Maryland women's basketball has a lot of things going well for them. Despite two losses to top-10 teams last week, they are ranked eighth in the country. They have a defense that holds opponents to 54.9 points per game, good for 31st in the country. They have an offense that is ranked third in country, pouring in 87.1 points per game. They have the best rebounding margin in the country, beating their opponents on the boards by an average of 19.2 rebounds per game. They shoot 50.4 percent from the field as a team. Only two teams in the country have a better average from the field.
So what's the problem you ask? The answer is turnovers. I'm about to throw even more numbers at you but try to stay with me.
Maryland is ranked 117th in the country when it comes to turnovers per game.The Terrapins average 15.6 turnovers per game. That's not good for any team, much less a top-10 squad with Final Four and national championship aspirations.
They are ranked 182nd (OUT OF 344 TEAMS!) in turnover margin with only a 0.7. That means Maryland barely takes the ball away more than they turn it over.
Let's take a deeper look at the numbers.
Maryland turnovers by game
Maryland has turned the ball over 219 times this season. Their opponents have turned it over 220 times. Maryland is going to have a lot of trouble getting to their third straight Final Four if they aren't consistently dominating the turnover battle.
The Terrapins have turned it over 10 or more times in every game but one. They've turned it over 14 or more times in 9 of their 14 games. That is not a strategy for success.
Maryland has played three ranked teams so far this season: Syracuse, UConn and Ohio State. In those three games, they have turned the ball over 22, 22 and 20 times. The Terps turned it over 12 times in the first half against UConn and then another 10 times in the second half.
Against Ohio State, the Terps turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes of the game. They finished with seven in the first quarter. The Terrapins got to double digit turnovers for the game just three minutes into the second quarter. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had seven turnovers against the Buckeyes. Brionna Jones had four turnovers against Ohio State but had five of Maryland's 22 giveaways against the Huskies.
I am willing to give Maryland some leeway for their last three games, where they turned the ball over a combined 59 times, for two reasons. They played two very tough teams in No. 1 UConn and No. 9 Ohio State but, more importantly, the Terps had virtually no rest.
After leaving it all on the floor against UConn on national TV last Monday night (December 28th), the Terps had two days of rest and played their Big Ten opener on the road at Illinois (December 31st). The team then traveled home and had one day (ONE DAY!) of rest before playing a top-10 Buckeyes team on January 2nd. Three games in six days. That is a brutal stretch for any team.
Now that we've seen that Maryland turns the ball over a lot, let's break the numbers down a bit more.
Maryland turnovers by player
What do these numbers tell us? Maryland's top three scorers also account for almost half of the team's turnovers.
Walker-Kimbrough and Jones are both star players. They're among the best in the country at any position. They both get a lot of touches and teams will sometimes try to trap and double-team them. If you factor that in, it might make sense that they turn the ball over more than their teammates.
It seems that Maryland's go-to starting lineup is Jones, Malina Howard, SWK, Pavlech and Confroy. Moseley is the spark off the bench, but she actually averages the third-most minutes per game on the team.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough: 44 assists--47 turnovers--18.1 ppg (14 starts, 28.5 minutes per game)
Chloe Pavlech: 43 assists--21 turnovers--1.9 ppg (14 starts, 18.9 minutes per game)
Kristen Confroy: 19 assists--15 turnovers--7.8 ppg (4 starts, 23.3 minutes per game)
Brene Moseley: 94 assists--31 turnovers--14.0 ppg (0 starts, 23.6 minutes per game)
Kiara Leslie: 19 assists--17 turnovers--6.4 ppg (7 starts, 16.6 minutes per game)
Maryland needs to do a better job of protecting the ball overall, but they also need better play from their guards. Sometimes the Terps play too fast and when they play too fast, they get really sloppy. That is on the guards. I've seen far too many bad passes and turnovers when all Maryland had to do was slow the tempo down and get into their offensive sets. The guards need to do a better job of recognizing when to speed the game up and when to slow it down.
Maryland is one of the most talented teams in the country. They match-up well with anyone. They can beat anyone. They can contend for the national title. However, they won't get there if they keep shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers.
Great teams (and great players) adjust when they make mistakes. After turning the ball over 13 times in the first half, UConn only turned it over once in the game's final 20 minutes. The Huskies are the three-time defending national champions for a reason. When Maryland played UConn at Madison Square Garden, they learned that they had what it took to play with and beat the best in the country. If this team learns how to make adjustments as the game goes on and limits their mistakes, we could see the Terps cut down the nets for the first time in a decade.