Playing home favorites in Summit League

By Greg Peterson  ( 

A big theme of the early part of the conference season in college basketball has been the success of home teams. Going into Tuesday night’s games, home teams had lost just twice in Big Ten games, once each by Nebraska and Northwestern.

Something similar is happening in the Summit League, with home court meaning a lot. Summit League play is to this point a small sample, so looking for the entire season, the conference is 51-13 straight up and 31-15 against the spread at home. Note there are more straight-up games since many teams play a home game or two against non-Division I teams, and those games do not get a spread.

If the sample is narrowed to when Summit teams are favored, the numbers balloon to 28-4 straight up and 24-8 against the spread. Considering that home teams were winning 74% of the time and covering 50.5% of spreads and that home favorites were covering at a 49.9% clip, this is a massive outlier.

One of the biggest reasons for the spike in value on Summit League home courts might be distance and location. Places like Brookings, S.D., Macomb, Ill., and Grand Forks, N.D., are remote places that require lots of time and effort to reach.

Another key is free throw shooting. Home teams always have an edge at the line since they are not faced with fans screaming and waving their arms. And this league has some of the best free throw shooting in the country, as six teams rank among the top 54 in free throw shooting percentage.

Free throw shooting percentage is magnified because many of these games have tight spreads. For the most part, Summit League teams are not laying big numbers, unlike teams from bigger conferences that often are laying north of 10 points. Other than North Dakota State laying 12.5 points to conference foe Western Illinois last week, only South Dakota State has laid 10 or more points in a home game this season.

With Denver being the only team that has lost a conference game on its home floor this season, the trend of home team domination has a legitimate chance of continuing until bookmakers adjust how they value these teams’ home advantage.

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