Stuckey: How to Treat Home-Court Advantage in College Basketball This Season
Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Oskar Palmquist
Another sport has started in the COVID-19 world, which means bettors are once again trying to figure out how to adjust home-court advantage without fans.
I personally think home-court is more important in college basketball than in any other sport.
For reference, I had the average home-court advantage in college hoops at right about 3.0 points last year in aggregate based on historical results and some manual adjustments.
Of course, that includes a wide range of different assigned values from a high of close to 5.0 for a school like Colorado (thanks in part to the altitude) and a low of approximately 1.5 points for schools like Navy and Canisius.
So, how much are the crowds worth in college basketball? It’s a good question.
I don’t know the full answer, but I’m confident crowds play a significant role if for no other reason than their influence over officiating — even if you don’t believe they have any influence on momentum and performance.
NFL Reference Points
To provide some additional context, we’ve seen home-field advantage in the NFL mean very little this year with partial crowds or empty stadiums. Home teams have gone 90-85-1 (51.4%) straight up, winning by an average margin of only 0.3 points per game.
From 2003 through last season, home teams had won 57% of their games by an average margin of 2.4 points per game, per our Bet Labs Database.
|Year||Winning%||Margin of Victory|
In general, home-field had been trending down in the NFL toward an average of 2.0 points anyway as teams become smarter about traveling and officials become less biased with challenges and reviews. I personally started the NFL season with the league-average home-field advantage at approximately 1.75 points, but that number has since dropped to 1.1 and will remain a work in progress.
In contrast, home-field hasn’t changed much at all in college football. Over the past 10 years, it’s been worth about 2.75 points on average, which is right at where it sits so far this year. But again, remember small samples.
Preliminary CBB Adjustment
I’ve personally cut my college basketball home-court advantage by 40% for each team to start, bringing the overall average down to 1.85 points across the board. Again, last year’s average was around 3.0 points.
But I dropped the higher home courts more than the smaller ones since those presumably have the biggest crowd impacts (ex. Duke). There will still be differences based on travel and elevation, but the average as of now is a tad below 2.0 points.
However, that’s very tentative and something that I’ll have to continuously monitor throughout the season. I’m also am fully aware that there will be a lot of noise in small sample sizes, so adjusting early on will be more art than science.
We don’t really have much data to go off of so far with so few games (most of which have occurred on neutral courts), so you might get different answers from different bettors on how they’re treating home-court advantage in college basketball.
I wish I knew the answer, but it’s something I will have to simply monitor and adjust almost on a weekly basis. I imagine we’ll get the most insight once we get into conference play where one doesn’t have to control for as many variables.
Although even in conference play, we are going to see more unique scheduling circumstances that we haven’t seen in the past. For example, the Horizon League conference schedule consists of nothing but games on back-to-back days against the same opponent either at home or on the road. That in of itself could provide unique opportunities for bettors, but that’s a conversation for 2021, which I can’t wait to get to.