Road woes: Why is it so tough to win on the road in college basketball?
CLEMSON — Brad Brownell was watching television this week when he heard a broadcaster relate troubling news: 20 of the last 22 games this ACC season have been won by the home team.
Why was that news troubling? Six of Clemson’s final 10 games this season are on the road, including today’s noon game at Boston College (11-9, 1-6 ACC). If Clemson is to be relevant this March and be in contention for a postseason berth, the Tigers must pile up some wins away from the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum.
Clemson is ranked 126th in the RPI. The Tigers (12-8, 4-4) have not beaten a top 50 RPI team, and they are not currently listed in projections for the NIT, the No. 2 tournament after the NCAA tournament.
“If we are going to do well in terms of finishing in the upper half of the league and making a run at this thing, we are going to have to win some road games,” Brownell said. “We have a tough stretch. It’s very difficult to win on the road.”
Home-court advantage is not a myth in college basketball.
According to RPIratings.com, since 1996 Division I basketball teams have won 68.2 percent of their home games.
Why is it so difficult to win on the road?
The authors of “Scorecasting” postulated, through use of statistics, that home-court advantage stems from referee bias — whether conscious or subconscious — with home teams getting the close calls most of the time.
But Brownell thinks home-court advantage goes deeper than that in the college game.
“I think guys are more comfortable at home. I think they shoot better,” Brownell said. “I think the momentum of positive play is reinforced by the crowd. I think you have to be 10 points better on the road to win.
“I think it takes a very disciplined group to put all the distractions away. And when negative things happen, as they always do in games, to be able to bounce back from that and not let it affect the next play.”
Clemson is 2-3 on the road this season.
“It’s the atmosphere. We kind of come out slow when we are on the road,” Clemson guard Rod Hall said. “At home, we have the crowd to get us into the game. We dig a hole and have to come out fighting.”