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A study suggests Minnesota has Big Ten’s best student section

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Considering how often we hear someone say that a raucous student section can impact a college basketball game in the home team's favor, it's amazing it's taken this long for anyone to investigate whether that's true or not.

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Corey Schmidt of the newly created blog Halcyon Hoops attempted to study the impact of Big Ten student sections by analyzing how each has affected opposing free throw shooters the past two seasons. His chosen method was to compare a visiting team's free throw percentage in the first half and second half of games because road teams shoot their free throws toward the student section after halftime at every Big Ten school.

Curiously, the results show that visiting teams hit 2.6 percent more of their free throws in the second half than they do in the first.

In only three Big Ten arenas did facing the student section adversely impact visiting free throw shooters: Minnesota (minus 4.7 percent), Illinois (minus 3.7 percent) and Indiana (minus 3.4 percent). Conversely, visiting free throw shooters actually shot 2.8 percent better in the second halves at Michigan State, 4.8 percent better at Wisconsin and 10.5 percent better at Purdue, schools with three of the league's better student sections.

Schmidt acknowledges it casts doubt on his study that Purdue's Paint Crew is among the least impactful student sections in the league, which is especially hard to believe after watching them serenade Jared Sullinger with "Party in the USA" last year. Nonetheless, he does offer a credible explanation for why free throw percentage is higher in the second half.

According to Schmidt's research, twice as many free throws were attempted in the second halves of Big Ten games the past two seasons than the first halves. It's logical that players would grow more comfortable at the foul line the more times they shoot. Furthermore, the players fouled to extend a game in the closing seconds are often that team's best free throw shooters.

If Schmidt's method of analysis has validity, one thing is clear: Students at Minnesota and Illinois should keep doing whatever they're doing when visiting players are at the foul line and students from Iowa and Purdue might want to mix it up.

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