Undefeated Home Teams Pushing for Conference Titles
As the calendar turns to February each college basketball season, teams make their push for conference titles, conference tournament championships and an NCAA Tournament bid. Home court continues to play a pivotal role in a team's success. While many teams at the top of the standings remain undefeated at home or have just one or two losses on their home court, the bottom teams remain competitive at home with a majority of them having a winning home record.
Every team in the rugged Big 12 has a winning home record, and all but one of them has at least 11 wins on their home court. That's remarkably strong. Other major conferences in which every team has a winning home record include the Big Ten, Missouri Valley and SEC.
All teams except for one in the American, ACC, Big East, Mountain West and Pac 12 have at least a .500 record at home. Even in the smaller conference with less fans in attendance, home court plays an important role in a team's success.
So as I review results and discuss the importance of home court in college basketball, understand why winning on the road can be so difficult, understand that only two TEAMS in all those conferences list above are undefeated on the road, and only six others have one road loss. We reference home/road dichotomy and how teams perform home and away for a reason. Understanding home court advantage and the situations surrounding the current contests is important in helping you isolate winners.
While the oddsmaker factors home court into the point spread, 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 one of the 13 teams with an undefeated home record have a losing point spread record in conference home games. And that team is perennial power Arizona (0-4-1), who is the only team on this year's list that was also on the undefeated home court list at the start of February last season.
Rule changes including the reduction to a 30-second shot clock last season has provided an added benefit to the more athletic teams who get more possessions. We've seen scoring increase 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, we continue to see many 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, as first place teams like Auburn, Nevada and Purdue suffered their first home loss of the season Feb. 7, and each team was laying at least 6' points to competitive and winning conference opponents. As an isolated and small sample, home teams are just 28-44 against the spread (ATS) the last four days, and even home underdogs are just 5-13 ATS. While you must always factor in home court value, it is imperative to look at the point spread and understand and find value while recognizing a team's motivation, and especially at this time of the season.
Understanding player strengths and match-ups, team chemistry, current form and statistical performance both home and away is part of breaking down a game. So too is scheduling and teams that are consistent and strong defending the basketball, as I provided a list of college basketball defensive dominators in a recent article. Coaching is most important in college basketball. Teaching fundamentals, discipline and defense could not be more paramount to an elite coach like No. 2 ranked Virginia's Tony Bennett, the best in the ACC who still seems to be overshadowed by the big 'brand' name coaches and teams at Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and previously Louisville, before the scandal. Virginia is one of those undefeated home teams below, and the Cavaliers are 7-1 on the road after winning and covering at Florida State Feb. 7. Virginia (23-1) is 12-0 in the ACC and coasting home to a conference regular season title more than three games in front of challengers Clemson and Duke. The Cavs continue to exceed the linemakers expectations as Virginia is now 16-4-1 ATS this season. Defense, discipline, determination. Not flashy or high scoring with highlights, just winning and covering the point spread consistently. Does anything matter more?
Supporting fans and a comfortable surrounding should only help the home team perform better. 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 their chances to survive and advance.
Know too that there are many teams that have losing records or weaker home courts in which you can support short road favorites if the situations and stats support a play against these teams. Many of these teams have less supporting fans in the stands as a losing season signifies. Finding teams that lack chemistry, coaches on the hot seat and play poorly on the defensive end are often ripe as potential 'towel tossers' down the closing stretch of the season. These teams know they will not achieve a winning record or get invited to a postseason party, and the poor performances will often be more prevalent than the few games with more energy and effort.
Each college basketball season there are approx. 10-15 teams that go undefeated at home for the entire season. As of February 8 that list is 16 teams after three more suffered their first home loss Feb. 7. Many of these teams will be over-valued at home the remainder of the season, but it's up to the handicapper and bettor to determine the value, match-ups, situations and stats before wagering blindly on these winning teams with stronger home courts, as 15 of these 16 teams have winning records against the spread (ATS) at home in conference play.
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. By following a team's roster, personnel and growth along with teams and coaches strengths and weaknesses, you should be able to isolate more winners. It's up to you the creative self-handicapper to find ways to use the power of these sites (think momentum, revenge, off a loss) to deliver more point spread winners.
Here is a list of the current 16 teams that remain undefeated on their home court through February 7. I've also noted 1-loss teams below the chart.
Note: Vermont, NC Ashville, NC AT&T and Wagner are all undefeated at home, but the regular season conference games are not lined on the betting board.
|Conf ATS Home
|UC Santa Barbara
|South Dakota St
In addition, the following teams have 1-home loss, and those in CAPS have lost since January Jan. 25. Many of these teams are in contention for their conference titles and both conference tournament and postseason playoff positioning.
Arkansas, AUBURN, Ball State, BRADLEY, Buffalo, Bucknell, Davidson, Duke, Eastern Washington, East Tennessee State, GEORGIA SOUTHERN, Georgia State, Gonzaga, Iona, IUPU-Fort Wayne, Loyola-Chicago, Marshall, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, MTSU, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, NEVADA, NC-Greensboro, Oklahoma, Purdue, Rider, St. Bonaventure, South Dakota, SMU, Tennessee Tech, Weber State, Wright State
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