How Does The Quality Of An Opposing Defense Influence Kansas's Turnovers?


The other day writer extraordinaire Jesse Newell tweeted the following:

Wichita St. up to 13th in KenPom. If KU ends up as a 2 seed in NCAAs, I can't think of a worse 7 seed for the Jays in Rd. 2.

While I definitely agree with his non-statistical reasoning (that they're an in state rival whom we rightfully don't play, Wichita State is good and underrated this year, and a lot of Wichita State fans would travel to the game) I raised the point to him that I can think of a lot of teams that would make me more nervous, citing the fact that traditionally the two things that kill us the most are opponents shooting the three and us turning it over, and the Shockers aren't good at shooting the three or forcing turnovers. His reply is the catalyst for this whole post:

Good point, but KU has a history of turning it over at a high rate no matter the defense it's facing

Is that the case for this year's team? Let's find out

First, I want to note that in his reply there was a link to a story about the topic written after the Northern Iowa game, so you can check that out if you want but I wanted to make sure no one got PTSD from me springing that on you without proper warning.

It's important to note that there are only three players in common (Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson) with the 2010 team and this year's group, and only Tyshawn played more than 20 minutes per game that year. Schools can have long term trends stylistically (i.e. Wisconsin's slow play or K State's crashing the glass) but the connection between performance and a school over time is much more tenuous, especially when dealing with such a specific topic. So, small sample size be damned, I think it's more instructive to deal with this year's TO% performance based on the quality of the defense. To the chart!

Opponent Game TO% rate Opponent season TO% forced Difference
Towson 7.4 17.6 -10.2
Kentucky 19.2 20.3 -1.1
Georgetown 18.5 22.3 -3.8
UCLA 28.6 20.4 8.2
Duke 26.6 20.3 6.3
Florida Atlantic 23.3 21.2 2.1
South Florida 21.9 20.6 1.3
Long Beach 27.8 20.8 7
Ohio State 25.7 27.3 -1.6
Davidson 18.9 18.2 0.7
USC 24.6 26.4 -1.8
Howard 19.1 21 -1.9
North Dakota 14.3 19.7 -5.4
Kansas State 31.2 23.5 7.7
Oklahoma 20.3 21.6 -1.3
Texas Tech 14.3 18.9 -4.6
Iowa State 9 17.7 -8.7
Baylor 21.1 24.1 -3
Texas 9.5 20.6 -11.1
Average -1.11578947368421

We can see without much more fancy math that this year KU's turnover rate has been highly dependent on its opponent's turnover rate, but oddly enough here's what happens when we run a correlation:

Correl = .5752. This suggests there is a tenuous, but perhaps not set in stone, relationship between our opponents' ability to force turnovers and Kansas's frequency of turning it over. Does a picture suggest why there is such a difference?

Tocorrel_medium

It sure seems to. Without the two outlier games in there there is a pretty good line available to be drawn. Correlation doesn't equal causation, but I think we can say with pretty good certainty that KU's turnovers have as much or more to do with the defense than any failings on their part.

note: this data leaves out the A&M game because I finished the post before the game. For the record, KU had a 19.4% turnover rate, and A&M is at 19.5% for the season.

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