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NCAA Basketball March Madness

2014 Final Four: Sports Psychology By The Numbers

NCAA Tournament

Bob Donnan – USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA Tournament is down to the Final Four. This is the third in a series of articles on sports psychology factors that can help predict the winner of the NCAA Tournament. Previously I looked at big game experience and leadership and learned that these factors might give the Kentucky Wildcats and Connecticut Huskies an edge. Research that quantifies these factors has had particularly good results over the past several years in both the Final Four and the National Championship game.

Working with psychotherapist Dr. Jay Granat, I have quantified factors related to sports psychology.  These factors include big game experience, leadership and basketball fundamentals that can be coached and practiced. This research goes back to 1985 when the NCAA Tournament went to its current format.

Here I look at statistics with a sports psychology slant. These statistics are related to fundamentals such as free throw percentage and defense. In a close game, free throws can make the difference between winning and losing a championship. The team with a better free throw percentage has won 73 percent of national title games since this data became available.

This factor favors Connecticut and its 77.4 free throw percentage over the Florida Gators at 66.7 percent. In the other semifinal matchup, the Wisconsin Badgers (74.1 percent) best the Wildcats (68.5 percent) in free throw shooting.

Research shows that defense does indeed win championships. The team with the better field goal percentage defense has won an overwhelming 92 percent of national championship games since this data became available.

Connecticut edges Florida in this statistic 39.2 percent to 39.9 percent. Interestingly, for all of the talk about Wisconsin’s defense, Kentucky rates better in field goal percentage defense 41.0 percent to 42.7 percent.

The sports psychology quant facts for the two semifinal games favor Connecticut over Florida and Kentucky over Wisconsin. I will be back to summarize the quant facts for the championship game. 

Connecticut 4 (Experience, Leadership, Free Throws, FG Defense) – Florida 1 (Coach)

Kentucky 3 (Experience, Coach, FG Defense) – Wisconsin 1 (Free Throws)

Carlton Chin is a portfolio manager, quant researcher, and sports analysis contributor at Rant Sports. Please follow him on Twitter @QuantFacts, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your Google network.