Arizona and Turnovers

Posted by on January 24, 2014

Arizona appears to have started to distance themselves from the rest of the field in January. The Wildcats have dominated the paint on both sides of the floor. Offensively, Arizona’s 22nd in the country in two-point shooting percentage and 11th in offensive rebounding percentage. Defensively, they are 2nd in the country in opponent two-point shooting percentage and 17th in defensive rebounding percentage.
In the past I’ve talked about the effects of offense on defense. Arizona is a great example of this idea. The Wildcats have probably the best half-court defense in the country. On average, opponent possessions have lasted 19.7 seconds. That’s the longest among man-to-man teams and only ranks behind Syracuse.
You don’t want to give Arizona’s defense time to get into position when possible. The easiest way to do this is on a live-ball turnover. All defenses give up more points in transition than in the half-court, but for Arizona this difference is especially important. Take a look at Arizona’s defensive efficiency splits in their six Pac-12 games:
Defensive Efficiency Splits
The “Prev Poss” column is the result of Arizona’s previous offensive possession that leads into the defensive possession. Pac-12 opponents have scored 1.20 points per steal on the other end. Notice the change in 2P% on half-court possessions. Like I said before, you don’t want to give Arizona time to set up on defense.
The previous chart shows why taking care of the ball is so important for Arizona’s defense, but it goes without saying that taking care of the ball is important for an offense. The Wildcats are great on the offensive boards. This makes even a bad shot attempt a decent proposition for Arizona. You can do a lot worse than throwing something up at the hoop and letting Tarczewski, Gordon, and Hollis-Jefferson clean it up.
T.J. McConnell hasn’t quite been Jordan Taylor with the ball this year. Despite the praise for being a “true point guard”, McConnell has a TO% of 24.3 this season (yes, that is worse than Mark Lyons’ last year). To show the importance of taking care of the ball for Arizona, take a look at the leaders in points per turnover-less possessions (points/(possessions – turnovers)) in the Pac-12:
Pac 12 Offense
Besides Oregon State (shooting 51% from three over their six games), Arizona is second in the Pac-12 in points per turnover-less possession. The Wildcats look like the best team in the country right now regardless, but cutting down on turnovers would make Arizona the overwhelming favorite come March.

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