Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bracket Lesson #2: Look At Road/Neutral Records

Road/neutral records are an important thing to look at, because you've got a lot of teams that are very dependent on their home crowds. If their home crowds carried them to some big upsets that got them into the Tournament then more power to them, and I hope to visit those arenas some day, but you don't want to be picking those teams to go far in a Tournament where they'll never have a home crowd.

One thing to always keep in mind is that you can't look at road records in a nutshell. You've got to compare to home records. For example, Binghamton went a very solid 9-6 in true road games... but they also went 11-2 in home games. They clearly just beat up on a weak schedule, and you wouldn't judge them as any kind of a road warrior team. Similarly, Pitt went 7-3 in true road games... but they also went 18-0 at home. They were just a really good team that was going to win most of their games in any arena anywhere. On the other hand, note that Michigan State and UConn both actually had better winning percentages in road games than home games (both went 9-1). That suggests that both teams had a little bit of a habit to get complacent at home, and that they focus more away from the distractions of home. That's encouraging when picking them in your bracket. On the other hand, look at a Dayton team that went 18-0 at home and 5-6 on the road, or a USC team that went 15-2 at home and 2-8 on the road. Those are very discouraging numbers for teams that won't be able to benefit from home crowds in the Tournament.

So what I've done is gone through all of the Tournament teams and picked out those that stuck out to me either by having really good road records relative to their home records, or the opposite. Here's what I came up with:

Likely to overachieve:
Michigan State
North Dakota State
West Virginia

Likely to underachieve:
Ohio State
Oklahoma State
Western Kentucky

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