How Many Turnovers are OK?

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We never want turnovers.  But let’s face it, you never have a game with zero turnovers.  Even if you’re blowing out a team, you’ll have a fast break that ends with a pass sailing out of bounds.  The question is how many turnovers are we ok with?

Let’s first define turnover percentage.  It’s an estimate of how many turnovers would occur per 100 possessions.  The importance of looking at it per 100 possessions lies in the fact that not every team plays at the same pace and therefore a team may average more possessions per game than another but that’s more of a function of their pace than just sloppy play.

Looking at the last ten champs on the men’s side, here’s what we end up with:

Men’s Division Turnover %
NCAA D1 14.2%
NCAA D3 14.5%
NCAA D2 14.8%
NAIA D2 15.7%
NAIA D1 16.1%

Meanwhile on the women’s side:

Women’s Division Turnover %
NCAA D1 15.8%
NCAA D3 16.8%
NAIA D1 16.8%
NCAA D2 17.5%
NAIA D2 18.0%

Let’s put this in further perspective, by looking at the turnover percentage of their opponents and the difference:

Men’s Division Opp. Turnover % Difference
NCAA D2 18.8% 4.0%
NCAA D3 18.0% 3.5%
NCAA D1 17.3% 3.0%
NAIA D1 18.6% 2.6%
NAIA D2 18.1% 2.3%


Women’s Division Opp. Turnover % Difference
NCAA D3 25.8% 9.0%
NCAA D1 21.7% 5.9%
NAIA D1 22.5% 5.7%
NCAA D2 23.1% 5.5%
NAIA D2 23.2% 5.2%

In the tables above, you can see that while the women’s turnover percentages are higher than the men’s, the difference between their opponents’ percentages and theirs is significantly higher than on the men’s side indicating the champions on the women’s side are dominating their opponents much more than on the men’s side.

Remember this is for the whole season, not just during the NCAA tournament so there a number of factors that go into these numbers. However, it should provide you with a pretty good baseline of where you want your team to be next season.  And it starts by being on the positive side of this difference.