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 one, at least for the first few games of the season, is last year’s season long average for the Golden Eagles, and the next is where they ranked across the country on KenPom.com. Once we get a few games in, we’ll change that to Marquette’s current season average and rank.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)
Marquette: 61.5% (2015-16: 52.0%, #76)
Vanderbilt: 46.6% (2015-16: 48.7%, #107)
SWEET SASSY MOLASSY, that’s some shootin’!
MU went 10-19 (52.6%) from three in the second half, which is where they really made their bank in the eFG% department. They were just 3-for-12 in the first half (shoutout to Katin Reinhardt’s 0-3), but the 13-for-23 on twos (even with Reinhardt’s 0-4) ended up making things acceptable through the first 20 minutes.
Let’s be clear here: Marquette is not likely to repeat this kind of shooting again this season, and largely speaking, they shouldn’t need to, either. The important issue is that they were a good to great shooting defense team in this game, especially in the second half. This kind of effort can be repeated, and that’s going to take MU much farther than a freak chance 72% eFG% like they had after halftime.
I do want to touch on Reinhardt again here. In the Pros & Cons post about the exhibition game against Rockhurst, I gently chided Sam Hauser for going 1-of-5 from the three point line. To be clear, I didn’t have video of each of his attempts, nor did I look at the play-by-play to determine where in the five his made bucket came. It was merely the point that with this level of shooting ability, there’s no reason for any one guy on the team to start going nuts with the shots when he doesn’t have it on any particular night.
Well, Reinhardt went nuts in the first half. He missed his first seven shots of the game before going 4-of-7 in the second half. The 4-of-14 still isn’t any good. Compare that against Jajuan Johnson (9-of-13) and Haanif Cheatham (6-of-11) and you can see my point about letting the hot guys shoot. It all worked out in the end, but as the first half showed, this team is going to struggle with a guy who doesn’t have it on that particular night getting seven shots up in 13 minutes.
Again, like Hauser, I’m not going to go back and break down each individual shot as far as where it came on the clock. It’s just something to keep an eye on as we go forward.
Turnover Rate (TO%)
Marquette: 15.3% (2015-16: 20.0%, #292)
Vanderbilt: 24.3% (2015-16: 19.1%, #108)
HIGH FIVES FOR EVERYONE!
Fixing last year’s offensive turnover rate was a major emphasis for Marquette going into this season, and at least for forty minutes in Maryland, everything was completely okay. MU committed exactly six turnovers in each half, and four of the team’s turnovers were solely the responsibility of Sandy Cohen and Matt Heldt, who played a combined eight minutes. The extra special part about such a low TO% is that there were a lot - A LOT - of offensive fouls, particularly in the first half. Now, MU did seem to have a problem with those a year ago, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that.
Marquette was pretty good at takeaways a year ago, and they went above and beyond that here. Obviously a heavy majority of those VU turnovers came in the second half, but the neat thing about this game is that Marquette actually forced Vandy into turnovers on 20.6% of their possessions in the first half. That’d be right in line with what they did last year, and that was already pretty good.
Offensive Rebounding Rate (OR%)
Marquette: 27.8% (2015-16: 28.1%, #229)
Vanderbilt: 27.5% (2015-16: 30.7%, #225)
I can not say this enough: Marquette is not going to be able to have offensive rebounding WORSE than last year and win on a regular basis. Period. Full stop.
Now, the good news: MU’s offensive rebounding in the second half would have put them in the top 125 in the country a year ago. It would be understandable as the lead ballooned towards 30 points if Marquette eased back on collecting what few misses they actually had, but their number for the final 20 minutes indicates they were rebounding incredibly well. Want to hear the crazy part about that? Traci Carter lead the team in offensive rebounds in the second half with two.
The other good news is that Marquette’s overall defensive rebounding was improved from last year. They struggled in the first half, as Vandy got to 35% of their misses largely on the back of 6-foot-4 Nolan Cressler wrapping up three Commodore misses. That dropped way down to 20% in the second half as Vanderbilt missed a ton more shots but only got to four of them for a second chance. Improving just three points on the OR% that Marquette allows will do a world of difference: 27.5% a year ago would have ranked in the top 80 in the country.
Free Throw Rate (FTR)
Marquette: 6.8% (2015-16: 40.5%, #82)
Vanderbilt: 44.8% (2015-16: 28.0%, #25)
I am going to hope that both of these numbers are massive aberrations from what Marquette accomplishes for the rest of the year. If you’ve read down to this point in this article, I think you’re well aware of the number of things that have to work out for you in order to win by 24 while allowing your opponent to shoot 21 more free throws than you did.
It’s a little bit early to declare anything officially a hallmark of Marquette basketball under Steve Wojciechowski, but they’ve been top 40 in defensive free throw rate in both of his two seasons. I think it’s safe to say that they won’t repeat this 44.8% mark on a regular basis. The one thing that does worry me slightly is that I have no idea why Marquette was playing any kind of defense that even resembled a foul in the final 10 minutes of the game, but that’s where Vanderbilt got 10 of their 26 attempts in the game.