About two weeks ago, Texas A&M visited Oklahoma State for the last time as a member of the Big 12. The low-scoring game featured an excessive amount of turnovers, 54 total. When the final buzzer rang through the air and the Cowgirls upset the Aggies, OSU had coughed the ball up 28 times and Texas A&M gave away the possession 26 times in 40 minutes of play.
After the game Texas A&M coach Gary Blair had some interesting thoughts about the women's game and the overall lack of ball handling skills. He was quick to point out the detriment turnovers have on obtaining retaining fans - both in the stadium and on TV.
"It's not good for the women's game turning it over that much," Blair said. "That's why our attendance is down all over - ball handling skills, okay. The worst thing women do in general is pass the ball. It's the worst thing we do."
All about attendance -
The attendance comment caught me a bit off guard because I always thing of the strength of the attendance of the Big 12, not its decline. So I thought I would look at the numbers. If you look at Division I home attendance figures comparing the 2010 and 2011 seasons (since they have full, complete stats), overall attendance didn't drop. But it did only increase by an average of one person from 1,584 to 1,585. But if you look at conference numbers for that same period, the Big 12 - who has been the leading conference in attendance figures over at least the past decade - did indeed have an quite significant average drop in the number of fans.
In 2010, the conference averaged 5,247 fans per home game. The total figure of 1,091,289 fans was a conference record. The following year, average conference attendance was only 4,720 per game. Still good for the most-attended conference in the nation, but a drop of more than 500 people per game in a season that conference member Texas A&M won the national title was a bit of a surprise. Historically, this mark of 4,720 is tied for the lowest number the Big 12 has averaged since the 1999-2000 season, the year the NCAA began providing these records in a readily available fashion. In that season, the conference also averaged 4,720 people per home game.
He went on to say not only does it affect attendance, but also is a deciding factor in obtaining a more coveted television schedule for women's basketball.
"We've got to do a better job if we want to be on television more to clean it up. That's too many turnovers, both teams. It's it because both of us played hard? No, I think it was poor pass selection, poor receiving of the ball and it's just something that is under taught."
Tale of the turnovers -
Tonight the quality of televised women's basketball might be put to the test with some squads that do indeed turn the ball over at a pretty high clip this year. The 7 p.m. ET game pits No. 5 Duke against rival North Carolina. Duke is averaging 17.7 turnovers per game and UNC racks up 19.9 turnovers a night.
The 9 p.m. ET highlights the No. 1 Baylor team that has a bit more respectable number of 14.1 turnovers per night, tied for 24th nationally. Oklahoma enters the game averaging 18.0 turnovers per game, but is coming off one of their best sharing nights when the Sooners turned the ball over just eight times while picking up 21 assists against in-state rivals Oklahoma State on Saturday.
While the story lines of both of these games will not key on turnovers, I for one might keep a closer eye on ball handling when I watch these and other games unfold as the season rolls on.
What do you think? Does the significant amount of turnovers lead to a lack of interest from the fans? Should the Big 12 attendance numbers or lack of nationally televised games be attributed in part to poor ball handling skills?