March 14, 2013
Multiple factors make for a homecourt advantage. The familiar routines of game preparation. The favorable "home" whistles from officials. The feel of a supportive crowd that can carry a team emotionally at times.
At the SEC tournament, Kentucky won't have the first one. It might have the second. It definitely has the third.
Blue has already dominated Nashville, even without UK scheduled to play until Friday. And it's pretty much a tradition at this point that Kentucky fans will have the largest segment of the fan base in attendance.
Which, if the coloration of the crowd and the fervor of the cheers matters to this team's performance, could be a huge difference -- because Kentucky has been a much better team at home than it has on the road this season. They're 8-1 at home in SEC play and 4-5 on the road.
Looking further, their offensive productions falls off a cliff while their defensive production takes a slide back when playing on the road:
At home, Kentucky has scored 680 points in 597 possessions (1.14 points per possession) and allowed 600 (1.01). In a normal-paced Wildcats game of 68 possessions, that's an 8.8 points-per-game margin.
On the road, Kentucky has scored 581 points in 593 possessions (0.98) and allowed 614 (1.04). That's a minus-4.1 points-per-game margin.
So UK has been almost 13 points better in Rupp Arena than on the road. That's not much different from the rest of the SEC, which has 47 wins in 157 tries (29.9 percent) for the entire season.
So how much does a neutral-court setting have a "home" or "away" feel for teams? That's almost impossible to say, but also one of the reasons why the SEC Tournament will be so fascinating. Multiple teams (Arkansas, Missouri, and, yes, Kentucky) play drastically better at home than on the road. Which category does a neutral-site game lean toward?
If the crowd has anything to do with it, Kentucky will be more on the "home" side.
"You feel you're playing them on a home court. You feel they've -- a lot of times you feel it's just Rupp Arena transferred to a different city. You have to admire the way their fans support and travel and do those things."
And, for them, that's usually meant the winning side.