Monday, November 12, 2001

The CourtMaster on Home Court and Coaches vs. Cancer

Originally posted on

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is now in session! This week, I'm going to rule on home court advantage in the ACC and the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament.

Conventional wisdom tells us that Cameron Indoor Stadium is the toughest place to play in the ACC. I'm not a conventional kind of guy, so I beg to differ.

The biggest home court advantage in the ACC is enjoyed by?the Clemson Tigers at LittleJohn Coliseum. No, I'm not smoking the wacky weed or indulging in mushrooms. I actually have a sound basis for this statement.

First, let's define home court advantage. If it were stated in simple terms of overall won-lost record, Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium and North Carolina's Dean Dome would be the top two venues in recent years.

I think that definition is too narrow. To determine how much of an advantage a team gains from playing on their home court, the difference between their road and home record would be a truer test.

To analyze this, I went back 10 seasons and compiled each school's home and road record. I limited this to conference games to eliminate scheduling as a factor. For example, Maryland has won 77 straight non-conference home games dating back to 1989, but has only played 2 ranked teams during that streak. Clemson is also notorious for scheduling (but not always beating) low rated teams at home early in the season.

Here are the results of my analysis, showing each school's home conference record, road conference record, and difference in total wins.
Clemson 41-39, 13-67, +28
Virginia 51-29, 24-56, +27
NC State 36-44, 10-70, +26
Georgia Tech 49-31, 23-57, +26
Wake Forest 56-24, 34-46, +22
North Carolina 65-15, 47-33, +18
Maryland 53-27, 35-45, +18
Florida State 40-40, 26-54, +14
Duke 64-16, 53-27, +11

This approach obviously skews towards teams at the lower end of the standings. The top three schools have three of the four worst overall records in ACC play during the past decade. Only Florida State does not show a drastic improvement in their horrendous road record, no surprise for the school considered to have the worst fan support in the conference.

I was surprised to find that North Carolina had a better home record than Duke. After all, Carolina has often been accused of having "wine and cheese" crowds. Duke's "Cameron Crazies", on the other hand, are nationally known as an example of rabid fans. Even taking away 1994-95, the season Coach K was out (Carolina was 7-1 at home while Duke was 2-6) the Blue Devils have a very small advantage.

Oddly enough, Duke has a better ACC road record over the past three seasons than they do at home. They posted a 23-1 mark away from home during this time, including most of their ACC record 24 game road-winning streak while going 21-3 at home. Only two other schools had one season with more conference wins on the road than at home. Florida State in 1991-92 (their first season in the ACC) and Wake Forest in 1996-97 with both finishing 6-2 on the road and 5-3 at home.

The largest single season gap between home and away victories in the last decade is five. This has happened four times Clemson in 1995-96 (6-2 vs. 7-1) and 1998-99 (5-3 vs. 0-8), NC State in 1993-94 (5-3 vs. 0-8), and Virginia last season (7-1 vs. 2-6).

NC State is the only team to change home courts during this time. They moved into the ESA in 1999-2000, and have enjoyed a 7-game home court advantage in only two seasons (9-7 vs. 2-14), improving on their mark at Reynolds Coliseum.

In summary, I'm not tying to say that a team stands less chance of winning at Clemson then they do at Duke. Although Clemson is #1 in this analysis, their overall conference record at home is only 7th best.

What I will say, however, is that this supports the conventional wisdom that road wins are a precious commodity in the ACC, even against teams at the bottom of the standings.

I guess I'm a conventional kind of guy after all.


I was quite annoyed at some of the media coverage Maryland received during the Coaches for Cancer Tournament this week. A column from's Andy Katz was particularly aggravating. He wrote about how critical he felt Maryland's win over Temple Friday night was, indicating his doubts about the team's ability to bounce back from a 0-2 start.

Was he actually saying that the #2/3 ranked team in the nation could have had their season ruined before Thanksgiving? How ridiculous!

I've NEVER in over 30 years of following college basketball seen a team's season tarnished by anything that happened during the first two games unless there was a catastrophic injury. Part of Katz's point was to indicate how upset Coach Gary Williams was after the Terps' loss to Arizona. He should have been upset with that lackluster effort, and I find yelling and screaming as an appropriate action to wake his team up.

Second, where was Katz last February, when I joined the masses in burying Maryland after they lost at home to Florida State? Let's see, how did that wind up? Oh, that's right, all they did was make it to the FINAL FOUR! Too bad they could not handle adversity. With their inability to bounce back then, no wonder Katz was ready to write them off with a 0-2 record in November. Give me a break!

Thirdly, he wrote about how much better Temple's Coach John Cheney would handle adversity. Isn't he the coach who, despite the early morning practices Dick Vitale went on and on about, has a starting center, Ron Rollerson, who looks like he works out at the buffet table?

Isn't he a coach who, despite his election to the Hall of Fame this season, has NEVER
participated in a Final Four? If his credentials emphasize how much he has done with the talent at hand, why hasn't he been able to recruit players good enough to get over that hump? Wasn't that one of the main criticisms of Gary Williams prior to last season? Where is the respect for Williams?

Granted, there are serious issues Williams needs to address if the Terps are going to live up to the pre-season hype. In the past, he has shown the ability to do just that, both through actual crisis or ones the media attempts to manufacture.

That's what I think. Let me know what you think on the message boards or by e-mail at

Next week, I'll talk about what gives a program "elite" status, and which ones in the ACC qualify.
Until then, court is adjourned!


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