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    Posted March 31, 2012 by
    New York, New York

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    Who Will Win the 2012 March Madness Tourney?


    Carlton Chin, a portfolio strategist and fund manager, and Jay Granat, psychotherapist, are authors of “Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Method.”  They have previously written about the World Series, N.B.A. Finals, and last year’s NCAA Tournament.

    After analyzing the championship games or series of the N.F.L., N.B.A., Major League Baseball and N.H.L., and the major finals in golf and tennis, we identified championships characteristics in our book, “Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological and Mathematical Method.”  Based on this research, we focused on several championship characteristics that might help predict the winner of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Last year’s article correctly selected the semifinal winners as well as Connecticut to win the title.

    With an eye towards key concepts of sport psychology, we looked at factors such as big game experience, leadership behind the bench, leadership on the court, error control, and consistency.  So important are these concepts to winning championships that they have proven to be common themes across all sports we have studied.

    Experience: Over the past 27 tournaments, 15 of 27 champions have had Final Four experience from the previous three years.  Teams with more Final Four appearances in the past three years have gone 11-5 (68.8%) in championship games.  Of this year’s Final Four contestants, only Kentucky has reached the Final Four over the past three years – and with this year’s appearance, Kentucky has reached the Final Four two years in a row.

    Coaching: The coach with more victories in semifinals and finals games has compiled a 14-7 record (66.7%) in championship games.  This year marks the sixth time that Louisville coach Rick Pitino has reached the Final Four.  Pitino won an NCAA Championship in 1996, while coaching Kentucky – and has 3 wins in the Final Four, compiling a 3-4 record.  Kansas coach Bill Self led Kansas to a championship in his only Final Four appearance in 2008, winning two Final Four games.  Kentucky coach John Calipari has reached the Final Four three times previously – with three different teams (Massachusetts, Memphis, and Kentucky, last year), compiling a 1-3 record in the Final Four.  Ohio State coach Thad Matta has reached the Final Four once before, winning a semifinal game, and then finishing as runner-up to Florida in 2007.

    All-Americans: Leadership on the court is also important.  Over the past 27 years, teams with more All-Americans (AP First or Second Team) have gone 13-7 in Championship games, or 65.0%.  This year, three of the four Final Four teams have one All-American on their team.  Louisville is the only team without an AP All-American.

    Consistency: Research has shown that consistency and error measures are also important to winning championships.  Historical data was not as readily available for some of the statistics (data goes back 13 seasons), but the team with the higher 3-point shooting percentage has won 10 of the last 13 title games.  Free throw shooting percentage is also a measure of consistency, and teams with the higher free throw percentage have gone 9-4 over the past 13 championship games.

    In the table below, we list the performance of the Final Four teams in the categories related to consistency like 3-point shooting and free-throw percentage.  We also included the experience and leadership factors we discussed – as well as turnovers and a defensive measure, because these are also championship traits.




    Ohio State


    Final Four experience (last 3 years)

    2011 Final Four




    Coach’s record in semifinals and finals









    2011-12 All-Americans





    3-pt shooting %





    3-pt shooting % defense





    Turnovers per game





    Free-throw %






    So who will win the big game?  The championship factors predict that Kentucky and Ohio State will advance to the championship game.  Once the finalists are determined, this ranking, based on the factors in the table, may be used to predict the champion: (1) Kentucky, (2) Ohio State, (3) Kansas, and (4) Louisville – to win the championship.

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