CALGARY, Alta. — Home court, or home field, advantage in the post-season is a huge advantage in any sport.
Whether it’s hockey, baseball, basketball, or football, among others, playing at home in the playoffs is much easier than having to win on the road in front of a slew of opposing fans.
Through four games of the 2017 CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT, that has become very clear.
After Tuesday’s contests, home teams are a combined 3-1 so far in the first round. Two of the three wins came by sizable margins (nine and 19 points), while the one loss by a home team was decided by just two points.
While this trend bodes well for the rest of the home teams in the remaining games in the opening round, the luck hasn’t always been on the side of the hosts.
One would have to go back to the 2013 CIT to find the last time that home teams had a combined winning record in the first round. That year, host teams were a combined 12-4 in the opening round, and went 23-8 overall.
A road team won the 2013 CIT, as the East Carolina Pirates knocked off the Weber State Wildcats in the finale.
In each of the past three editions of the event, road teams have reigned supreme in the first round. In 2014, road teams earned a split in the first set of games, at 8-8.
Next year, they held a 9-7 advantage in first round contests. Then, last year, visitors picked up a total of seven wins in comparison to six losses. The 2016 CIT saw the field drop from 32 to 26 teams, which explains the odd number of game in the opening round.
The 2017 CIT has been a role reversal so far. Home teams have come out and played well in front of their home fans.
On Monday, in the second annual John McLendon Classic, the host Liberty Flames knocked off the Norfolk State Spartans to open the tournament, 73-64. Guard Ryan Kemrite scored a game-high 30 points to lead Liberty to their 13th home win of the year, and 20th victory overall.
Tuesday saw three games take place, and two more home teams picked up a victory while one put up a great fight down the stretch. Both the Campbell Camels and Samford Bulldogs picked up big home wins to extend their seasons, while the Jacksonville Dolphins fell in front of their home crowd despite a second half comeback.
In their 98-79 win over the Houston Baptist Huskies, the Camels got another big-time performance from Chris Clemons. Just over a week after tearing up the Big South tournament, leading Campbell to the finals in the process, Clemons poured in 39 points against the Huskies.
Samford was the other team to hold down their home court on Tuesday, as they overcame a slight one-point deficit at halftime to down the Canisius Golden Griffins, 78-74. Wyatt Walker finished the night with 23 points, on 10-of-14 shooting, and 13 rebounds.
Canisius was forced to play on the road due to the city of Buffalo playing host to the First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
The lone host to lose so far in the tournament was Jacksonville on Tuesday night. Despite leading by six points at the break, the Dolphins fell to the visiting Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash, 78-76. Jacksonville was down by as many as 10 points late in the second half, but their comeback efforts down the stretch fell a bit short.
Darien Fernandez scored 18 points to lead the Dolphins, who had four starters score in double-figures, while Andre Wolford scored a team-high 13 points off the bench for the Red Flash.
While the tournament may only be four games old, the trend seems to be heading in favour of the home side in the CIT. Heading into Wednesday’s action, the home teams will look to continue their dominance on their own courts.
All four hosts have winning records at home this season, while their opponents all possess road records that hover around the .500 mark.
The Fort Wayne Mastodons put their 13-3 home record on the line when play host to the Ball State Cardinals, who are just 7-6 away from Munice, IN this year.
Sitting at 10-4 at home, the UMBC Retrievers welcome the Fairfield Stags to town, who are 8-7 on the road. The Texas A&M-CC Islanders only have one blemish on their home record (13-1), and they will look to keep it that way when the Georgia State Panthers come to town with their 6-8 road record.
Arguably the most intriguing game on Wednesday night is the last one of the evening. Up in Moscow, Idaho, the Idaho Vandals will play host to a team that many are used to seeing in the NCAA Tournament.
For the first time in four years, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks didn’t represent the Southland Conference in the field of 68. After an expected down year, the Lumberjacks are in the CIT field, and playing on the road against the Vandals, who were 11-3 at home.
In comparison, the Lumberjacks were just 4-9 away from home.
When simply looking at home and away records, the odds are in favour of the home teams each time. However, anything can happen on the hardwood.
Stephen F. Austin knows what it takes to win in the post-season, which is a plus on their side. UMBC bowed out of the America East tournament early, and faltered down the stretch in the regular season, which could open the door for Fairfield.
As we’ve seen on a regular basis in 2016-17, anyone can win on any given night. With that said, the odds are in favour of the home teams in the CIT so far.
Again, the event is only two days, and four games, old. But, with a 3-1 record for home teams so far, the level of confidence for host institutions has to be a bit higher right now.
Home court advantage goes a long way, especially in March.
– T. Bennett