Analyzing Syracuse through four factors of basketball success

Lydon will play for the Denver Nuggets
It’s going to be an up-and-down season for the Orange

Early in statistical analysis of basketball, Dean Oliver created his “Four Factors of Basketball Success”. While Oliver did all of his statistical research on the NBA, the nitty-gritty of the four factors to success remain the same. They are, listed in order of importance:

  • shooting the ball
  • turnovers
  • offensive rebounding
  • free throw attempts

For shooting the ball, effective field goal percentage (eFG%) is the preferred method of measurement, as it weights three-point shooting. For turnovers, turnover rate (TOV%) is used, as it normalizes for pace instead of relying on the crude number of turnovers. Similarly, offensive rebounding rate (ORB%), which is the percentage of potential offensive rebounds grabbed, works in place of the number of offensive rebounds. Free throw attempts are measured in free throw rate (FT/FGA), which if free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts.

Analyzing how a team performs based on these four factors, including how their opponents have done against them, helps give a complete picture of the quality of the team. Through Saturday’s games, here is how the Syracuse offense profiles among 351 Division One teams:

eFG% – 181st at .499
TOV% – 176th at 16.0%
ORB% – 118th at 32.8%
FT/FGA – 115th at .274

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And Syracuse’s opponents in their first 11 games, giving a picture of Syracuse’s defense:

eFG% – 50th at .450
TOV% – 91st at 17.8%
ORB% – 346th at 39.3%
FT/FGA – 23rd at .177

Now, what should we take from all those numbers?

Well, first, Syracuse is a slightly better than average offensive team. They’re pretty much average in shooting the ball and not giving it away and better than two-thirds of teams at grabbing offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line. While those numbers could be worse, they certainly could be better, especially considering Syracuse has played a number of small school opponents.

Defensively, the Orange profile similarly to what they often do in their 2-3 zone. They give up a lower field goal percentage and force a relatively high number of turnovers. They get killed on the defensive backboards, but they do not foul very often.

What do these numbers tell us to expect over the long run of the season? Well, this season will probably end up a lot like last season where the Orange play a large number of games that are offensive struggles. This year’s version is not an offensive powerhouse capable of piling up points. The defense is quite good, but their rebounding difficulties will likely cost them in a few games.

As a result, SU will also likely have a difficult path to the postseason.

Strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by He currently resides in Syracuse.