The first half of the Big Ten basketball season has had its share of predicted wins, nail-biting upsets, and table-turning injuries, among others. But there is one aspect of conference play that has remained relatively consistent this season: home court advantage.
After playing about 10 or so conference games, 12 of the 14 Big Ten teams have better home records. One outlier is Northwestern, whose only conference win came on the road against Rutgers. For the others, playing at home has proven to give teams a distinct advantage, especially in big time games.
Take our new friends from New Jersey, for example. Rutgers is a game ahead of Northwestern in the conference standings, yet the Scarlet Knights were somehow able to pull off a win against the powerhouse that is this season's Wisconsin Badgers. Granted, the Badgers' big man, Frank Kaminsky, sat out this game due to a concussion; however, it was still a major win for a team that continues to struggle in Big Ten play.
At the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois suffered its only home loss Jan. 18 to Indiana. This season, the injured Illini picked up big home wins against Maryland and Purdue, but was then hit with a tough loss to Minnesota on the road.
Both of Penn State's conference wins this season came at home. The Nittany Lions showed the importance of playing in State College during their matchups with Rutgers, losing to them on the road but topping the Scarlet Knights by 18 at home.
Minnesota and Nebraska have yet to win a game on the road, but the two teams only combine for three losses at home. Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue combine for only five home losses this season, yet all have .500 or below records on the road.
Three Big Ten teams remain undefeated at home: Indiana, Maryland and Wisconsin. Indiana and Maryland both have below .500 road records. The Hoosiers suffered tough losses at both Michigan State and Purdue; Maryland could have taken the win in Champaign; and, as mentioned before, Wisconsin lost a should-win game at Rutgers.
MGoBlog's Alex Cook has kept track of the result of the Big Ten games so far this year depending on their location and you can see how they play out below with green for a win and red for a loss. The chart is a little outdated, but still pretty insightful:
Starting to fill in even better. pic.twitter.com/C3jl9UnMqa— Alex Cook (@alexcook616) February 2, 2015
What does this tell us? Home teams will always have the advantage of playing in front of their home fans, in their own facility, with no travel time. This advantage can sway big conference games, as they have this season. It paves the way for underdogs to take games away from powerhouses. It allows for predictions to not be certain. It's what makes sports, sports.