College Basketball Advanced Stats Overview: ‘Four Factors’ Formulas and Meanings

Prior to the season, I wrote a number of posts centered around advanced metrics and tempo-free stats, but with more college basketball writers and analysts starting to use them, it seemed like a good idea to provide a brief summary of the key stats and how they are calculated.

Pace and Points Per Possession (PPP)

The purpose behind looking at scoring on a per-possession basis is that it normalizes teams who play at a variety of different tempos.

For instance, VMI ranks third in the nation at 83.1 points per game, but they play at one of the fastest paces in the country and don’t shoot the ball very well.  And just because Wisconsin is 252nd overall in scoring doesn’t mean they are inherently terrible offensively.  Ultimately it boils down to a quantity versus quality proposition.

bo-ryan-wisconsin-college-basketball-advanced-stats-four-factors-formulasThe first piece of the calculation is to arrive at the number of possessions in the game, which is defined as:

Field Goal Attempts – Offensive Rebounds + Turnovers + 0.475 * Free Throw Attempts

A more detailed description of why this makes sense can be found at the old Big Ten Wonk site.

Once you have that, you can easily divide the points scored in the game by that number of possessions.  For a point of reference, here are some numbers through Friday’s games:

  • National Average: 68.5 possessions per game
  • Fastest Pace: Houston Baptist at 75.4 possessions per game
  • Slowest Pace: Wisconsin at 58.9 possessions per game
  • Average Points Per Possession: 1.01 ppp
  • Most Efficient Offense: Missouri – 1.19 ppp
  • Least Efficient Offense: Grambling – 0.78 ppp
  • Most Efficient Defense: Ohio State – 0.84 ppp
  • Least Efficient Defense: Nebraska Omaha – 1.18 ppp

The Four Factors

The other most commonly cited statistics are the “Four Factors,” which statistical pioneer Dean Oliver broke down in his book, Basketball on Paper.  In simplest terms, these are the four factors he deemed most critical to on-court success.

1. Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)

eFG% is calculated by:

(0.5 * Three-Pointers Made + Field Goals Made) / Field Goal Attempts

As you can see, the calculation is virtually the same as a standard field goal percentage, except that it gives additional credit for made three-pointers.  The calculation accounts for the fact that a made three is worth 50 percent more than a made two.  Big Ten Wonk says that eFG% “is roughly analogous to calculating a batting average using plate appearances instead of official at-bats.”

Through Thursday’s games, here are some key eFG% numbers to know:

  • National Average: 49.0%
  • Best on Offense: Creighton – 58.5%
  • Worst on Offense: Grambling – 38.1%
  • Best on Defense: Wisconsin – 39.9%
  • Worst on Defense: Longwood – 57.8%

2. Turnover Rate (TO%)

The calculation for TO% is a simple one:

Turnovers / Possessions

Again, this normalizes the fact that two teams might each turn the ball over 15 times, but the impact of that is greater for a team that has just 60 possessions versus one that has 75.

Here are the numbers to know about TO% this season:

  • National Average: 20.6%
  • Best on Offense: Purdue – 13.8%
  • Worst on Offense: Towson – 30.6%
  • Best on Defense: Ohio State – 27.4%
  • Worst on Defense: William & Mary – 14.8%

To put the Towson one in perspective, no one else is even over 26.4% for the year.

3. Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OReb%)

The calculation for OReb% is as follows:

Offensive Rebounds / (Offensive Rebounds + Opponent Defensive Rebounds)

Instead of looking solely at the raw number of offensive rebounds a team gets, this reduces it to a rate by comparing to the number of missed shots.  Again, as Big Ten Wonk put it, “Rebounds are like hits—and missed shots are like at-bats.”  From an efficiency standpoint, the theory is that offensive rebounds essentially extend possessions and provide additional scoring opportunities.

Here’s a look at how OReb% has played out this year:

  • National Average: 32.3%
  • Best on Offense: Pittsburgh – 43.6%
  • Worst on Offense: Hartford – 21.9%
  • Best on Defense: Bucknell – 23.1%
  • Worst on Defense: Alcorn State – 40.3%

4. Free Throw Rate (FTR)

Again, the calculation for FTR is a relatively simple one:

Free Throws Attempted / Field Goal Attempts

Ken Pomeroy says this metric “measures a player’s ability to get to the line relative to how often he attempts to score.”  In short, it’s a measure of aggressiveness.  Guys who are content to shoot jumpers and won’t attack the basket will end up with a low FTR, while others can provide increased value by making a concerted effort to get to the stripe.

Here are some key data points for FTR this season:

  • National average: 36.5
  • Best on Offense: New Mexico State – 55.3
  • Worst on Offense: Troy – 23.6
  • Best on Defense: North Carolina – 20.4
  • Worst on Defense: Eastern Washington – 64.6

Some of these are pretty extreme.  For example, New Mexico State is the only team over 50.3, and for Eastern Washington, no one else is over 55.6.

So as you look forward to filling out your March Madness 2012 bracket when it comes out, efficiency numbers can provide a different point of view on many of the matchups, particularly as you’re comparing teams from a wide range of leagues with a variety of styles.  Sites like and provide this data if you’d like to get more in depth.


Follow me on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops, and check out the latest edition of the Bottoms Line podcast.

About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms


  1. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  2. Thanks for finally talking about >College Basketball Advanced Stats Overview:
    ‘Four Factors’ Formulas and Meanings <Liked it!

  3. Aw, this was a very nice post. Taking the time and actual
    effort to create a good article… but what can I say… I
    procrastinate a lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.

  4. Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors, for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notice that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization. On-Page SEO means more now than ever since the new Google update: Panda. No longer are backlinks and simply pinging or sending out a RSS feed the key to getting Google PageRank or Alexa Rankings, You now NEED On-Page SEO. So what is good On-Page SEO?First your keyword must appear in the title.Then it must appear in the URL.You have to optimize your keyword and make sure that it has a nice keyword density of 3-5% in your article with relevant LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Then you should spread all H1,H2,H3 tags in your article.Your Keyword should appear in your first paragraph and in the last sentence of the page. You should have relevant usage of Bold and italics of your keyword.There should be one internal link to a page on your blog and you should have one image with an alt tag that has your keyword….wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at. Seo Plugin

  5. Exactly where do you go after getting a creative composing degree?

  6. I find this information very useful. Cheers!

  7. I want to alter my Blogger/Blogspot background right into a picture I want instead of the unappealing plain ones that provide you with… We tried looking up on google ways to change it but it only came up with how to replace the background with the old Tumblr… HELP!.

  8. I have always been new to blogging. How do I put in a subscribe function to my site therefore new post will go to their email?

  9. I was giving a speech on social networking sites and have to mention a highly regarded blogging site. If someone could mention one for me, I would really appreciate it!.

  10. What info technologies could we value to make this easier to keep an eye on when new blog posts were made and which blog posts we had read and which we have not read? Please be precise.

  11. How do I make my joomla made website be on the web?

  12. I reside in Costa Rica and am about to publish a residential area newspaper, exactly what are the steps to go about copyrighting the name and content articles published in it? And also when can one start using the copyright laws symbol?.

  13. What joomla component would you suggest for member photo uploads?

  14. How can I copyright all first content current and upcoming on my website?

  15. I always used to think that, while, the first word meant a person who blogs, the 2nd word stood for a blog page hosting site! Now, We are entirely confused mainly because my uncle tells me, that both of them are the same hosting site for those who blog with Google using blogger/blogspot! May somebody with authentic understanding please assist resolve my doubt? Please take my question seriously and “I earnestly request” Y! A members to reply with prudent academic answers, following community guidelines..

  16. Can linking another computer to my network impact the contacts of the other computer systems?

  17. For instance, major music stores like iTunes are certainly not available in Asia and US TV systems which allow viewers find programmes on the website have a tendency make such programmes offered to viewers outside of the US. This is even in the event that people are ready to pay to download or see the content.. Isn’t an internet store or channel exactly where content is definitely legitimately distributed globally possible?. If the government is responsible for limiting distribution, which usually government are we referring to? The government in the country in which the content is produced or maybe the government in the country in which the content will be imported to?.

  18. i buy a area and sponsor and as subdomain i have a choice to creat a blog. i love to do it but i completely dazed!!! can anyone help me to make it right?. We buy a domain and host and as subdomain excellent choice to creat a blog. i love to do it but i completely dazed!!! is there any others who could help me to generate it right?. my is actually that i how to start what to do!. i personally use plesk, and there ( in my httpdocs ) i have a folder called BLOG, inside i have my first page! its firs page ( my blog page page) told me that put your theme here, my problem is… what theme? it support php too. the problem is that and that’s compeletly complex!.

  19. Merely, amazing what we did below. It really is attractive to take a look anyone exhibit on the cardiovascular system along with your clearness with this considerable content might be very easily seemed. Impressive post and can enjoy ones potential revise.

  20. I like Facebook, but I hate that their particular notes section isn’t as appealing as MySpace’s sites. I’ve recently transferred a blog from MySpace to Facebook using the “share” icon located beneath every blog… However , I do not like the way it appears on my Facebook web page. Are there any better ways to import my websites?.

  21. I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful info I was looking for this information for my mission.



    […]we came across a cool web-site that you may well appreciate. Take a appear for those who want[…]

Speak Your Mind