Championship factors related to sports psychology were studied -- based on research with Dr. Jay Granat, psychotherapist. The results are based on championships going back several decades – and across major sports including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and professional tennis and golf.
Our work has shown that traits associated with hard work, focus on fundamentals, consistency, and minimizing errors can help to win championships. Indeed, these factors may be overlooked by many. Since our book, Who Will Win the Big Game came out in 2010, our published predictions based on these sports psychology "quant facts” have correctly predicted the winner of major sports events more than 60% of the time – while picking underdogs regularly. In this article, we apply these results to the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Game between North Carolina and Villanova.
Leadership - On the Court
Data has shown that leadership on the court has a major impact on the odds of winning championships. Although most sports we analyze are team sports, the team with better individual leadership tends to win more championships than not. In NCAA Men's Basketball, teams that have more Consensus All-Americans (First of Second team) -- have won 60% of championship games. North Carolina (NC), with PF Bryce Johnson, is the only All-American on the court in tonight's championship game. Edge: NC.
Leadership - Behind the Bench
Leadership behind the bench is even more strongly-related to winning the big game. The coach with more Final Four victories has taken about two-thirds of the championships. This edge also goes to North Carolina, with Roy Williams' storied career. Edge: NC.
Our research has shown that defense does indeed win championships. This is especially true in college basketball title games. Teams with the better FG% defense have won an overwhelming percentage of NCAA championship games. This edge goes to Villanova, with its .402 FG% defense versus NC's .413. Edge: Villanova.
Consistency, as a sports psychology factor, is typically more related to winning championships than "shinier" stats. In college basketball, the three-point shot has gained in importance over the years. Villanova has been shooting very well, and they take this factor as well, .359 to NC's .319 3PT%. Edge: Villanova.
Attention to the basics and fundamentals can be as important as skill and athleticism -- especially in close games. The team with a higher free-thrown percentage (FT%) has won an overwhelming percentage of championship games. Villanova takes this category, .782 to NC's .748. Edge: Villanova.
Summary: Leadership vs. "Game"
Interestingly enough, tonight's championship game will come down to NC's leadership versus Villanova's "game." That is, NC takes both leadership factors: on the court and behind the bench. Villanova takes each of the statistical game categories. This prompted us to take a look at "strength of schedule" -- which gives a very slight edge to NC. Still, with the quant fact sports psychology factors favoring Villanova 3-2, our official prediction will be on Villanova.
Carlton Chin, a graduate of MIT, is a portfolio strategist and fund manager -- and has worked on sports analytics with sports organizations. Jay Granat is a psychotherapist and founder of StayIntheZone.com. They are authors of “Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Method” and have previously been quoted by the Wall St. Journal, New York Times, and ESPN.