Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Incentives Matter: Why the Lack of NCAA Basketball Road Games?

The WSJ reports that the top NCAA men's basketball season is now half over and 20% of teams have yet to register a road win:
The problem isn't so much that no one can win on the road (although it is notoriously difficult in men's college basketball). It's that teams hardly try.

Kentucky is the worst offender of all. The Wildcats, who should get their first true road win Wednesday at Auburn, have played just one road game, which they lost to Indiana.

Top programs tend to spend almost all of their pre-conference schedules playing glorified exhibition games at home and neutral-site tournaments. Because of this, teams that are expected to make the NCAA tournament can get well into January with highly sketchy résumés.
If you do the math you'll find that the AP top 10 teams (on January 9th) have collectively played 162 games with only 29 of them (or 18%) played on the road.

The reason for this situation would seem to be obvious: so long as coaches are rewarded for victories and a ticket to March Madness is a function of reaching a mythological 20-win threshold, then coaches and athletic departments of the stronger programs will try hard to fill the schedule with cupcakes at home.


  1. thinking some more about this, do the trends carry over to professional leagues, most notably the NBA, or down to high school levels? if not, what is it about college basketball?