KenPom Releases Home Court Advantage Metric, Iowa Ranks #24

By Matthew Lundeen on August 10, 2017 at 10:30 am
Kenpom created a new metric, and Iowa and Carver-Hawkeye Arena crack the Top 25.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports


Kenpom created a new metric, and Iowa and Carver-Hawkeye Arena crack the Top 25.

It’s been a long offseason for those of us itching for that first tipoff of the college basketball season. With football right around the corner, it's a pretty quiet period for Big Ten basketball right now. Outside of Iowa obliterating a so-called German "All-Star Team" and Nebrasketball picking up a recruit from Iceland who has “Thor” in his name twice, there really hasn't been a whole lot of news lately. Fortunately, stateside, Ken Pomeroy has graciously given us something to talk about. Yes, fresh out of his computer lab, he has a brand new metric called “home court advantage.”

Now, home court advantage might sound pretty straight forward since we all acknowledge that it exists on some level, but what exactly causes it and how big the effect really is isn’t so clear. Kenpom decided to run some correlations and he came up with some interesting observations. I’ll let you read the posts on your own (his blog is free to non-subscribers), but what I am sure most of you care about is that Iowa ranks #24 in the nation with an average home court advantage of 4 points. 

Now, there isn’t a huge range in home court advantage nationally. Air Force ranks #1 at 4.5 points of home court advantage per game, while Illinois falls near the middle at 3.1, and Canisius ranks #350 at 1.8. We are talking less than a three-point difference here between #1 and #350. And while that certainly makes a difference in close games, that’s still only an extra basket. And when you take a look at the Big Ten, the difference shrinks to less than a point between the top and the bottom.

Team Home court
1 Michigan State 4.0 #23
2 Iowa 4.0 #24
3 Nebraska 3.8 #45
4 Purdue 3.7 #54
5 Maryland 3.7 #57
6 Ohio State 3.7 #67
7 Rutgers 3.5 #99
8 Penn State 3.5 #104
9 Indiana 3.5 #110
10 Minnesota 3.3 #146
11 Michigan 3.3 #147
12 Wisconsin 3.3 #154
13 Illinois 3.1 #178
14 Northwestern 3.1 #188

Still, though, it’s fun to see Iowa rank 24th in the nation here, and second in the Big Ten, just slightly behind Michigan State and the Breslin Center. Even though Welsh-Ryan has been a house of horrors for Iowa more often than not lately, it still shouldn’t come as any surprise that Northwestern ranks last in the conference in home court advantage. After all, outside of the Ivy League, where else would you see something like this?

jNW Book Fan

Maybe more surprising is where Nebraska and Wisconsin fall on this list. Pinnacle Bank Arena doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing fans, but a visit to the Kohl Center usually does. Although, this is just a friendly reminder that the talent level of a team does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with their home court advantage. Wisconsin is probably consistently good both in Madison and away from it, while Nebraska is probably a little less bad in Lincoln. That said, Jordan Bohannon wasn't intimidated by the Kohl Center last time he visited.

Of course, Kenpom urges us to take these numbers with a large serving of salt. There is a lot of randomness in them, and well, I’ll just let him caution you about the pitfalls of using them as gospel:

I must warn you that any predictions of team-specific home-court advantage will be noisy. I mean, just look at the plot of predicted vs. actual HCA based on home-foul and home-scoring advantage. A lot of those points stray pretty far from the line of perfect predictions. And those are in-sample predictions. Any predictions for the next few years will undoubtedly be more noisy than that.

The result is that determining which team has the best home-court advantage is impossible with any degree of certainty. Even distinguishing between the tenth-best and 60th-best home-court advantage is on shaky ground. It’s probably best to think 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.

But even with all the disclaimers that this metric is far from perfect, with Iowa landing firmly inside the top third of the data at #24, it’s pretty safe to say that at the bare minimum Iowa has an above average home court advantage at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Go Iowa Basketball Awesome.

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