January 26, 2010

Top 10 surprising home-court advantages

Most fans know it's tough for opponents to play at Duke or Kansas. Some may think it's tough to play at Syracuse's Carrier Dome or Kentucky's Rupp Arena.

But this list of home-court advantages doesn't include those programs. Instead, this is a look at 10 surprising home-court advantages. For the most part, these are teams who are exceptionally good at home and average just about everywhere else. (Read: These aren't simply elite-level teams.)

By no means is this a complete list of underappreciated home-court advantages. These are just 10 teams who thrive at home for one reason or another.

A major thank you goes to Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com for his home-court statistics.

Here are the 10 surprising home-court advantages.

Creighton: At 10-10, the Bluejays are in danger of falling short of 20 wins for the first time since 1997-98. But their lackluster record this season hasn't carried over to their performance at the off-campus Qwest Center. The Bluejays are 9-1 at home, with the only loss coming to Missouri Valley Conference leader Northern Iowa. Since the Qwest Center opened in downtown Omaha before the 2003-04 season, Creighton is 93-17 there, compared to 37-44 on the road.

Dayton: The home of the play-in game of the NCAA tournament also is the home of one of the nation's longest home winning streaks. The Flyers have won 30 in a row at home, trailing just Kansas (54), Siena (32) and Missouri (31) for the longest home winning streak in the country. George Washington coach Karl Hobbs summed up the feelings of most of Dayton's opponents at UD Arena to the Dayton Daily News earlier this week: "Are you kidding me? Who likes playing in this arena that doesn't have on a Dayton uniform? Let me know when you find somebody who tells you 'yes.' "

Lipscomb: Lipscomb, a mid-level Atlantic Sun team, has an exceptional record at Allen Arena - the smallest venue (5,028) on our list by a wide margin. The Bisons are 43-10 in A-Sun home games in the past five seasons but just 21-30 on the road. Lipscomb has the best home record in the conference in that span.

New Mexico: We're probably stretching the "underrated" tag by placing New Mexico on this list. We listed "The Pit" for the casual fans whose basketball interests don't stretch west of the Mississippi. Basketball aficionados know better: This arena is widely known as one of the toughest venues in the sport. The Pit literally is a pit, as fans enter at street level before walking 37 feet underground. The crowd is close to the action, loud and just plain nasty. The Lobos are 87-13 at home in the past five seasons and had a 19-game home wining streak snapped Jan. 9.

Notre Dame: Among the many reasons the Big East is perhaps the nation's toughest conference are the trips opponents have to take to the Joyce Center. The Irish have won just one NCAA tournament game in the past four seasons, but they have been nearly unbeatable in South Bend. Luke Harangody is 26-4 (.866) at home in Big East games in his career but only 11-18 (.379) on the road. The Irish had won 45 consecutive home games until a loss to Connecticut on Jan. 24, 2009. ND has the fourth-best home-court winning percentage in the Big East over the past five seasons.

Home-court disadvantages?
With most major-conference teams padding their schedules with easy home wins early in the season, it's a true feat for a "Big Six" team to lose three out of 10 home games in a given season. Here are the 10 worst home-court winning percentages for high-major teams from the start of the 2005-06 season through Jan. 19 of this season.
Team Record Pct.
Oregon State41-40.506
St. John's64-40.615
Penn State59-34.634
Seton Hall60-31.659
Texas A&M: The Aggies want fans to believe Kyle Field, their football stadium, is the best home-field advantage in college sports. It's not even the best home advantage in College Station. Move over, 12th Man; make room for the Sixth Man. Texas A&M basketball is 94-11 (.895) at Reed Arena since the beginning of 2005-06; in that same span, A&M football is 26-14 (.650) at home.

UAB: UAB is 17-2 overall this season and is hoping to end Memphis' reign atop the Conference USA standings. Part of the reason UAB is a threat to win the league is its impressive home record. Memphis is the only team in the past three seasons to beat UAB at Bartow Arena. This season, the Blazers have downed Butler and Cincinnati there. UAB is 69-10 at home since the start of the 2005-06 season.

Utah State: Kansas has a 54-game home winning streak, but the Jayhawks still have only the second-best home-court winning percentage in the nation since 2005-06. The best belongs to Utah State, which is 80-5 in the past five seasons at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum; that's a winning percentage of 94.1 percent. Utah State has won 18 consecutive WAC games at home and had a 37-game overall home winning streak snapped by Saint Mary's earlier this season.

Vanderbilt: "Memorial Magic" isn't a myth. The Commodores' home court is one of the sport's oddities: The benches are situated along the baselines, and the front rows of the stands are lower than the playing surface. The combination makes for a disorienting experience for opponents. The Commodores have the third-best home winning percentage in the SEC over the past five seasons, better than Kentucky, Mississippi State and LSU.

Washington: The Huskies own the best home-court winning percentage in the Pac-10 over the past five seasons. UCLA went to three consecutive Final Fours in that span, but Washington's Bank of America Arena was the Pac-10's most difficult venue, at least according to the numbers. Washington is 89-12 at home, while UCLA is 84-15 in that span. In the past two seasons, Washington is 30-2 at home.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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