Countdown to tip-off: Turnovers and the art of give and take

Robert Morris basketball opens their season Nov. 11 against Penn. Over the course of the next month, we’ll post about the things we’re looking forward to leading up to the season.

Yesterday: Aaron Tate and Billy Giles, together at last

4. The art of valuing the basketball

What was the thing Robert Morris did best last season?

If you guessed “create turnovers” you would be correct.

Robert Morris ranked 13th in the country in defensive turnover percentage last season. They were 11th in steal percentage, according to KenPom. Four players (Rodney Pryor, Kavon Stewart, Matty McConnell and Steven Whitley) ranked nationally in individual steal percentage.

What was the thing Robert Morris was worst at last year?

That list could be pretty extensive. Shooting three-pointers is high on the list (as I wrote about here). You could make the argument that giving the ball away was the team’s biggest problem.

RMU turned the ball over on 20 percent of their possessions last season, according to KenPom. An offense that can’t shoot the three and turns the ball over in 1/5 of all possessions is destined for great failure.

Back when I was covering the team, Andy Toole talked so much about “valuing the basketball.” A young Robert Morris team learned about valuing the basketball the hard way last season.

The crazy thing is, Robert Morris still had a pretty good defense, all things considered. Their points-per-possession allowed was just slightly above NCAA average. It probably would have been better if they didn’t give the ball away so much. Turnovers equal extra possessions for your opponent.

I know not everyone is a fan of the 2-3 zone defense. The reality is the defense has been just fine over the course of the past two seasons.

A lot of Robert Morris’ forced turnovers start at the top of the zone with the guards. Marcquise Reed was great at stepping in front of passing lanes and knowing when to reach for the ball. The same went for David Appolon. Stewart has been great at this. The same goes for McConnell.

When the zone is at its best, it also forces low post players to make quick decisions. Sometimes that leads to bad passes.

The problem, of course, is RMU almost gave the ball away as much as they turned it over. How does this change?

It starts with Kavon Stewart, the point guard.

All point guards are going to turn the ball over just based on the volume they actually have the ball. Stewart is no exception. Part of what makes him great is he takes chances attacking the rim. But his turnover rate was nearly double that of McConnell. Stewart is a senior now… his decision making has to get significantly better.

I actually loved watching McConnell handle the ball. I thought the offense flowed a little bit better with him. I love the versatility of having two extremely talented ball handlers on the floor. Robert Morris could have that.

Limiting the turnovers will really come down to the younger players making a jump. Can Jordan Lester protect the ball? Could Isaiah Still be counted on at times?

There are a lot of capable ball handlers on this team. There are no excuses to give the ball away like Robert Morris did last year.

–Chris Cappella

@C_Cappella

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