Thursday, December 26, 2013

Homecourt advantage and CPC

Been thinking of posting this feature for a while, and since UTA will go a couple of weeks between events, I figured now is as good a time as any.

One consistent theme in sports is home advantage. Whether the phrase contains field, court, track or whatever else, the idea is a team gets a boost being at home than if they played in the other team's home. A cursory look at the numbers for College Park Center suggests otherwise.

Since CPC opened in February of 2012, the men's basketball team is 15-9 (.625) at home. The women's team is 5-19 (.208). The volleyball team is 15-17 (.469). A little more context is in order to get a better grasp.

In 2011/12 the men's team won a school record 24 games against nine losses. They were 8-1 at Texas Hall for a total of 12-1 at home. Those numbers mesh up and seem consistent with a better performance on the home floor. The next year though, things get a little more jumbled.

At 19-14, the 2012/13 squad had success, but were only 7-8 at CPC. They were 10-5 on the road and 2-1 in neutral settings. Interestingly, they lost to Idaho and Seattle at home, but beat those two at their respective arenas. They beat UTSA, Texas State, San Jose State, Utah State and UT Pan American - this wasn't a conference game, but was still a home-and-home in the same season - both at home and on the road. They lost to Denver and Louisiana Tech on both courts. Only New Mexico State was a home win and road loss. How last year's team did so much better on the road than at home is still unknown to me.

This year they are 4-1 at home and 1-6 away. But of those four wins, only two are against peer-level, DI competition. It is still a bit to early to tell. I'd like to think that if we played UT-Austin, Oklahoma U, Robert Morris or Eastern Michigan at CPC we'd win what were close road games, but we did lose to Cleveland State in an early-season tilt in Arlington. Given what we saw last year, that isn't a gimme.

The women's team also needs some context in looking at their losses. The main thing is as bad as their record is a CPC, it has been roughly the same overall. In 2011/12, the team was 1-4 (.200) at CPC, 2-8 (.200) at Texas Hall and 3-11 (.214) in road and neutral games. Their 6-23 (.207) record meant they had no real advantage anywhere.

2012/13 wasn't much different. 3-11 (.214) at home, 4-11 (.267) on the road and 0-1 (.000) at neutral sites is pretty even. In both years, a very slight edge goes to playing on the road. One year, the slight edge can be ignored as falling within the Bell Curve. Two years in a row raises an eyebrow. Any more than that and there starts to be a pattern. They lost to Texas State at home, but beat them in San Marcos. They did have a home win against Idaho versus a road loss. Unlike the Bobcats, the Idaho team actually had a winning record overall, so that was the only sign that the women's basketball team has given that they are better at CPC than elsewhere.

With a bit more than 1/3 of the season in the books, this year's team is 1-4 (.200) at home and 0-6 (.000) on the road. In short, the women's team playing at CPC just haven't been very good overall, so finding any pattern may be tough. Looking for a winning record at home just isn't going to happen. However, I do find it a bit telling that in both completed years, the Mavs had a better winning percentage as visitors than when playing at CPC.

The volleyball team follows the more conventional patterns. They have only played two seasons at CPC. In 2012, they were 6-11 (.353) at home, 2-9 (.182) on the road and 0-3 (.000) on a neutral court. Those are numbers that reflect some conventional sports thinking, a better home winning percentage than elsewhere, this one by almost .200 percentage points.

This year, they were 9-6 (.600) at CPC, 7-6 on the road (.538) and 3-3 (.500) at neutral sites ( lists the SBC tourney match against Troy as a neutral match, but it was played at the Trojans home and the crowd reflected that, so I consider it a road match). Those numbers also reflect conventional thinking. However, there were three teams, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Little Rock and Georgia State, where the Mavs beat the team at their place, but the opponent won at CPC. Georgia State didn't makes the conference tournament and stAte finished in seventh place, several places below the Mavs. Those are matches they should win regardless. The matches against Texas State, South Alabama and Troy, where home wins and road losses. They did also beat Troy at their place in the conference tourney, so were 2-1 on the year against them.

Bottom line is that it is too early to tell whether CPC offers a home arena advantage or not yet. The statistical sample is still just way too small. In the case of the two basketball teams, either the winning percentage is the same as on the road or a bit worse. In volleyball, it is quite a bit better.

In the end, I think the big thing that makes for an advantage playing at home is the interest level the crowd maintains. UTA's student and alumni community is still too inconsistent in attending games. When they draw well, the team feeds off it and does well too. Volleyball was in the top third in attendance average in the SBC. They also had a good home winning percentage. When it comes to basketball, UTA hasn't been in the top half of either the Western Athletic Conference or Sun Belt so far. UTA would be in the Southland, and was in CPC's debut year. But since that conference really cares about 1-AA football first and give scraps to basketball, it really isn't much of an accomplishment. Only Lamar draws above 2,000 on average. It does mean UTA has a bigger and more raucous crowd than our peers, which should support the idea of winning at home more than on the road.

If College Park Center would consistently get 2,000 or more, even during winter-break games, then I think the winning percentage climbs for the basketball teams. Until then, CPC is a beautiful arena that under-performs when it comes to providing a home court advantage.

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