The Value of Home Court in College Basketball and Undefeated Home Teams
Conference play continues through February as top college basketball teams push towards conference titles and postseason positioning. Conference tournaments are three weeks away with major conferences starting their conference tournaments in just over a month. March Madness and the NCAA Tournament are part of the college basketball discussion daily moving forward, but plenty of other teams still pushing for a winning record and minor postseason tournament invitations and improved play down the seasons closing stretch.
The power of home court continues to play a pivotal role in a team's success. The leading online sportsbooks recognize this variable of home court when setting and adjusting the lines, point spreads and totals. Fifteen teams remain undefeated, which is lower than most seasons the first week of February, including last year when 21 teams were undefeated on Feb. 6. Look through the conference standings and you'll see a vast majority of teams with a .500 or better record at home. Winning on the conference road is as tough as ever, and a look at the major conferences and others of interest shows how much better teams perform at home with winning records most common.
ACC - Only Georgia Tech (6-7) is below .500 at home
Big 12 - Every team is .500 or better at home
Big East - Every team is greater than .500 at home
Big Ten - Just two teams are below .500 at home, and 11 teams have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament
Pac-12 - Every team is at least three games greater than .500 at home
SEC - Every team is greater than .500 at home
Other Conferences of Note:
AAC - Every team is .500 or better at home
A-10 - Just one team is below .500 at home
Colonial - Just two teams are below .500 at home
Conference USA - Just two teams are below .500 at home
Ivy- Every team is .500 or better at home
MAC - Every team is greater than .500 at home
Missouri Valley - Just one team is below .500 at home
Mountain West - Three teams are below .500 at home, and San Diego State is the only undefeated team overall in the country
Sun Belt - Just one team is below .500 at home
West Coast- Two teams are below .500 at home and Gonzaga is currently projected as a No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament
All six power conferences plus the American Athletic Conference (AAC) are projected to have at least four teams in the NCAA Tournament. Of the 87 schools and teams that make up those seven conferences, or 25% of the most watched and bet on teams in the country, just three of them have a losing home record. Two of those teams are in the Big Ten, and that conference is currently projected by ESPN Bracketology to send a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament. Yes, it’s tough to win on the road in college basketball.
In the Atlantic-10, Conference USA, Colonial, MAC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, and West Coast Conference, just 11 teams have losing records out of 81 teams making up those seven conferences.
Even in the smaller conference with less fans in attendance, home court plays an important role in a team's success.
While the oddsmaker factors home court into the point spread with the use of power ratings, there are teams who still perform much better on their home floor and exceed the linemakers expectations. Such is the case again this season as only three of the 15 teams with an undefeated home record have a losing point spread record in conference home games. Last season, just three of 21 teams that were undefeated at home through the first week of February had a losing point spread record in conference home games.
Rule changes in recent seasons, including the reduction to a 30-second shot clock, have provided an added benefit to the more athletic teams who get more possessions. Scoring has increased along with the number of 3-point attempts. So while there continues to be some inflated point spreads down the stretch for these power teams on their strong home courts, you'll still see some teams able to extend margins over inferior foes. Yet as can often be the case, those lines on home teams can also be a bit higher, even against stronger opponents.
While you must always factor in home court value, it is imperative to look at the point spread to understand and find value, while recognizing a team's motivation, and especially at this time of the season. Kenpom provides advanced stats and match-up information. Shooting, scoring, rebounding, assist/turnover ratio, pace of play, adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency numbers and scheduling strength and situations are all part of the handicapping and evaluation process.
So too is coaching, which is most important in college basketball. More coverage of teams performances along with other statistical parameters will follow to assist you down the stretch as you identify teams and match-ups of interest for more potential wagering winners. It's never easy, even when you have a solid team that is well coached, disciplined and plays strong defense. Such was the case Feb. 6 for Wichita State (17-5), who lost for just the second time at home this season, 80-79, to Cincinnati (15-7), who was just 2-6 on the road before pulling the upset and move into a first place tie at 8-2 with Houston in the American Athletic Conference.
The variance of 3-point shooting and an off night putting the ball in the basket can result in a loss at any time. Duke (19-3) struggled at Boston College earlier this week in a game where both teams started a combined 0-for-25 from the 3-point line before finishing 3-for-33, with Duke just 1-for-15 from long range.
Just four teams in the country are shooting better than 40% from the 3-point line - BYU, St. Mary's, South Dakota and Louisville. Those shooting stats and other miscellaneous offensive and defensive stats can be evaluated at KenPom with each teams rankings in various categories.
Supporting fans and a comfortable surrounding should only help the home team perform better with more energy and effort. Along with good coaching and preparation, players can become more consistent in their play at home along with their performance when having to take to the road in hostile environments. Once teams get to postseason play, you must factor in and handicap a team's home/road performance to deliver more point spread winners and improve their chances to survive and advance.
Each college basketball season there are approx. 10-15 teams that go undefeated at home for the entire season. Through games on February 6, that list is 15 teams. We could have less than 10 teams by season's end this year, but one-loss teams are definitely ones to watch as strong teams and I've added those teams below the chart. Note that Big 12 leaders Baylor and Kansas both have one home loss, and each team is currently projected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, according to Joe Lunardi's ESPN Bracketology. Along with the information above, the ability to understand scheduling and motivational situations will help you when playing on teams with both strong and weak home courts in the final month of the regular season.
You can bet on it.
|Team - Record||Conference||SU Home||Key games remaining|
|Auburn (20-2)||SEC||13-0||LSU, Alabama, at Kentucky|
|Dayton (20-2)||Atlantic 10||13-0||Rhode Island (2x), at VCU, Duquesne|
|Florida State (19-3)||ACC||12-0||at Duke, Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville|
|Gonzaga (24-1)||West Coast||15-0||at St. Mary's, at BYU|
|Liberty 22-3)||Atlantic Sun||13-0||North Florida, Stetson|
|Maryland (18-4)||Big Ten||13-0||at Illinois, Michigan State (2x)|
|North Carolina Central (10-12)||Mid Eastern Athletic||8-0||at NC A&T (2x)|
|Northern Iowa (20-3)||Missouri Valley||13-0||at Loyola Chicago, at Indiana State|
|Oregon (18-5)||Pac-12||12-0||Colorado, at Arizona, Stanford|
|Prairie View A&M (11-11)||Southwest Athletic||7-0||Texas Southern, Alcorn State|
|San Diego State (23-0)||Mountain West||13-0||Boise State, UNLV, Colorado State, at Nevada|
|Siena (10-10)||MAAC||9-0||Rider, at Quinnipiac, at Monmouth-NJ|
|South Dakota State (17-8)||Summit||12-0||Nebraska Omaha, South Dakota, at North Dakota State|
|West Virginia (18-4)||Big 12||14-0||Kansas, Baylor (2x), at Texas,|
|Yale (16-4)||Ivy||7-0||Harvard (2x), Princeton (2x)|
1-loss home teams through Feb. 6
Alcorn State, Ausin Peay, Baylor, Belmont, Bethune-Cookman, Bradley, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Colgate, East Tennessee State, Eastern Washington, Florida International, Furman, Georgia State, Harvard, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Monmouth-NJ, Montanta, New Mexico State, North Dakota, Oral Roberts, Rider, Rutgers, SMU, Southern, Stephen F. Austin, Tennessee State, Texas Southern, Villanova, Wofford
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay