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Home Court Hoops: Part 1

   by Bryan Leonard - 12/20/2010

“We’ll get ‘em on our court.”
You’ll hear professional and college athletes say things like this all year, be it in basketball’s post or regular season. College basketball teams often play twice against conference opponents during the regular season, with each team splitting a game between their home court and the opponent’s. Other times, teams can meet on a neutral court during tournament play and sometimes teams meet a third time in February and March during tourney time.
What’s important to understand is that the site that a basketball game is played is extremely important, especially from a bettor’s point of view. Spend some time going through the records – straight up and against the spread – of your favorite college and pro hoops’ teams and you’ll be amazed at some of the differences.
Some teams will shoot lights out at home, averaging 78 points per game. Yet, the same players can turn into certified masons on the road averaging 59 points per game. It’s not uncommon to find college basketball teams with an overall record of 11-10. But if you dig deeper, you may find that team is 10-1 straight up at home, but 1-9 on the road. Some teams aren’t so extreme, but you’ll find many that are. Clearly, something (actually, a combination of many things) is taking place. For serious sports bettors, it’s important to identify these valuable wagering facets, apply meaning, and incorporate into your handicapping.
It’s not relegated to college hoops, either. Examine some of the home/road records of NBA teams over the years. One of the best examples I ever found was the Denver Nuggets in 2000-01. That season, the Nuggets were an average team with a 40-42 overall record. But going a step further and breaking it down, something remarkable takes shape: Denver had a winning spread record at home where they were 29-12 straight up, yet on the road, a completely different team showed up, where the Nuggets were 11-30 straight up and 16-25 against the spread! All of a sudden, that’s far from a near-.500 team, isn’t it? The Nuggets were one of the best teams in the NBA at home, and one of the worst on the road – both straight up and against the number!
Differences like this take place every basketball season, both in college and the pros. There are many reasons as to why this takes place. One is pride, which I mentioned at the beginning with the quote, “We’ll get ‘em on our court.” College basketball players at home have ten to fifteen thousand fans screaming behind them to play well, while booing the other team the entire game. In addition, professional basketball players know that at home the fans in the stands are paying their salaries, so it’s more likely pros will put forth a one-hundred percent effort to try and get a win for the home fans. It doesn’t make a lot of financial sense for players to give a lackadaisical effort and send the fans home unhappy, especially when fans are paying anywhere from $20-$200 for a ticket. That’s like someone buying a brand new car, then having it fall apart on the drive home from the dealership. That automobile company would lose its fan base – and its business – fast.
When teams go on the road they are not always inclined to give 100%, especially weak teams. Psychologically players can be thinking, “We’re not supposed to win here, so let’s just get this over with and head home.” This is why good coaches are so rare. Good ones have the capacity to motivate players to give it their all, whether they’re at home or not.

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