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Marquette Basketball Four Factors: at Providence Friars

We have a bit of a historical note to discuss this time around.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Providence Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

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 is the season long average for the Golden Eagles, and the next is where they rank on a national level on KenPom.com.

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)

Marquette: 58.7% (This Season: 57.1%, #7)
Providence: 52.9% (This Season: 51.8%, #234)

This is the first time all season that Marquette had a better eFG% than their opponent and lost. All season long, eFG% has had a perfect correlation to winning or losing. Higher eFG%, win. Lower eFG%, loss. Not here. It’s not even a case where Marquette was particularly off-kilter one way or the other, either. These two eFG% numbers are pretty much right in line with what MU has done on average this season. A little higher than average for both, sure, but right in line generally speaking.

Marquette also did better than Providence in each half. 63%-57% in the first half, 54%-48% in the second half. That second half defensive number is probably the one that will turn your head the most. Marquette held PC under 50% eFG% in the second half and still got outscored, 36-33. That’s a massive problem, but one that we’ll tackle elsewhere.

Marquette’s biggest problem in this game? They couldn’t contain Rodney Bullock. Even though he’s PC’s high scorer this season, and even though they held it together against him in Milwaukee, Bullock still got free to shoot 7-of-13 in this game, including making one of his three long range attempts. You could make a serious argument that Bullock’s made three was the most important shot of the game. Coming with just 3:06 remaining, it turned a seven point Marquette lead to only a four point margin. What happens if he misses & MU rebounds it? What happens if he misses, but PC gets the offensive rebound (very likely, more later), but just get a two-point putback? That trey going down was a huge leverage moment in the game.

Perhaps the saddest part about this game is that Katin Reinhardt is going to have to wear it, or at least a lot of it. Even though what happened wasn’t drawn up for him, it was still the grad transfer from USC who ended up with the last Marquette shot attempt. It’s more than a little unfair to saddle him with that, because he had a pretty great shooting game before that moment. He finished the game at 5-for-11 with a 2-of-5 long range shooting outing. That’s a personal eFG% of 55% and before the final ill-fated shot, Reinhardt’s eFG% was 60%. You’re lying to yourself and everyone you love if you say that you wouldn’t want that performance again and again.

One final shooting note. Markus Howard was 6-of-8 from downtown. The kid is having one of the best shooting seasons in Marquette history. On some level, to a certain degree, from a certain point of view, that season of his and this skill and ability of his is going to waste.

Turnover Rate (TO%)

Marquette: 22.5% (This Season: 17.3%, #75)
Providence: 18.0% (This Season: 18.5%, #183)

BAAAAAAAAAARF.

Markus Howard had five of Marquette’s 15 turnovers in the game, and Andrew Rowsey had four. Katin Reinhardt had three as well. That is a big bad pile of awful in a game that Marquette kinda maybe really needed to win. Given the circumstances of the floor, I could be more forgiving of a lousy turnover number if a lot of turnovers were being forced or created on the defensive end, but as you can see, that was not the case here. Also, the referees, with the approval of both coaches, were just ignoring any slip and slide turnovers in the game, so even the conditions didn’t really play that big of a role here.

With Marquette winning the shooting side of things, you can’t help but look at this and assign a large quantity of blame for the loss to all of the turnovers by a usually pretty surehanded MU team.

Offensive Rebounding Rate (OR%)

Marquette: 17.2% (This Season: 28.0%, #220)
Providence: 33.3% (This Season: 28.8%, #158)

And then you can also assign a large quantity of blame here as well.

Look, Marquette’s not a good offensive rebounding team this season. It is what it is, and that’s life. With the amount of defensive struggles that MU has in the first place, it’s generally a bad plan to crash the offensive glass instead of sending dudes back on defense quickly. So they’re bad at OR% as a result. It happens.

This, however, was abjectly horrible. Specifically, the first half was horrible, as Marquette had absolutely no offensive rebounds before halftime. They actually put up a 31% OR% in the second half, and no joke: Marquette’s first offensive rebound of the game came with 10:35 left and it IMMEDIATELY led to a tip-in bucket by Luke Fischer. MU’s first OReb of the game put them up nine. HOW DID THEY LOSE THIS? They got FIVE offensive rebounds in the final 11 minutes of the game! For seven of those minutes, they didn’t score a field goal! HOW?

Providence was also very good at the offensive rebounding, which really did not help Marquette’s situation. In fact, the Friars were better at it in the second half (37%) than in the first (30%), but even the first half was a pretty good job by them. Rodney Bullock and Emmitt Holt were a couple of wrecking balls on the glass, with each guy grabbing up four offensive rebounds and combining for nine grabs on the defensive end.

Free Throw Rate (FTR)

Marquette: 19.2% (This Season: 31.2%, #286)
Providence: 59.6% (This Season: 36.4%, #198)

Providence shot four free throws in the final two seconds to make this ever so slightly higher than it maybe should have been. Still, though, without them, PC’s FTR is 52%, so it’s not like it was thrown that far off.

Sure, FTR doesn’t have that big of an impact on the game. We know that. But it also probably does not help to let your opponent shoot 18 free throws in the first 19 minutes of the second half when they only attempted 24 field goals. That’s probably going to have an unreasonable amount of impact on the result. At best, it’s just one more thing that gets layered on top of all of Marquette’s other problems that caused them to lose while outshooting the Friars.