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True home-court advantage in college basketball

By Steve Makinen  (Point Spread Weekly) 

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In doing my own oddsmaking, I find that one of the most important factors in analyzing college basketball teams’ strengths is determining how much home-court advantage to assign. Two ways to do this are with a standard assignment or with a team-specific home-court edge. I prefer the latter, as I believe specific performance trends warrant treating each team individually from a theoretical and numerical standpoint. After all, some environments are naturally tougher than others across the basketball landscape. I will share the process through which I determine home-court advantage points in college basketball. Next week I will share the true road-court points I assign, and then I will do the same for pro basketball.

Bettors almost have to do the team-specific method because many reasons determine why certain teams have more of a home-court advantage than others. Among these are crowd capacity and enthusiasm, the quality of the home team, the distractions to visiting teams and even the venue size. One thing is certain: No way is every team’s advantage the same. Judging home-court edges as equal across the board can lead to missed or, even worse, lost betting opportunities.

The subject of home-court advantage has been magnified this season with the incredible run by Big Ten teams in league play, and VSiN college basketball expert Greg Peterson has focused on this. I caught a segment with him and oddsmaker Vinny Magliulo last week, and it drove me to put this piece together. If you look at  the Big Ten, you will see that only two of the 14 teams have losing records against the spread in this study, Maryland and Northwestern.

To determine which teams hold the best true home-court advantage, I have taken game logs at home since the start of the 2017-18 season, or essentially the last 2 1/2 seasons, using only lined games. I compared teams’ average power ratings in those games with their opponents’ average power ratings, using my actual logged numbers during that span. This margin would be considered what they should have won or lost by on a neutral court, or the expected margin. I then compared this figure with the actual point differential in those games. Obviously, teams with a greater actual differential than expected differential played the best at home. For college teams with at least 10 home games in that span, the margins went as high as &plussign% 8.1 for Texas San Antonio to as low as -1.8 for Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. 

Of course, you would not want to assign a home-court edge of 8.1 points to UTSA, as that would cause some errors in your numbers. However, the Roadrunners might be worthy of your betting consideration when oddsmakers don’t give them the respect they perhaps deserve at home. Alternatively, Cal Poly could not be penalized when playing at home, but to give the full credit of 3.5 or more points would be too much.

I believe most bookmakers will assign an average of about 3.5 points to a home team. Coincidentally, my logged numbers actually produce that exact figure for nonconference games. Teams were expected to win by 5.4 points on average at home but were given an actual line of -8.9, an assigned edge of 3.5 points. However, in conference games, the number dips to -3.3, with a power rating difference of 0 and lines of -3.3. In the ratings I present in “Point Spread Weekly” each week, I do account for this 0.2 conference/nonconference variance.

Importantly, I don’t specifically assign the home-court ratings exactly with the order of the True Home Field Rating, as I also give strong consideration to the straight-up and ATS records as well as the perceived difficulty of playing at a particular venue. Otherwise, single games in which a team won or lost big can falsely affect the ratings. That said, Florida State, Purdue and Bradley command my highest numbers, while Fordham, Cal State Northridge and Portland are assigned the fewest.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the key points from the study. After that, you will see a chart for each conference showing the true home-court edges I have uncovered as well as their straight-up and against-the-spread records. 

College Home-Court Advantage Study Highlights

— The team with the highest true home-court advantage rating having played at least 10 lined games over the last 2 1/2 seasons is Texas San Antonio at &plussign% 8.1. UTSA would actually have been expected to lose its 27 home games in that span by 1.6 PPG if played on a neutral court yet is winning them by 6.5 PPG, producing an advantage of 8.1 points.

— Four prominent teams have lost just two home games over the last 2 1/2 seasons: Florida State and Gonzaga, with 36 wins each, and Cincinnati and Villanova, with 35 wins each. Of those, the Seminoles and the Bearcats boast the best True HC ratings.

— Bradley’s 26-9 ATS record during the time of this study is the nation’s best among teams that played more than 10 games. UC Davis at 15-6 ATS and South Dakota State at 23-10 ATS are the only other teams better than 70%.

— Colgate is a less prominent team that you might want to keep an eye on, going 11-1 SU and 8-4 ATS in home lined games since 2017.

College Home-Court Advantage Study Lowlights

— The team with the worst true home-court advantage rating with at least 10 lined games over the last 2 1/2 seasons is Cal Poly at -1.8. Since the average home-court advantage in college hoops is 3.5 points per game, a rating of -1.8 means Cal Poly is actually spotting teams over five points per game at home.

— SIU Edwardsville has the worst outright home record in recent seasons at just 5-22 SU and 9-17-1 ATS. VMI and the Citadel share 6-19 records.

— Cal State Northridge’s 7-20 ATS record at home during the 2 1/2 years of the study is the nation’s worst among teams that played more than 15 games. Fordham (11-25 ATS) and Missouri State (11-24 ATS) are the only other teams worse than 32%.

— Howard is a less prominent team you might want to start fading at home, as the Bison own a record of 1-9 SU and 2-7-1 ATS in home lined games since 2017.

See charts with this story in this week's Point Spread Weekly.

 

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