Is there really such a thing as a homecourt advantage?
According to Bleacher Report, when at home (between 2003-2011) compared to on the road, men’s college basketball teams decreased their turnovers by 3.1% per game, increased scoring by 3.4%, increased fast-break points by 12.7% and decreased fouls committed by 4.7%.
What explains the large disparity in home and away numbers?
Referee bias and the psychological impact of playing at home are two of the biggest factors.
Studies have shown that when a crowd is vocal, it impacts the way referees call a game. Albeit subconsciously, referees have historically favored home teams. Between 2003-2011, referees called an average of 22.15 fouls on away teams per game and only 21.13 fouls on home teams.
Darin White, executive director of the Samford University Center for Sports Analytics, accompanied by some of his students, decided to get to the bottom of this age-old question shared by sports fanatics for years.
Students Cooper Frazier, Amelia Leahy, A.J. Mcinnis, Charlie Newton and Clay Phillips, with the help of White, collected data from 19,285 Division I men’s basketball games in order to find an answer.
What they found is that the number of fouls called against the home team in games changed by a .06% decrease. The fouls called against the away team, however, had a significant drop in the absence of home fans.
During the 2020-2021 NCAA Division I regular season, analysis of the games displayed a 4.8% decline on fouls called against the visiting team. This was with the exclusion of neutral court, NCAA Tournament and Ivy League games. The decline of fouls called against the away team for the Southern Conference was even more than that of the D-I average, coming in at a 7.42% decline.
“Our findings suggest that fans have far more influence than previously believed and have the ability to impact the game in numerous positive ways for the home team,” White said. “According to a fellow in the Sports Analytics program at Samford, schools like Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, and New Mexico did not make it to the NCAA Tournament, serving as examples proving this theory even further.”
In addition to the way the referees are influenced by the crowd, the team draws much of its motivation from the fans as well.
Samford men’s basketball forward Logan Dye understands the impact of empty stands.
“I do know with less fans and the gym having a lot less energy to get the home team going, it was much easier for teams to hang around and feel that they were still in the game due to their own bench bringing nearly as much energy as the whole crowd,” Dye said.
Dye believes that getting players fired up is a very significant aspect of each and every contest.
“I think that’s a huge part of a team’s momentum and getting players fired up to play in front of other people who believe in them,” Dye said. “This encouragement really pushes the team to be the best that they can be.”
So, Bulldog fans, be sure to come out to the Pete Hanna Center this fall because your attendance makes all the difference.