Rowdy student-fan sections instrumental to Big East home-court advantage

(Creds: Stadium Journey)

Seton Hall basketball annual blue out game is coming up Sunday, February 23 against St. John’s. Typically this is one of if not the loudest, most looked forward to games on the schedule. This year is no different with Seton Hall coming in at first in Big East play and currently ranked #10 in the country. This year Prudential Center has been known for having some of the best crowds in the country and even showed up at Villanova. Assistant Coach Grant Billmeier tweeted how thankful he was that Seton Hall fans made the trip down I-95 to witness history. For the first time since 1994, Seton Hall defeated Villanova on the road with an electric crowd. Crowd noise is a key component of a team’s home-field advantage, and on Saturday it seemed as though Villanova was the away team. 

Seton Hall’s student/fans traditions are something that this school and team hold dearly. The men’s basketball team enters “the Rock” to the theme song of the Pirates of Carribean. This act alone is one to get everyone hyped and ready to see the players. Next up, we have the audience standing until one of our players makes a home-made basket. Not only is the next one, one of our traditions, but it can be considered a stand alone basketball tradition: raising our hands for a foul shot. This act represents the faith the audience puts into the players. One of the last few traditions that is brought to every game is seeing the alma mater after the games. This is not only for the team and the school but for the alma mater themselves. They are brought back to a time when they lived their best lives, it is an extremely sentimental moment for them and the school. These traditions are what makes the team in a way. It makes people want to see and participate within the game and that is something that can never be taken away

As far as fans go, the BIG East may arguable just be one of the best conferences in college basketball. From the packed stadiums, to the fan traditions, to the loud chants and fight songs, it doesn’t get much better than that. One of the stadiums that have the loudest fans is Hinkle Fieldhouse, which is home to the Butler University Bulldogs. According to Bleacher Report, the fans are loud, rowdy, and boisterous and can be heard from blocks away. Regardless of the outcome of the games, the fans are said to be very loyal and respectful to opponents. Hinkle Fieldhouse is listed among the best places to watch a college basketball game as well as a bucket list for fans of all ages. Georgetown University fans always find a way to pack the stands at the Verizon Center, and although the crowd may not turn out for the small non-conference games, they certainly can show out for the conference games. Their 2018 home attendance was 7,537 and in 2019 it was 7,212. Creighton University has been a basketball powerhouse in the Midwest for decades. Their fans have had plenty of memorable moments to cheer for inside of CenturyLink Center. One of the traditions at Creighton is called the Bluejay Birdcage. It is an organization where its members promote student involvement at its games. Its 2018 home attendance was 17,000, falling to 15,980 in 2019. Perhaps the birdcage needs more birds. The Pavilion is a small but treacherous 6500 seater stadium that sits in Philadelphia and houses Villanova University men’s basketball team. Few teams are used to playing in small stadiums which is why Villanova has the advantage while playing at home. Its average home attendance in 2018 was 11,028 and in 2019 9,053. Xavier University was always one of the best teams when they were in the Atlantic 10 and their crowds were always one of the best. That didn’t seem to be a problem once they moved to the BIG East because they still carry one of the best crowds, and have an average fan attendance of more than 10k. In 2018 that number was 10,475, and in 2019 it was 10,034. Marquette has been one of the most impressive thus far as far as numbers in selling out arenas. In 2018 the average fan attendance at BMO Harris Bradley Center was 12,323, and in 2019 jumped to 15,611. Providence University has a way to get the fans ready for basketball season with a tradition they call Late Night Madness which is a concert they have that featured guests such as Lil Wayne and Ludacris in the past years. Their average fan attendance in 2018 was 9,547, and in 2019 it was 9,542. Madison Square Garden also packs really well when fans come out to support St. Johns. In 2018 they accounted for 9,134 fans, and in 2019 they accounted for 9,798.

Is there a such thing as home-court advantage?

You hear a lot in sports about how much better it is to play in front of your home crowd. Being able to have the fans on your side, not having to worry about getting heckled while shooting a free throw, and avoiding long trips to different arenas all sounds amazing, but do the numbers back up the idea that playing at home is better?

For teams in the Big East, they rather enjoy a familiar environment before game day instead of having to take a bus or plane to travel days before. The two teams in the conference that have dominated the NCAA over the last five year have been Villanova and Xavier. Those two teams have over 70 wins from 2014-2019 on their home floor with a win percentage of 87 and 83 respectively. In that same span, every team in the Big East has won at least 50% of their games when playing at home.

Traveling is a different story for the teams in the Big East. Villanova leads the charge with a road percentage of 73 following Xavier who only won 53 percent of their games when traveling. They are also the only two teams with a win percentage over 50. On average, teams in the Big East see an increase of 30 percent when playing at home versus playing on the road.

Team Overall Home Record Win % Overall Road Record Win% Difference in %
Villanova 72-11 87% 43-16 73% 14%
Xavier 70-14 83% 31-28 53% 31%
Butler 65-16 80% 24-30 44% 36%
Seton Hall 60-17 78% 22-33 40% 38%
Providence 66-22 75% 25-30 46% 30%
Creighton 65-25 72% 22-37 37% 35%
Marquette 66-28 70% 21-29 42% 28%
St. Johns 57-32 64% 14-42 25% 39%
Georgetown 55-33 63% 21-33 39% 24%
DePaul 44-43 51% 14-45 24% 27%
      Average % Difference 30%

When it comes to conference play, however, there is still an advantage playing at home, but not as great. The average difference in win percentage at home and on the road is 16 percent for league games in the Big East. The greatest difference comes from Seton Hall, who has a win percentage of 67 in New Jersey but only a 38 when on the road in conference games.

For comparison, we looked at the Big Ten, a conference who led the nation in NCAA tournament bids in 2019. Looking at the records of the 14 teams that make up the conference, the discrepancy between their home and away losses is greater than the Big East. Where in the Big East, teams had an increase of 30 percent when it came to playing home, teams in the Big Ten see an increase of 39 percent. In league games, Big Ten teams increase their win percentage by 27 percent if they play at home.

Team Overall Home Record Win % Overall Road Record Win% Difference
Purdue 15-0 100% 6-6 50% 50%
Michigan 17-1 94% 7-4 64% 31%
Michigan State 15-1 94% 8-5 62% 32%
Maryland 15-3 83% 6-5 55% 28%
Minnesota 13-3 81% 2-9 18% 63%
Wisconsin 12-3 80% 8-5 62% 18%
Iowa 14-4 78% 4-6 40% 38%
Nebraska 13-5 72% 2-10 17% 56%
Indiana 15-6 71% 3-9 25% 46%
Ohio State 12-6 67% 4-7 36% 30%
Illinois 9-6 60% 1-9 10% 50%
Penn State 9-6 60% 4-9 31% 29%
Rutgers 10-7 59% 4-9 31% 28%
Northwestern 10-8 56% 1-9 10% 46%
Average % difference 39%


Team Conf. Home Record Win % Conf. Road Record Win% Difference
Purdue 10-0 100% 6-4 60% 40%
Michigan 9-1 90% 6-4 60% 30%
Michigan State 9-1 90% 7-3 70% 20%
Maryland 8-1 89% 5-5 50% 39%
Minnesota 7-3 70% 2-8 20% 50%
Wisconsin 7-3 70% 7-3 70% 0%
Iowa 6-4 60% 4-6 40% 20%
Illinois 5-4 56% 1-8 11% 45%
Indiana 5-5 50% 3-7 30% 20%
Nebraska 5-5 50% 1-9 10% 40%
Ohio State 5-5 50% 2-7 22% 28%
Penn State 4-6 40% 3-7 30% 10%
Rutgers 4-6 40% 3-7 30% 10%
Northwestern 3-7 30% 1-9 10% 20%
Average difference in % 27%

With these numbers, the conclusion to be drawn is that teams play better at home. They have a familiarity with the court and the area. They have fans and possibly family attends the games. They enjoy having the crowd on their back, and the rowdiest of gyms and arenas can make the other teams flustered.