Stats Analysis: Turnovers

The Bootleg's Basketball Stats Analyst Cameron Tana offers us another of his somewhat complex, but fascinating columns, this time focusing on the world of turnovers in regards to opponents faced and still to come for the 2008-09 edition of the Stanford Cardinal.

As discussed in the column about Johnny Dawkins implementing a new style of play at Stanford this year, the Stanford defense places a higher emphasis on causing turnovers this year. Causing turnovers has become the strength of the defense. According to kenpom.com, Stanford ranks 24th in the country in turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions) . The following table shows how kenpom.com has Stanford ranked in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) and each of the defensive factors.

However, it appears that Stanford benefited from its non-conference foes having below-average offenses. Stanford's 10-0 non-conference record was built against teams that average an adjusted offensive efficiency of 99 and an average rank of 189 in Division I. Not taking care of the ball has been a problem for most of these opponents as they average 22 turnovers per 100 possessions with an average rank of 213. Stanford's four conference opponents have been a few steps up in offensive efficiency to an average of 112 and an average rank of 72. The Arizona and Washington schools collectively do not have great turnover rates, but are all better than average at 20 turnovers per 100 possessions with an average rank of 124. Here are Stanford's game by game defensive efficiencies and turnover rates compared to its opponents' season offensive efficiencies and turnover rates and ranks according to kenpom.com.

In all of Stanford's wins, the Cardinal caused turnovers at a higher rate than its opponent's season average. In many cases, these season averages are high to begin with, so a high defensive turnover rate for Stanford was a big part of getting stops for Stanford. In Stanford's three losses, Stanford caused turnovers at a lower rate than its opponent's season average, despite those averages being relatively low. The failure of Stanford to establish an advantage in this category allowed the other teams to take advantage of their strengths. Arizona State was able to get its shots up and the Sun Devils excel at making them, ranking 1st in the nation in effective field goal percentage. Washington was able to get its shots up and the Huskies excel at getting their misses, ranking 5th in the nation in offensive rebound rate. Against Washington State, the overall defensive efficiency was not a problem, but the low number of turnovers helped the Cougars to score enough that its 8th most efficient defense could win the day.

Looking forward to Saturday night's opponent, Cal may present Stanford's greatest challenge all season in this aspect of the game. The Bears have an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 117, which ranks 11th in the country. Besides the nation's best three-point percentage, Cal is very good at taking care of the ball, turning the ball over on just 17 of its 100 possessions for a national rank of 21. Cal had a couple of bad games in this area back in the first week of December with turnover rates of over 25 against DePaul, a team that does not cause many turnovers, and Missouri, which ranks 6th in the country in defensive turnover rate. Stanford will aim to cause of reoccurrence of these difficulties, but Cal has not had a turnover rate above 20 in the nine games since then.

Stanford's chance of using defensive turnovers to get conference wins will improve in the coming weeks. The Oregon schools and USC are susceptible to giving up the ball. Here are kenpom.com's current offensive efficiencies, turnover rates, and ranks for the conference opponents Stanford has yet to face.

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