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The Biggest Home Court Advantage in the Big Ten: 2/18 Advanced Stats Check-In

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It’s probably not who you’d expect.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

KenPom.com continues to add new features, which is great for those of us who write articles about college basketball stats.

Over the course of this season, I’ve discussed many if not most of the metrics that Mr. Pomeroy so graciously makes available. But there are a couple that we haven’t gotten to yet.

One is referee ratings. The idea is that the best refs get the biggest games, so KenPom looks at the average Thrill Score (which measures a game’s “watchability”) for the top 50 games each ref works.

There’s a problem with that. The biggest basketball fan I know insists that the process by which officials are assigned to games is so corrupt that being at the top of KenPom’s Ref Ratings is less an indication that a ref is good and more of an indication that a ref is crooked. I think he’s overselling his case, but probably not by as much as we’d all like to think. Either way, I’m not touching Ref Ratings with a ten-foot pole.

The other as-yet-undiscussed metric is Home Court Advantage.

Now, KenPom himself will tell you that these predictions are difficult to measure, noisy, and highly variable. He says:

It’s probably best to think of of home-court rankings in groups of three. Teams rated in the top-third probably have an above-average home-court advantage and teams in bottom-third probably have a below average home-court advantage.

Nobody in the Big Ten is in the bottom third, and most of the league is in the top third, which is consistent with the hypothesis that the Big Ten has the best basketball fans in the country.

But we already knew Big Ten fans rule. The question is which Big Ten fans rule more than others. So keeping all of the necessary caveats in mind, let’s count down the biggest home court advantages in the league, according to KenPom. (The number in parentheses is the national HCA ranking.)

14. Northwestern (216)

Yeah, this makes sense. The Wildcats are renovating Welsh-Ryan, so they have to play on DePaul’s home court this season. Now, Wintrust Arena is a shiny new facility, to be sure, but if you look at DePaul’s home court advantage, it’s No. 286, in the bottom third and worst in the Big East.

13. Illinois (195)

What’s wrong with the state of Illinois? Apart from the corruption, pension crisis, and awful highways, I mean. The State Farm Center is the lowest-ranked actual home court in the league. Something tells me it’d be higher if the Illini still had Chief.

12. Wisconsin (142)

Just a few years ago, everyone in the Big Ten would have told you the Kohl Center was the hardest place to win. This year, lots of teams are winning there. Record-wise, the worst team in the league to get a W in the Kohl Center this year is a group known as the Wisconsin Badgers.

11. Michigan (140)

The Crisler Center is the most average arena in the Big Ten. It’s not old like the Barn or shiny and corporate like Value City Arena. It’s not packed to the gills with loud students like Mackey Arena or a giant empty concert hall like the Bryce Jordan Center. I’m not surprised to see it this low on the list.

10. Minnesota (113)

How many basketball arenas from the 1920s are still around and in use? I only know of two: The Palestra and Williams Arena, more commonly known as The Barn. Both are on my list of places to see a game before I die. The main difference between the two is that Tom Izzo has an active winning streak in The Barn.

9. Ohio State (111)

Some programs have arenas that fit their culture perfectly. I don’t think there’s a better fit than Value City Arena. Ohio State is an athletic department that is huge, shiny, and loaded, and Value City Arena is all of those things. Ohio State is the largest school in the Big Ten, and Value City Arena is the largest gym. If you’re a Buckeye fan, it’s validation that your team deserves the best of everything. If you hate the Buckeyes, it’s validation that they’re a bunch of front-running bandwagon corporate shills.

8. Indiana (92)

Assembly Hall in the bottom half of the league? Surprising to some, but not to others. The place is an architectural disaster, both in terms of bad sight lines and actual physical safety. Whether these idiosyncrasies add to or detract from the gameday experience depends a lot on how a person feels about candy-striped pants.

7. Penn State (87)

And Penn State is in the top half! This is bizarro Indiana: instead of a weird building full of crazy fans, the Bryce Jordan Center is a nice building full of no fans. Playing at Penn State is like a band getting judged on the quality of their live show based on the sound check; it’s hard to give 100% when all you can see are empty seats.

6. Michigan State (73)

Michigan State fans are complaining that The Izzone isn’t what it once was, but the setup they have in the Breslin Center is still the gold standard against which all student sections should be judged. That said, if your home court advantage can’t beat Rutgers, is it really that impressive.

5. Rutgers (47)

Speaking of Spartans, here’s a little history lesson:

Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) was invading the Greek city-states one by one. He sent the following message to the rulers of Sparta:

You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.

The Spartan ephors again replied with a single word:

If.

For years I’ve heard Rutgers fans saying that if the RAC is full it’s one of the hardest places in the country to play. It’s always reminded me of that story.

4. Purdue (46)

Mackey Arena’s metal roof makes it one of the loudest venues in the country. The only thing capable of dampening the sound is the inevitable disappointment of the Boilermakers underachieving yet again.

3. Maryland (43)

In their ACC days, Maryland was known for having the worst fans in the country. It seems associating with their new Big Ten family has mellowed the Terrapins, and that bums me out. I mean, this is cool and all, but take some tips from your football team and up the classlessness a little.

2. Nebraska (40)

Nebraska is having a really good year. Even if they weren’t, their fans would pack the stands at Pinnacle Bank Arena for every single game. There isn’t a whole lot else to do in Nebraska. Spring football doesn’t start until April.

1. Iowa (13)

Iowa may be 3-13 in the Big Ten this year, but they have the best home court advantage in the league. In fact, their HCA is No. 13 in the country. But before Hawkeye fans start feeling too good about themselves, let’s take a look at who’s No. 1.

It’s Iowa State. Hilton Magic, baby.