A story by Darren Everson in today's Wall Street Journal reports the winning percentage for road teams in major men's college basketball is .340.
Visiting teams manage to win more frequently in the dozens of sports leagues included in Everson's analysis, from the four major American bodies, to English and Argentine soccer associations, to Japanese and Dominican winter baseball. It's this statistical point which represents the crux of the author's argument: that winning on the road in men's college hoops is the most difficult feat in team sports.
There is nothing tougher in team sports than what 42 schools in NCAA's Division I will try, mostly in vain, to do tonight: Put a dozen skinny kids into an opponent's gym and beat them at basketball. And this season so far, nobody is immune from the danger. In each of the past five weeks, a top-10 team in the Associated Press poll has lost on the road to an unranked one.
As the final weekend of the regular season approaches, these road games become more significant and more treacherous. Teams like Florida, Maryland and Michigan will have to win road games to have any chance of earning berths in the NCAA tournament. They'll have to do it in front of fans spinning pinwheels, wearing gorilla suits, dancing around in Speedos and displaying unflattering photographs of their family members. "It's always been this way and it always will be," says Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. "Only the top, top teams in the country can win on the road."
Why college hoops? Everson does his best to separate the myths (unfamiliar sightlines for shooters) from the realities ("debatable sanity" of hometown supporters) -- but offers no quantifiable arguments beyond the initial comparison of road winning percentage.
So what do you think? Do you believe it's harder for a college basketball team to win on the road compared to, say, an NFL team or an Argentine soccer club? Or are the numbers simply skewed in college hoops because of practices like "buy games," where high-profile schools pay for weak opponents to come to their gym early in the season for ritual slaughters?
The Toughest Place to Win in Sports [The Wall Street Journal]