesota will look to get better defensive results. Non-steal turnovers should be a part of that.
The discussion and analysis around non-steal takeaways can go on for days and today we are simply providing food for thought. That said, to the charts we go.
This first chart shows a breakdown of each Big Ten team’s defensive turnover rate between steals and non-steals. You can clearly see the percentage of Minnesota’s defensive turnovers coming from steals far exceeds their peers:
Yes, Michigan State is next to Minnesota and Penn State and Northwestern are at the opposite end. That sounds good (and indeed steals are generally better than non-steals), but let’s look at total turnover rate:
Even with a strong steal percentage, Minnesota’s defense is near the bottom of the Big Ten in total turnover rate because their opponents are committing non-steal turnovers less than 4% of the time.
The room for improvement in steal percentage isn’t large for this year’s team, but there is significant achievable growth in the non-steal numbers. In other words, if Minnesota is going to do a decent job of turning their opponents over this season they must force more non-steal turnovers.
Today’s game against Tai Webster, Deverell Biggs and Nebraska offers a supreme opportunity to post a 10% non-steal turnover game.