"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Four Factors and Winning Teams

This post was inspired by this tweet from @PaintTouches. One thing led to another and here we are.  

First, if you want to catch up on the Four Factors, here are some links. Some of this stuff we have been talking about for over thirteen years. 

Using data from Bart Torvik’s site, I went and looked at eight seasons worth of Wins, which adds up to almost 20K games. I wanted to break down the profiles and see what actually was in the historical data. Now that the analysis is complete, we want to keep the information available for reference. . 

The team that wins the game wins eFG% 85% of the time. 

If you didn’t already believe and know that eFG% is the most important aspect of winning basketball, this is additional support. 85% of teams that actually win their basketball games win the eFG matchup. 

This is not the case for TOs, ORs, or FTR. Each of these factors are still important, but not as important as eFG%. 

The most common situation is to win three of the Four Factors

In almost half of all cases, the winning team takes three out of four of the matchups. The second most common situation is for a team to win two out of four matchups. That’s over 80% of all victories. The most infrequent situation is winning only one Factor. 

Also, the average efficiency margin (or margin of victory) continues to increase as teams win more of the four factors. Dominate more areas of the game and the team dominates more of the total margin of victory. 

The most common winning combination is eFG and any two other factors

That totals up to 88% of all popular combinations. The most common combination is winning the shooting matchup, offensive rebounds, and getting to the line. As much as I like to disparage Free Throw Rate, it shows up in the top two most common combinations. 

eFG and another Factor adds up to 79%

eFG doesn’t show up as strongly when a team wins by only two factors. Again, the margin of victory is weaker in these situations. In addition, there are more options. However, eFG still shows up in almost four out of five scenarios. 

If you absolutely have to pick one factor

As a reminder, this only happens for 6% of all situations. However, a team that wins only one factor is winning by eFG two thirds of the time. 

This is even consistent when looking at data for just the Big East. 

Maybe I could argue increased importance on rebounding and getting to the line, but it’s close enough that we are talking about details.  

In addition, the profile of games won is consistent with the national average. 


I find these results surprising. As much as we like to emphasize the importance of eFG, it’s a bit of a shock the extent to which winning teams exhibit these characteristics. Want to win 80% of your games? Win eFG and at least one other factor. If a team can consistently win eFG and two other factors, then the winning percentage is 88%. Regardless, winning teams win eFG.

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