The Close to Home Advantage in the NCAA Tournament
Posted by Andrew McKillop on March 7, 2011
It’s difficult winning the NCAA Tournament. A team must defeat six or even seven different teams to win the tournament. This is why analysts dig deep and look for any advantages schools might have. One of the most publicized advantages in the NCAA Tournament is when a school plays a tournament game close to home. But how much of an advantage is it really to play a tournament game close to home? I heard an analyst recently say that it’s better to play close to home as a #2 seed, than play far from home as a #1 seed. Is it really that much of an advantage to play close to home?
Since the first tournament back in 1940, teams that have won tournament games were playing on average 71.69 miles closer to home, than their opponent. That figure would show that there is a slight advantage to playing closer to home in the tournament. But it might also indicate that more favored teams (top seeds) get placed in brackets closer to home.
So I decided to breakdown the advantage by seed ranking.
Note: The NCAA started seeding teams in 1979.
|Seed||Type of Game||W||L||W Pct.||Difference|
|#1 Seed||Closest to Home||274||68||0.801||4.83%|
|#1 Seed||Furthest from Home||131||43||0.753|
|#2 Seed||Closest to Home||179||65||0.734||7.29%|
|#2 Seed||Furthest from Home||111||57||0.661|
|#3 Seed||Closest to Home||109||58||0.653||3.64%|
|#3 Seed||Furthest from Home||106||66||0.616|
|#4 Seed||Closest to Home||86||54||0.614||7.05%|
|#4 Seed||Furthest from Home||87||73||0.544|
|#5 Seed||Closest to Home||83||56||0.597||11.49%|
|#5 Seed||Furthest from Home||68||73||0.482|
|#6 Seed||Closest to Home||79||56||0.585||3.97%|
|#6 Seed||Furthest from Home||84||70||0.545|
|#7 Seed||Closest to Home||56||48||0.538||15.38%|
|#7 Seed||Furthest from Home||50||80||0.385|
|#8 Seed||Closest to Home||39||45||0.464||7.17%|
|#8 Seed||Furthest from Home||53||82||0.393|
|#9 Seed||Closest to Home||42||50||0.457||16.82%|
|#9 Seed||Furthest from Home||32||79||0.288|
|#10 Seed||Closest to Home||42||57||0.424||5.26%|
|#10 Seed||Furthest from Home||42||71||0.372|
|#11 Seed||Closest to Home||26||63||0.292||-4.83%|
|#11 Seed||Furthest from Home||32||62||0.340|
|#12 Seed||Closest to Home||34||54||0.386||10.20%|
|#12 Seed||Furthest from Home||31||78||0.284|
|#13 Seed||Closest to Home||15||52||0.224||4.93%|
|#13 Seed||Furthest from Home||11||52||0.175|
|#14 Seed||Closest to Home||8||51||0.136||-2.31%|
|#14 Seed||Furthest from Home||10||53||0.159|
|#15 Seed||Closest to Home||3||40||0.070||5.44%|
|#15 Seed||Regular Record||1||64||0.015|
*- A #16 seed has never won an NCAA Tournament game, therefore I didn’t include #16 seeds in the study. However the team closest to home in the play-in game is 6-4.
As you can see every seed ranking but two (#11, #14), all show an advantage to the team playing closer to home. It’s clear that there is an advantage to playing a tournament game closer to home. Now I’m interested in determining how much of an advantage it can be.
Listed below is a chart breaking down the mile advantage teams had in tournament games, and how they fared with such an advantage.
|Advantage by Miles||W||L||W Pct.|
|2000+ Mile Difference||22||10||0.688|
|1500-1999 Mile Difference||84||56||0.600|
|1000-1499 Mile Difference||160||111||0.590|
|750-999 Mile Difference||92||107||0.462|
|500-749 Mile Difference||233||160||0.593|
|250-499 Mile Difference||416||335||0.554|
|100-249 Mile Difference||297||281||0.514|
|50-99 Mile Difference||125||103||0.548|
|0-49 Mile Difference||124||109||0.532|
For the most part the greater the mile advantage, the greater advantage of winning. Although it’s an anomaly that teams with a 500-749 mile advantage, actually have a losing record.
In conclusion I feel confident in saying that teams do get an advantage from playing a tournament game close to home.
How Data Was Compiled:
Using the NCAA Tournament Database provided by HoopsTournament.com, and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names National File, I matched up the provided city names, with their geographic coordinates. From there I used the following Microsoft Excel formula to calculate the distance between the coordinates.