Niagara Gazette — “The Incredible Vanishing Turnover,” a phrase coined by Basketball Prospecuts writer John Gasaway, has permeated college basketball in recent seasons.
“Coaches have looked at stylistic essentialists (on offense) like (Wisconsin coach) Bo Ryan, (Notre Dame’s) Mike Brey and (Michigan’s) John Beilein and decided those guys might be onto something with their incredible low-TO ways,” Gasaway writes.
Niagara coach Joe Mihalich subscribes to a different style of offensive essentialism, an uptempo attack that scores points like a pinball machine and forgives the occasional overzealous play that may result in a turnover.
“I believe in positive turnovers,” Mihalich says. “It shows that you have the freedom to make a play. It shows that you want to attack. So when you do those things, you are going to have some turnovers.”
Positive or negative, few teams are turning the ball over less these days than Mihalich’s fast-breaking flock of Purple Eagles.
Heading into tonight’s home game against Siena, Niagara has committed a turnover on 16.8 percent of its offensive possesions, which ranks 19th nationally, according to kenpom.com.
After totaling just 11 turnovers in 123 possessions while winning at Saint Peter’s and Fairfield last weekend, Niagara’s turnover-rate through six Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games is a scant 14.1. Only Wisconsin and Michigan have turnover rates lower than 15 percent for the season.
“I wish I could say that we are doing a lot of fancy drills to not turn it over, but I think it’s not what you teach, it’s what you emphasize,” Mihalich said. “When we script practice and it’s a competitive situation and we keep score, we deduct points when they turn it over. And everyone is competitive and wants to win so they try hard not to turn it over.”
Mihalich’s teams have had low turnover rates for most of his 15 years on Monteagle Ridge.
“We are mostly guards,” Mihalich says, “so we should be good with the ball.”
But it’s notable that a group with three sophomores and two freshman among its top seven in minutes played has the lowest turnover rate of any Purple Eagles squad since kenpom.com began tracking the statistic in 2003.
“We’ve just been talking about executing better on offense and being tough with the ball,” sophomore point guard Juan’ya Green says. “Everyone knows you have to be tough on defense, but you also have to be tough on offense.”
Mihalich was particularly proud of how his team protected the basketball against Fairfield, the MAAC leaders in turnovers forced, and Saint Peter’s, which ranks in the top five.
“Two really physical, really tough man-to-man defense teams that get into you, make every dribble tough, every pass tough,” Mihalich said. “To turn it over 11 times for the weekend, its as good a stat as we’ve ever had.”