Examining Maryland Basketball's Turnover Problem

Maryland has one of the nation's best field goal percentages, but giveaways have been a major issue. How bad is it?

When it comes to making shots, Maryland can hang with almost any team in the country.

The Terrapins are tied for 12th nationally in field goal percentage (48.9%), fifth in two-point percentage (56.8%), and 13th in effective field goal percentage (eFG%; 55.7%).

Of the “Four Factors of Basketball Success” -- shooting from the field, getting to the free throw line, rebounding, and turnovers -- shooting, as measured by eFG%, is the most critical to success.

Because this is something Maryland has been so good at, it stands to reason the Terrapins would have one of the best offenses in the country.

But they don’t.

Their undoing has been the second most important of the Four Factors, preventing turnovers.

Maryland is tied for 289th in the country in turnovers per possession (17.4%), and in Big Ten play, this has spiked to 18.6%, which ranks 13th in the 14-team conference. In terms of percentage of a team’s own possessions ending in a steal, Maryland is tied for 278th.

This has pushed their points per possession average down to 1.12, which is tied for 47th nationally per It’s still good but not nearly at the elite level their field goal rates would imply (over the course of the season, Maryland has posted roughly average offensive rebounding and free throw attempt rates).

In conference play, Maryland’s scoring output has been worse, as they are averaging 1.05 points per trip to rank eighth in the conference. The dismal turnover rate hurts here, but three-point randomness has been a problem also.

Maryland ranks seventh in the Big Ten in eFG% (50.5%) but has continued to dominate inside the arc, shooting 52.3% on two-pointers (second in the conference). Their 31.6% three-point percentage has been a problem, but this seems unsustainably low for a team that is shooting 36.0% on the season as a whole. Three-point shooting is notoriously volatile, so some positive regression seems imminent.

This will not solve the turnover problem, however.

Five Terrapins rank amongst the Big Ten’s bottom 40 players in terms of turnover rate, including Melo Trimble and Robert Carter, who rank third and second on the team, respectively, in usage rate.

Part of this is presumably the fact they have ball in their hands so much, but they are still both in the bottom three in the conference in turnover rate for players with a usage rate of 24.0% or greater.

Ken Pomeroy did find that offenses and defenses play roughly the same role in terms of overall turnover rates and that offenses have more influence over non-steal turnovers, but he also found that defenses exert more influence over steal percentage than offenses.

However, it is questionable how much this applies to Maryland, given only three teams in the Big 10 rank higher than 200th nationally in steals forced per possession.

What is fortunate for the Terps is that the their giveaways on offense have not bit them at the other end of the floor. Maryland is 60th in the country in effective field goal percentage allowed in transition (49.8%), per Hoop-Math, and ranks even higher after steals.

Maryland ranks 21st in the country in eFG% allowed within 10 seconds after having the ball stolen (50.5%).

Overall, the Terps’ defense ranks 30th nationally in points per possession (0.95) and leads the Big Ten in conference play (0.96).

Thanks in large part to this defense, Maryland still ranks 19th in our opponent-adjusted power ratings and 29th in raw margin of victory, so we should not forget this is still a good team.

Of course, it could be a much better team if they can find a way to solve their turnover issues.