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The Mississippi State Game - The Four Factor Perspective

What are the Four Factors, you ask? No, it's not the name of John and I's ill-fated doo-wop-style vocal group (that would be the Four Fingers - I don't know why we never caught on with a name like that).

The "Four Factors" are what statistician Dean Oliver says are the most important determinants of a basketball team's success (in a general sense, they seem pretty obvious, even if the exact measurements he uses aren't). They are:

Shooting the ball well, which Oliver measures by effective field-goal percentage (eFG%). eFG% is basically a team's field-goal percentage, except that it gives 50 percent more credit for successful three-point attempts. The formula is (half the number of made three pointers + total made field goals) / field-goal attempts.

Taking care of the ball, which Oliver assesses by a team's turnover percentage (TO%). TO% is the number of turnovers/number of possessions.

Offensive rebounding, which of course leads to more second-chance shots. Oliver measures this by calculating offensive rebounding percentage (OR%). OR% = offensive rebounds / (offensive rebounds + opponent defensive rebounds).

Getting to the free-throw line, which Oliver assesses by free-throw rate (FT rate). According to Oliver, teams that get to the line more often are more effective than teams that simply make a higher percentage of their free throws. FT rate = free throws attempted / field goals attempted.

Hopefully, that didn't feel too much like a math class (and if you really want to nerd out on Dean Oliver's explanations of the Four Factors, click here). analyzes each team's games in part by calculating the above stats. Here are the Four Factors (in fancy chart form, no less) for last night's Hogs-Mississippi State game:


As you can see, the Hogs won three of the Four Factors, and, according to the chart at least, really won the game by getting to the line much more frequently than the Bulldogs. That they lost the offensive rebounding stat should come as no surprise.

As impressive as Courtney Fortson's second-half performance was, it's worrisome that the other guys did not show more signs of life. The team played pretty good defense down the stretch and maybe that's something they can build on. But it was depressing how positively zombie-like Fortson's teammates looked for the vast majority of the game. The first half was one of the most pathetic Hog performances I've ever seen.

Too often over the past two years, we've seen Fortson dribble forever and then chuck up brick after brick, sucking the oxygen out of the team in the process. Last night, his ball-hogging — feel free to use a nicer term if you wish — saved the Hogs because he shot so well. I'm glad Fortson was on fire last night, but you have to wonder if the performance is just going to increase his reluctance to share the ball. That would not be a good thing.

To be sure, I'm thankful the Hogs got the win - but I don't know if I feel any better about the team.