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Home Is Sweet, Except When It’s Not

Home court advantage isn’t as great as you might think

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Duke
Jan 18, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Jordan Nwora (33) throws a pass against Duke Blue Devils forward Javin DeLaurier (12) during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Cardinals won 79-73.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no question teams and individuals derive an advantage from competing on their home turf. But that’s a generalization, and like all generalizations, including this one, the usefulness of the conclusion is limited, subject to exception. And, as we all know, the exception proves the rule.

Still, even in the wake of a 2019 baseball World Series in which every victory in the seven-game series was secured by the visiting team, we know home teams enjoy a palpable edge.

For instance, since the ACC’s inaugural 1954 season home teams have won 63.2 percent of the time, approaching two of every three occasions they take the court. Last season that advantage was among the slightest to date, with a .593 success rate among hosting teams.

In fact, the likelihood of home victory has been a lot less historically than we imagine. A false sense of certainty on this score built between 1988 and 2013, around a quarter-century during which ACC squads won at least 60 percent of their home league games all but twice (1993 and 1998).

Over the 34 preceding years, ACC home teams won at least 60 percent of their league games about six times in every 10 seasons (20 of 34, .588), with an all-time low of .527 in 1955.

More recently the home winning edge faded to under 60 percent in three of the past six seasons. This trend has almost entirely eluded notice because we cling doggedly to the belief the home team is favored.

Already this season, through games of Jan. 17 there’s only one club without a blemish at home and that’s Florida State at 3-0.

Since 2010, counting ties Virginia and Duke had the best home mark in ACC play six times in 10 years, with the ’20 season yet to be settled. Florida State was next with four, then North Carolina with three.

In all home competition, Duke fared best five times since 2010, UVa and FSU three each.

Six of 10 seasons in the past decade saw a pair of ACC squads go without a loss at home in conference competition, most recently in 2017. Half of those teams didn’t lose at all at home, inside or beyond the league. Four overall unblemished marks were amassed by Duke.

Best Home Record In ACC Play
(Calculated By Most Wins Versus Fewest Losses, Through 1-17-20)
Year ACC W/L Team All Home W/L
2020 3-0 FSU 10-0 FSU
2019 8-1 FSU, UVa 15-1 FSU, UVa
2018 8-1 C, D, UVa 16-1 UVa
2017 9-0 FSU, NC 18-0 FSU
2016 9-0 UM, UVa 15-0 UMiami
2015 8-1 D, UVa 15-1 D,UVa
2014 9-0 D, UVa 17-0 D
2013 9-0 D, UVa 16-0 D
2012 7-1 FSU, NC 17-1 NC
2011 8-0 D, NC 17-0 D
2010 8-0 D, Md 7-0 D