One of the major problems Buzz Williams and the Hokies must correct from last season was their turnover numbers. Defensively, they thrived when creating chaos, specifically when they were flying around, deflecting shots and passes with their quick hands. On the other hand, they weren't so good offensively taking care of the ball, ranking 179th in TOV%. That really hurt them at times.
It sure seemed like turnovers were the most indicative sign if the Hokies would be victorious. I'm a stats guy, so let's take a look at some deeper statistical analysis to see if that was really the case.
I didn't think that early season games against lower-level competition would provide a proper barometer for the Hokies' effectiveness in winning the turnover battle (looking at you Arkansas Pine-Bluff). I only gathered the stats for conference and post-season games (22 games of data - a solid amount). I also used Net Rating to standardize the number of possessions each team got, since plenty of teams either push the pace or slow it down significantly which would skew each teams' stats.
Right off the bat, it looked like the Hokies were all over the place. There were some really good games, but also some forgettable performances which seems about right given the highs and lows of the season. There wasn't a truly visible trend, however, and the R2 = .156 shows that there is a little bit of correlation but not an obvious one.
But when looking solely at how many turnovers the Hokies committed, there was a much stronger correlation coefficient. Which makes (common) sense. The more mistakes you make you're less likely to succeed. In a game that's diificult to predict play-by-play, a .25 R2 definitely shows that there is some merit that the Hokies lived and died based on their turnover count.
The other statistics I looked at had nowhere near this amount of correlation with Net Rating. Often, statistics isn't about the raw number you get but that raw number in comparison to other factors involved. A .25 R2 is much more significant than the .00087 R2 for AST% or the .0079 R2 for TRB%.
Obviously, correlation and causation aren't the same thing. There are so many other factors that go into winning and losing that are extremely variable and unpredictable, such as refereeing, injury, or where the ball bounces for a rebound. Even an open 3-pointer from Justin Bibbs, despite the confidence we have in him to drain it, is still an uncertainty. However, turnovers are a more direct method of helping the opponent. They provide fast break opportunities on unbalanced floors all while taking away a shot opportunity for the offense.
So how can the Hokies take better care of the basketball? Another year of experience will help, especially with Justin Robinson. He needs to continue to learn to value of the possession as he matures into one of the better pure PGs Blacksburg has seen in a while. I also think some of that onus falls onto Buzz Williams' shoulders. He needs to improve in putting guys in the right spot to get open looks without making a risky play. Although the Hokies seemed to have more team chemistry last year than Williams' inaugural year, there was still too much stagnant offense until the last few seconds of the shot clock, which was often a risky drive into a crowded paint.
I'm not saying Virginia Tech has to become the "07 Seconds or Less" Phoenix Suns, but maybe getting into their offense sets quicker and penetrating earlier won't let the defense settle in for the majority of the possession. There will be more seams to attack off of switches and out of position players. That said, ball movement against a zone isn't an easy task. It requires quick decision making and the Hokies were often late to make their decision. It's just like in football - if a QB is late on a read there is a much higher chance of throwing an INT.
There is one clear takeaway: if the Hokies really want to compete in a tough ACC and make a deeper postseason run, then they must cut down on their turnovers.