If you're not familiar with the Four Factors as featured on KenPom.com, 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 from the 2014-15 season in that category, and the second is their national ranking on KenPom.com.
A reminder for this edition of the Four Factors: This is an exhibition game against a team from Lithuania that we're not entirely sure of the caliber. They might be the worst team Marquette plays all season long. But, because it's fun to do things a little different sometimes, we'll look at these numbers for this European game. The only downside is I had to keep stats by myself, so we don't have individual statistics. Also, this isn't the full game. I had to watch the archived version on YouTube, and the archive is missing four minutes in the 2nd quarter due to technical difficulties during live action.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)
Marquette: 59.4% (Season: 49.8%, #129)
Atletas: 48.2% (Season: 49.2%, #173)
It's amazing what kind of a difference having two relatively agile very tall human beings on your team can make. Marquette made just four three-pointers in this game, so the very high eFG% is almost completely due to the rate the ball was going in the net overall (57%). With both Luke Fischer and Henry Ellenson capable of running the floor and finishing in transition, that is bound to cause a massive improvement in efficiency. It gets even better when Ellenson can just rip down a rebound and go coast-to-coast on his own, like he did in this game.
The defense was roughly what it was last season, which was mediocre, really. This can be survived if Marquette's shots are falling like they were here. If not, well, it's going to have to get much better, especially if Atletas isn't actually any good.
Turnover Rate (TO%)
Marquette: 18.1% (Season: 19.3%, #189)
Atletas: 24.8% (Season: 21.0%, #59)
Only slightly better at taking care of the ball than last season, but even better than an outstanding effort defensively in 2014-15. If Marquette is going to play faster than they did last season (#202 in tempo), then the same offensive ball control is roughly okay. It's all a sliding scale, of course. If shots are falling, you can afford an extra turnover or two, and if you're forcing more turnovers than you're giving away, then you're still coming out ahead.
Still, Marquette was middle of the road at keeping track of the ball on offense last season, and with a more up-tempo style on the table, they're going to have to be mindful of making the smart pass, not the flashy one.
Offensive Rebounding Rate (OR%)
Marquette: 38.7% (Season: 29.0%, #247)
Atletas: 18.2% (Season: 36.4%, #339)
DISCLAIMER: The best team at limiting opponents' offensive rebounding last season was Arizona, allowing teams to get to 20.6% of their misses. Marquette *is not* going to repeat this 18% on a regular basis. Period, full stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200, arguments can be directed to the nearest brick wall.
DISCLAIMER #2: Only nine teams grabbed their own misses more than 38.7% of the time last season, so the odds that Marquette is suddenly a top 10 offensive rebounding team are not great.
WITH THAT SAID, this is a fantastic indication of drastic improvement. Even moving both of those numbers five percentage points in a positive direction for 2015-16 would be great, because Marquette was absolute crap at rebounding the ball last year.
Free Throw Rate (FTR)
Marquette: 18.8% (Season: 35.8%, #205)
Atletas: 35.1% (Season: 30.3%, #38)
For the record, 35% would still have landed Marquette in the top half of the country in FTR last year, so I'm not going to get that worked up about it.
The 18.8% on offense is a little surprising, and also really bad, generally speaking. You have to look at it as a function of how the game went for the Golden Eagles, though. They had a lot of points in transition, and if you're getting odd-man breaks, odds are you're not going to get fouled a lot. Also, Atletas didn't seem terribly interested in making Marquette "earn" any of their buckets, avoiding cheap and dumb fouls in order to just get the ball back and try to score again. That's the kind of thing that limits your chances at free throws, too.
I'd throw in a note about how MU has to be better than last year in this category, but FTR is the least important of the Four Factors. If they're going to be much better at rebounding, I can deal with less than stellar free throw attempt numbers.