Possession maximizing teams

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 20: Head coach Bo Ryan of the Wisconsin Badgers reacts during a game against the UNLV Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center November 20, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 68-65. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

One way to win basketball games is to have a really good offense. There are a number of ways to have a good offense. Shooting (and making) lots of threes or pounding the ball into the paint for fouls and easy baskets usually works. But there's another way to have a very good offense - and that's by maximizing possessions.

Teams that maximize possessions both grab offensive rebounds at a high rate and don't turn the ball over. This means that they're able to shoot a lot more shots than their opponents, and thus can score more points even if they shoot a lower percentage.
There are nine teams that are particularly good at maximizing possessions (here defined as being the in the Top 50 in offensive rebound percentage and turnover percentage). One of them is from Chicago, and it's not the one you'd expect.

The list (with turnover percentage rank and offensive rebounding percentage rank in parentheses):

  • Wisconsin (3, 13)
  • Washington (4, 16)
  • Ohio St. (7, 20)
  • Syracuse (12, 49)
  • Cincinnati (15, 15)
  • Pittsburgh (26, 1)
  • San Diego State (42, 34)
  • Loyola (IL) (45, 46)
  • Connecticut (49, 3)

So obviously this is a strategy that is only employed by some of the best teams in the country, and Loyola. The Ramblers thus just must be failing to capitalize on these strengths when the going gets tough. Right? Well let's look at Loyola's shots versus their opponent's shots in the Ramblers' four losses.

  • Versus Butler - 56 attempts for the Ramblers, 51 for the Bulldogs
  • Versus Valparaiso - 61 attempts for the Ramblers, 47 for the Crusaders
  • Versus Kansas State - 64 attempts for the Ramblers, 50 for the Wildcats
  • Versus DePaul - 57 attempts for the Ramblers, 55 for the Blue Demons
In every single loss this season the Ramblers have had more shot attempts. That's a really good thing. The problem is those shots need to go in. To get 14 more shots than Kansas State was an excellent accomplishment, but it was slightly offset by Kansas State attempting eight more free throws and really offset by the Wildcats shooting 42 percent from the field compared to an ugly 31.3 percent for the Ramblers.
Thus, even if you manage to get extra possessions, you still need to make some shots. Unfortunately, this season the Ramblers are shooting 37.4 percent from the field during losses.
In order to pull the upset this weekend at Cleveland State, Loyola will have to keep getting those extra possessions, but also find a way to shoot a higher percentage from the field.

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