Notes On Four Factors Differentials

  • Effective field goal percentage (eFG%) differential: This should be self-explanatory: the team that shoots more efficiently - their field goal percentage weighted for the extra value of three point shots - gives themselves a better chance to win. Typically, the teams that make it to the Final Four have a large eFG% differential, which means two things: they shoot efficiently while also defending well enough to prevent their opponents from shooting efficiently. Yet it's also important to note how this works for strong defensive teams: even if they're not an elite, their sizable eFG% differential is due to the fact
  • Turnover rate (tov rate): This one is tricky because it might seem that there's no relationship to how many turnovers a team commits and forces - unlike rebounding (and to a lesser extent, scoring), creating a turnover doesn't necessarily negate an opponents' ability to do so. However, what this does tell us is how well a team controls the ball relative to their opponents given their style of play. And teams that turn the ball over more often than opponents tend to be erratic offensively.
  • Offensive rebounding rate (oreb%) differential: Offensive rebounding is important because it extends possessions and gives teams a chance at second chance points. A team with a significantly better offensive rebounding differential than their opponents is doing two things though: both getting offensive rebounds and preventing opponents from getting offensive rebounds on the other end. It's therefore an indicator of not only rebounding dominance, but some level of interior prowess.
  • Free throw rate (ft rate) differential: Free throw rate is the rate at which a team gets to the free throw line relative to their opponents, which is a proxy for understanding how well a team attacks the basket offensively (and to some extent, avoids fouls defensively). This is the least significant of the Four Factors and, not surprisingly, there are a number of very good teams (college and pro) that have a negative free throw rate differential. So in the cases when it is a "strength" for a team, it's a relatively weak strength that is hard to take much from when looking at a matchup.



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