What is the Four Factors Gameplan?

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If you’re a regular here, you know that we often post a Four Factors Gameplan in advance of men’s basketball games. But why?

If you’re not familiar with the “four factors,” it’s essentially an analytical framework that boils the game of basketball down to four key categories:

  1. Shooting
  2. Turnovers
  3. Offensive Rebounding
  4. Getting to the foul line

Of these, shooting matters the most by far and is defined as a formula that results in a number known as effective field goal percentage. The remaining categories are in order of importance, but are only marginally more important than the one below them and are all much less important than shooting. That’s quite a dramatic oversimplification, so if you want the full explanation, check out the Dean Oliver four factors page. Even KenPom uses these four factors.

What’s in a Four Factors Gameplan?

A Four Factors Gameplan starts with a baseline of how each team is currently doing in the regular stats that relate most closely to the four-factors. These are field goal shooting percentage, three-point shooting percentage, turnovers per game, offensive rebounds per game, and free throw attempts per game. We also add in defensive rebounds per game for flavor and defensive shooting percentages when available and when we’ve had enough coffee.

After that, we’ll look at each of the four factors by ranking all of Tennessee’s prior opponents in each category and then adding the next opponent to see which prior opponent they are most like in that category. We add the Vols just to see how they compare to the upcoming opponent.

After that, we’ll compare Tennessee’s offensive four-factors numbers to the opponent’s defensive four-factors numbers in an attempt to determine whether any facet of the game might be more important than usual. From that, we’ll develop a one-paragraph summary of what to watch for and our own gameplan.

Often one or both of the teams will do something completely out of character and none of it will matter, but more often it turns out to be a fairly accurate forecast of how things end up playing out.

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