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College Hoops Tourney Time

   by Bryan Leonard - 03/01/2007

College basketball tournament time gets going this week, the prelude to the crescendo that is March Madness. One thing to keep in mind is that some tournaments are played on neutral courts while some teams have home court. Since college basketball has one of the most extreme home/road dichotomies in all of sports, it’s essential to START with knowing this for every tourney game.

A perfect example to the importance of this is Michigan State. The Spartans are almost unbeatable at home at 19-1 SU, 11-4 against the spread. They rip opponents by a 69-53 average at home! On the road, however, you wouldn’t recognize this bunch. The Spartans are 1-6 straight up and 2-5 against the number on the road, getting beat by a 64-59 average. One other aspect to keep in mind with Michigan State is that they are tops defensively in the Big 10 and a strong 16-6 under the total.

However, this is a great team at home and a terrible team on the road. Go figure. That’s also common in college hoops. I used part of this when analyzing a game this weekend when BYU visited San Diego State. Like Michigan State, the BYU Cougars are almost unbeatable at home but struggle mightily away from home. They are now 18-45-2 ATS as a road underdog, and 19-51-2 ATS overall catching points. They are just 1-6 ATS their last 7 visits to San Diego State.

The Cougars entered the game at 21-6, winners of 8 straight games. But their last 3 road contests were against the lesser teams in the league in TCU, Wyoming and Utah. BYU is in very good shape for an at large bid to the big dance.

In their earlier 80-58 win over the Aztecs they shot 47.1% from 3-point land, and won the rebounding battle 43-28.

While they are a very good shooting team when on the road, they have actually been outrebounded on the season. San Diego State entered the game at a solid 19-8 overall and 12-2 at home this season. They have won 7 of their last 8 games as they are finally playing up to their potential. Their last two home games came against the other two conference leaders UNLV and Air Force, and the Aztecs won those games by margins of 15 and 21 points.

The Aztecs were a short favorite, yet lead from wire to wire, leading 43-25 at the half on the way to a double-digit cover. They had an 18-0 early run that carried SDSU to a 22-4 lead. There’s nothing like covering from wire to wire! BYU had 19 turnovers, which contributed to 20 points by the Aztecs. It’s common for teams to play their best in front of the home folks, and for visitors to wilt at some point.

Keep all of this in mind as tournament play gets going. The Ohio Valley and Horizon League tournaments start this week. The first round Horizon games are hosted by the team with the better records, but this weekend’s second round games are at the Nutter Center. Many tournaments work like this, so make sure you know which team has home court, which ones are on the road and which ones are at a neutral site. Other times, a team is at a site that is technically neutral, but is very close to where they play their home games, sometimes in the same city. Those teams can have an edge with more fans showing up, giving them a bit of a home court edge. And we all know home court can make ALL the difference in many college basketball battles!

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