No point guard? No problem

March, 23, 2010
3/23/10
11:37
AM ET
Looking up and down the Sweet 16, there is one thing at least 13 of the teams still have in common: a "true" point-guard. The three teams that don't? Purdue, West Virginia and Ohio State. Why am I pointing this out? Because it doesn't matter one bit. Not ... one ... bit. (Sorry, but I'll stop making Dark Knight references when that movie stops being awesome. In other words, never.)

[+] EnlargeEvan Turner
Frank Victores/US PresswireEvan Turner may not be a "true" point guard, but Ohio State has done just fine.
Of course, it's not as if those three teams don't have point guards, or some facsimile therein. Evan Turner is on the ball as frequently as any guard in the country. (Turner is a point guard only in that he brings the ball up the floor; he always immediately gives it up, runs off a couple of screens, and then gets it back. After the 25-second mark on the shot clock, Turner is basically a two-guard.) Purdue's guards have successfully played a by-committee style for much of the season, with and without Robbie Hummel. And West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler is a pretty capable ball handler himself. But these teams don't have someone who fits the traditional notion of what a point guard is, or what he should do on the floor, thus leaving themselves open to the sort of duck-in "they lost because they didn't have a true point guard" themes that pop up whenever college hoops crosses over that March popularity threshold.

As John Gasaway writes today, let's just quash that right now:
Why isn't anyone saying West Virginia's doomed in this game because they have no "true" point guards? Rest assured, that's what will be said if the Mountaineers should lose this game in a points-deficient manner. My own belief is that the "lack of a 'true' point-guard" meme is just that, a meme. The ball doesn't know if it's being dribbled and passed by someone that fits a writer's preconceived notion of what a point guard should look like. In fact the ball couldn't care less. I recommend you make that your attitude as well.

The Mountaineers committed turnovers on just 17 percent of their possessions in Big East play this season. That's a lower figure than putatively guard-blessed teams like Villanova (19 percent), Georgetown (20), or, for that matter, Syracuse (21) were able to notch. Nor did this West Virginia team so woefully bereft of true point guards display undue difficulty in "getting into" their offensive sets. The men from Morgantown scored 1.12 points per trip against the Big East, a mark that was a hair better than that recorded by the aforementioned Orangemen. Bottom line: Lorenzo Romar does not have "NO TRUE POINT GUARDS!" written at the top of his game plan this week, even if writers in need of a quick and handy trope have it in their autotext.

In other words, if you genuinely want to blame guard play for a team's loss, don't do it with your eyeballs. We've been trained, through years of basketball viewership, to assume that teams without the prototypical leader type on the ball are inherently at a disadvantage. But guess what: Eyeballs lie. Look at turnover percentage, see which teams actually do turn the ball over often, and go from there.

For example: Did you know that Evan Turner has turned the ball over less than John Wall this season? True story. But Wall looks like a true point guard, and Turner has the occasional nine-turnover outing (as he did in Ohio State's win over Georgia Tech Sunday); if OSU falters against a guard-oriented team or Turner turns the ball over on a few key possessions in a loss, you can bet this difference will be drawn. That doesn't mean it's right.

Is it an advantage to have a clear point guard on your team? Maybe, if that's your team's style. But the Mountaineers, Buckeyes and Boilermakers have done just fine without a "true" point guard thus far. Let's not start doubting them now.

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