Sports fans, athletes, and coaches widely consider home court advantage to play a big role in basketball games. A loud arena can feel like it’s closing in on the away team, making it impossible to build momentum. We see this effect in the NBA and National Collegiate Athletic Association, but how have the Varsity Blues basketball teams fared on the road versus at home? How do they stack up against the rest of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA)?
Across the OUA men’s league, the benefit of a strong home court advantage is clear. The Carleton Ravens, who regularly dominate the OUA, led the league again this year with a record of 20–4 — their 11–0 record at home was a major reason for their great record.
Other top teams like the Ottawa Gee Gees, the Windsor Lancers, and the Queen’s Gaels had nine wins at home this season. These teams saw major success, and their near perfect records at home were big reasons for that.
The best teams in the league generally have a strong home court advantage, which helps them rack up wins during the regular season. This allows them to play playoff games at home, making their home court advantage even more valuable. If the Blues want to elevate themselves into the upper echelon of the OUA teams, perhaps focusing on winning at home and improving their home court advantage is the place to start.
The Blues men’s team just finished a successful season where they made the first round of the playoffs and had a record of 13–10. This season they went 7–4 at home and 6–6 on the road — slightly better at home. However, this isn’t the stark difference that you might expect. It gives them a 0.571 win percentage at home which, compared to NBA teams, would have them with the 17th best home record — significantly below average.
Surprisingly, this is typical for the Blues who have never been a team with a strong home court advantage. In fact, the last time the Blues made it to 10 wins at home was during the 2008–2009 season! It’s possible that the lack of a definitive home court advantage holds the Blues back from becoming one of the elite teams in the OUA.
The Varsity Blues women’s team did get a significant statistical advantage from playing on their home court this season. With both home and away records of 2–9, this is the third season in which the team had the exact same record at home and away — the other two seasons were 2012–2013 and 2013–2014.
The effect of a home court advantage changed considerably over the last decades. In fact, the four seasons inclusively between 2008–2009 and 2011–2012 saw the Blues win an impressive 83 per cent (39–8) of their regular season home games compared to 50 per cent (24–24) of their away games.
It is unclear what is behind today’s home court indifference. Maybe it has something to do with the shift from playing at the Athletic Centre to the Goldring Centre in 2014. Or maybe the 2008–2012 fanbase brought a special energy that left when they graduated — in which, we need to bring that spirit back next year for the Blues.