"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, November 07, 2011

Home Court Advantage

... or how to better influence the referees

This past summer, I read "Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won".  What actually appealed to me most about the book (besides one of the authors being a Chicago Booth professor), was an article based on the book that appeared in the print version of Sports Illustrated.  Since then, I've been waiting until the start of the season to write this post.  Because this season, MU needs to improve its home court advantage, and "Scorecasting" reveals the clues.

Consider the following numbers (based on Pomeroy's preseason schedule predictions).  Marquette has ten home games against conference or top 100 opponents (Vanderbilt).  Six of those games are against Top 50 teams and three of those games are against top 25 teams.  More on this in a bit.

Here's the short version of the chapters from the book.  Home court advantage is real and it spans all kinds of sports, including baseball, soccer, and basketball.  However, the advantage from playing at home has very little to do with any of the traditional explanations.  None of these explanations actually infer home court advantage:

  • Crowd Support
  • Traveling is hard on the opposing team
  • Unique "home" characteristics or comfort level with the home court
Nope.  What contributes to home court advantage is referee bias.  To quote from the book...
In fact, "officials' bias" is the most significant contributor to home field advantage.
Referees are more likely to make calls in favor of the home team.  Despite their best efforts to be largely impartial, referees are human.  And, they're more likely to make calls in favor of the home team when it really matters. In other words, a home team is less likely to get the benefit of bias when they're already well down or well ahead.*

*you don't have to believe these claims.  Go read the book if you don't.  But when we get to the "so what?" of this post, it won't really matter all that much if you believe it or not.

Essentially, the top opportunities to influence the referees come in ambiguous calls.  And this gets to the heart of how referee bias can be swayed in MU's favor.  It's all above board and legal, of course.  It just boils down to telling the referees how much you like them when they make a judgement call in MU's favor (and of course voicing your displeasure when the judgement call goes against #mubb).
  1. Palming / Traveling - Please remind the referees that EVERY traveling call against our opponents was a great decision.  However, EVERY traveling call against Marquette is a travesty of justice.
  2. Loose ball fouls (screens/hand checks) - EVERY loose ball foul committed by our opponents is a terrific call by the wise referees.  However, I have yet to EVER see Marquette commit a single loose ball foul (now that Chris Grimm has graduated)
  3. Charges / offensive fouls - It simply must be stated.  Marquette is the VERY best team in the nation at perfectly positioning to take charges.  And of course, Marquette has NEVER committed an offensive foul.
Naturally, fans already react vociferously against these types of calls.  But do you react on EVERY judgement call EVERY time?  Will it matter if you do?  Let's return to the the number of games MU has at home this season.  Ten home games against conference or top 100 opponents (Vanderbilt).  Six of those games are against Top 50 teams and three of those games are against top 25 teams.

Buzz's win percentages against those levels are 67% against all conference/top 100, 50% vs top 50 opponents, and 50% vs top 25 opponents. 

Against the top 25 opponents, will MU win one game, two games, or three?  Against all opponents, will Marquette only win six, or will that number be seven or higher?  Improving the judgement calls in favor of Marquette may end up making the difference.  Every judgement call.  Every time.

Give a great big welcome to the referees next time they enter the court.  Make them feel loved, especially when they call traveling against our opponents.

No comments: