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Final Four Factors (March Madness 2013)

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 B.C.S., N.B.A. Finals, and last year's NCAA Tournament.

Based on our quant research of factors related to sports psychology, 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 Kentucky to win the national title. We will come out with an article for this year's championship game after the finalists are determined.

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. These championship characteristics have proven to be common themes across all sports we have studied.

Experience: Over the past 28 tournaments, 16 of 28 champions have had Final Four experience from the previous three years. Teams with more Final Four appearances in the past three years have gone 12-5 (70.6%) in championship games. Of this year's Final Four contestants, only Louisville has reached the Final Four over the past three years. This year's Final Four appearance makes it two consecutive years for Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals.

Coaching: The coach with more victories in semifinals and finals games has compiled a 14-8 record (63.6%) in championship games. This year marks the seventh 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 3-5 record. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has won all three semifinal games in each of his previous three trips to the Final Four, winning the NCAA Championship in 2003, compiling a 4-2 record. This is the first trip to the Final Four for the coaches of Wichita State and Michigan.

All-Americans: Leadership on the court is also important. Over the past 28 years, teams with more All-Americans (AP First or Second Team) have gone 13-7 in Championship games, or 65.0%. This year, only one All-American is playing in the Final Four: Michigan's Trey Burke.

Consistency: Research has shown that consistency and error measures are also important to winning championships. The team with the higher 3-point shooting percentage has won 11 of the last 14 title games. Free throw shooting percentage is also a measure of consistency, and teams with the higher free throw percentage have gone 10-4 over the past 14 championship games.

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



Wichita St.



Final Four experience (last 3 years)

2012 Final Four




Coach's record in semifinals and finals









2012-13 All-Americans



Trey Burke


3-pt shooting %





FG shooting % defense





Turnovers per game





Free-throw %





Who Will Win the Big Game? Louisville has more championship factors in its favor than Wichita State, including big game experience and coaching leadership. Wichita State has three-point shooting in its favor - while two factors (FG Shooting Defense and Turnovers per game) are very close. In the other semifinal matchup, Michigan has more championship factors in its favor. Syracuse has coaching leadership and defense in its favor, but the other factors point to Michigan.

Based on our championship factors and season statistics, we developed a Monte Carlo simulator for college basketball, similar to the methodology we used for our football analyses. The results for the simulations are centered around: Louisville 69 - Wichita State 62 in the first semifinal game, and Michigan 69 - Syracuse 66 in the second semifinal game.