The narrative in college basketball this season has been teams defending their home floors. On Saturday alone, five ranked teams lost on the road to unranked teams.
What you do not hear as much about are the road teams in lesser conferences that are winning outright and covering. From Dec. 22-Jan. 20, away favorites went 177-147-10, according to Covers.com.
While the Power 5 conferences are seeing a lot of parity — highlighted by the Big Ten, where home teams entered 42-7 straight up in conference play and about 66% against the spread — most of these teams have been the favorites at home.
Typically, home-court advantage is worth three points, though some teams have such a distinct edge like Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse that it’s shaded a bit more. But this means it is a six-point sway away from one team’s home court to another, which means not many teams that are toward the top of their conferences have a chance to be home underdogs.
In the assumption that home court is worth three points, a five-point underdog in a true road game would actually be a one-point favorite at home.
You also see the worst of the worst teams bring this number down. For example, the Mountain West entered Tuesday’s action with conference teams going 7-18 against the spread as home underdogs. Sounds like the league has a bunch of really bad teams, but in reality it has one deadweight in Wyoming that is underachieving. Throw out the Cowboys and their 1-7 mark against the spread and it becomes 6-11 against the spread for home dogs, which is still pretty bad but closer to respectable.
And with many bad teams, fans are lacking because they don’t want to show up and watch a loss.
Certainly cases will exist in which good teams will be home underdogs when facing top-tier teams like Baylor or Duke. But a lot of these home dogs are cellar dwellers that are not selling out their gyms and are playing in conferences the mainstream fans hardly know exist.
Just because a trend is happening in big conferences does not mean it is occurring in all the conferences, and plenty of money can be made in conferences like the Southland, where home underdogs are 10-14 against the spread this season.