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Four Factors: Marquette vs Michigan State

Hey, guess why Marquette lost this game!

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you're not familiar with the Four Factors as featured on, the concept is very simple: There are four main parts of a basketball game that contribute to a team's success. They are:

  • effective field goal percentage, or FG% with a bonus for made three pointers
  • turnover rate, or the % of possessions that end in a turnover
  • offensive rebound rate, or the % of possible offensive rebounds that the team grabbed
  • and free throw rate, or the ratio of free throws attempted to field goals attempted expressed as a percentage

We'll look at the numbers for Marquette and their opponent in both categories for each game. The opponent number doubles as Marquette's defensive numbers, since it's what they're allowing. Along side each of the individual game numbers, you'll see two numbers after that.  The first is Marquette's season long average in that category, and the second is their national ranking on

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)

Marquette: 50% (Season: 50.5%, #111)
Michigan State: 71.1% (Season: 57.7%, #328)

There's only so many times I can write or say or whatever that Marquette's shooting defense is abominable.  At some point "hey, guys hit shots" stops being lucky and starts being a function of what Marquette is doing to defend them.

The biggest problem this time around was Denzel Valentine, who did his best "Matt Carlino against Georgia Tech" impression, hitting on six of his 10 tries behind the arc.  Four of his makes came in a seven minute stretch in the early part of the second half.  The first one was the first made basket of the second half, and the last gave Michigan State an 11 point lead.  Did MU cut the lead to just six with about 2:30 to play?  Sure did.  Did Valentine's flurry of threes probably cause the chasm to be to big to actually cross?  Probably.

I just want to type this part out so everyone's on the same page: Heading into the Tennessee game, Marquette has the 24th worst eFG% defense in the country.  Auburn is the only high major program that's worse.

Turnover Rate (TO%)

Marquette: 18.6% (Season: 17.5%, #64)
Michigan State: 24.8% (Season: 25.9%, #17)

A smidge higher on offense and a smidge lower on defense.  Both right near the season numbers and both season numbers are great.  Nothing really to say here, other than Matt Carlino and Duane Wilson both had three steals, with all three of Carlino's coming in the first half.

Offensive Rebounding Rate (OR%)

Marquette: 34.3% (Season: 30.9%, #176)
Michigan State: 22.7% (Season: 38.2%, #311)

I'm fine with MU being an average offensive rebounding team, and 176th in the country is exactly the median number in the country.  Any time they go over that, as they did here, that's great.  Even better, they held Michigan State to an absurdly low number.  If 22.7% was Marquette's season long average, they'd be ranked #7 in the country instead of 311th.  I don't expect them to be able to repeat this on a regular basis, but it's nice to see the effort to limit second chances when MSU was bombing everything through the nylon.

Free Throw Rate (FTR)

Marquette: 32.1% (Season: 43.2%, #97)
Michigan State: 40.0% (Season: 34.6%, #123)

Not a lot of free throws going on in this game.  Sometimes that happens.  Both teams actually shot 18 free throws in the game, but because Marquette was so busy forcing Michigan State into turning the ball over and limiting their second chances, the Spartans come away with a slightly better percentage.  I suppose you could be slightly concerned about Marquette allowing what's approaching a FTR that would rank in the bottom third of the country.  Free throw rate doesn't carry a lot of weight as far as winning games goes, and given how well MSU was shooting, allowing a slightly high percentage of free throws didn't really affect this game at all.