COLLEGE PARK, Md. — When Maryland women’s basketball hosted Niagara on Nov. 30 at the Xfinity Center, it ended with 30 assists, 17 turnovers and a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio; that many assists played a key role in its 70-point win. Maryland head coach Brenda Frese was elated about the Terps’ performance and said, “It’s a great step in the right direction with our chemistry.”
If fans listened to Frese’s press conferences this season and last, they’d often hear her mention the team’s assist-to-turnover ratio.
The assist-to-turnover ratio is a niche stat that measures ball security and offensive efficiency of a team or player. Getting the ratio is simple math: assists divided by turnovers. Teams want to have more assists than turnovers.
She often says Maryland having a good assist-to-turnover ratio leads to wins. In games that involved at least one Big Ten team over the last five years, Maryland owns four of the 10 highest ratios; the Terps won all of those games.
Maryland advanced to the Elite Eight last year and data shows it played efficient basketball along the way.
The Terps ended last season with 589 assists and 347 turnovers; a 1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, demonstrating good ball security. It was the team’s second-best mark of the last five years, ranked sixth among Power Five schools last year and finishing with 28 wins.
The average assist-to-turnover ratio in the Big Ten over the last five years was 1.2, placing Maryland’s performance last year squarely in the middle.
Frese said the key to having a good ratio is maximizing possessions.
“If you have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, you’re not giving possessions away to be able to score the basketball. I also think it lends to your offensive chemistry that you’re being unselfish to make the right play,” Frese said. “We don’t just want to make good plays. We want to make great plays (and) be hard to guard.”
Graduate student guard Brinae Alexander, who has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.6, agreed that a good ratio breeds chemistry. When she’s able to set up her teammates for open shots and get an assist it aids in the flow of the game.
“Having that positive assist-to-turnover ratio helps us keep the momentum in the game as far as making sure we’re getting steals to score and we’re making the extra pass and making us harder to guard,” Alexander said. “It’s a big emphasis for us to keep positive.”
Maryland started last season with a strong ratio but it improved to a 1.5 in December. Its 24 assists against Rutgers were its highest of the season, and its highest ratio was a 3.8 in a win over UConn.
Maryland went through a handful of injuries and struggles with many new players joining the roster last year. A seven-game win streak deep in conference play revitalized the team as the Big Ten tournament approached. During that stretch, its ratio was a 1.3 while its opponents had a combined ratio lower than one.
Graduate student guard Eliza Pinzan had the best ratio on Maryland last year and was top 30 in the country. She was a skilled passer and didn’t commit many turnovers.
In the end, Maryland was the third most efficient team in the Big Ten last season in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio. The greater the gap between a team’s ratio and their opponent’s, the more efficient or inefficient a team in terms of ball control. Iowa was the conference leader in assist-to-turnover ratio and had a spot in the NCAA championship game with LSU, another efficient team.
Maryland has a 4-3 record so far this year and, through those seven games, a ratio of just under one. The Terps have played a daunting opening schedule with games against two AP-Top 10 teams, both of which they lost. They’ve also graduated some of their best players such as Pinzan, Abby Meyers and Diamond Miller and are now trying new options at point guard. Maryland ended the two-game skid with a 1.2 ratio and beat Syracuse on Nov. 19.
Filter the chart below by conference to see where your favorite team lands on the assist-to-turnover ratio scale.