By Hank Duncan
Last week when the Indiana Hoosiers faced off against the North Carolina Tar Heels, Dick Vitale mentioned that Assembly provides the Hoosiers with one of the best home-court advantages in college basketball. The arena, full of its 17,000 fans and 8,000 students screaming their lungs out throughout the entire game, reached a peak of 98 decibels on the court. Hours after I came home from the game, my ears still rang from the constant piercing screams I heard at Assembly Hall.
Home-court advantage is a well-known concept by any sports fan. Naturally, a team plays better and generally wins more games at its home arena than away. When it comes to college basketball, home-court advantage continues to be prevalent in deciding outcomes of games. Out of the 351 teams in NCAA division one men’s basketball 348 teams boast an above .500 record at home since each team’s first game in its current stadium. To complement this stat, 146 teams win at least 70% of their games when playing at home.
Any sports betting site tries its best to predict the outcome of games correctly, which includes incorporating home-court advantage into the spread. If you ask an average person how much home-court advantage is worth, they will give a spread ranging from about two all the way to six. People know that there definitely is an advantage, but few know exactly how much the advantage is.
Calculating home court advantage is not an exact science and varies from team to team, but it gives a relative average of how much a team’s home arena carries them to victory.
The way most people calculate home-court advantage is to take a certain sample size of games and separate them into home and away. This sample size could include every game since the team started playing at this stadium, every game over a certain amount of time, or only in-conference games over a certain amount of time.
I prefer to only look at in-conference games because of the similar strength of schedules for both home and away games. For instance, Indiana plays five teams at home ranked #300 or worse. However, the Hoosiers only play one non-conference game on the road before beginning its Big Ten slate. Just looking at conference opponents provides consistency within the sample size.
To discover Indiana’s home court advantage, I looked at each conference game from the last five years (2011-2012 through 2015-2016).
After finding the margin of victory for each Big Ten game of those five seasons, I calculated the average margin of victory for both home and away games. For example, when IU played at Assembly Hall last season, they won by an average of about 16 points. Conversely, when IU played on the road last season, they only won by an average of 4.5 points.
After calculating each individual season’s margin of victories, I combined each season to create one average home margin of victory and one away margin of victory. These two numbers represent how much Indiana men’s basketball won by from 2011-2016. The home margin of victory is 8 while the away margin of victory is about -1. This means that IU usually won its home games by eight points while losing its away games by one point. These numbers make sense because, naturally, playing away from home is tougher than playing at home.
However, these margin of victories do not represent home court advantage. To find the true home court advantage (playing at home versus at a neutral stadium), we must find the average of the home and away margin of victories.
Indiana’s home court advantage from the last five seasons equals 3.67 points.
Of course, while the average home-court advantage for the Hoosiers is a little under four points, I’m sure Roy Williams and the North Carolina basketball team would say that advantage might be a bit more.