Each March, some teams have an unrecognized home court edge that provides one of the biggest betting advantages to be gained during the NCAA March tournaments.
When a team plays on its home court everyone recognizes the edge, and unless that edge is miscalculated, the bettor gains no advantage. The line-maker sets the line to split public opinion, and, in most cases, he can only do that by setting the line where the average bettor expects it to be. When a team plays at home, the line will account for the home advantage. The tournaments, however, often provide a home advantage that is generally unrecognized by the public, and therefore not accounted for in the line.
When the tournament court is listed as being neutral, the public handicaps the game without regard to a home-court edge, and the line is set without accounting for any home edge. If a hidden home advantage exists, it can provide one team with an edge as high as 15 points over the predicted result if the court were truly neutral.
Where Does the Hidden Home Edge Come From?
Now that most of the small campus ?pits? are gone, the fans alone are the biggest factor in creating a home advantage and a corresponding road disadvantage Some games, although played on a supposedly neutral court, are played so close to one team's campus that the fan advantage is little different from a true home game.
Even if the site of the game is several hundred miles away from the campus of both teams, a team playing in its home state can get the advantage of a natural fan base when matched against an out-of-state team. This latter situation is particularly effective against the spread in the NCAA Tournament.
Let's look at the games played yesterday, Monday, March 9, 2009 as an example:
George Mason played Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) on a supposedly neutral court in VCU's home city of Richmond, Virginia. Based on overall statistics for both teams, VCU averages 5.5 more points offensively, but George Mason allows an average of 4 fewer points per game defensively. The net difference is 1.5 points in favor of VCU. The line was set at VCU -3.5. VCU, however, should be credited with a full home court edge for playing in their hometown. Based on home numbers for VCU, and road numbers for George Mason, VCU averages 6 more points per game than George Mason offensively, and allows 7 fewer points per game than George Mason defensively. The net point differential in favor of VCU when considering VCU to be the home team and George Mason to be the road team is 13 points. Compare that to the mere 1.5-point differential in favor of VCU with no home edge. The line of 3.5 was based on a neutral court. The true advantage of VCU was 11.5 points higher than if the game were being played on a truly neutral court, and 9.5 points higher than the line of -3.5. Considering VCU as the home team, the VCU win by a score of 71-50 is no longer surprising..
Siena, a school in Loudonville, N.Y., played Niagara at Union Center, an apparently neutral court in Albany, N.Y. The Siena campus, however, is only 4 miles from the Union Center Arena. Accounting for the home advantage of Siena, and the road disadvantage for Niagara, gives Siena a 7-point greater advantage than if both teams were playing on a truly neutral court. Niagara is a New York State team, but their campus is over two hours away from Albany. All the New York State fans at Union Center were cheering for the hometown favorite, Siena. The line was set at Siena -3. Siena covered the spread with a score of 77-70.
The line-makers set College of Charleston as a 3-point favorite over Tennessee-Chattanooga, completely ignoring the fact that the game was being played in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Thanks to the home advantage, Tennessee-Chattanooga won outright by a score of 80-69.
Three hidden home court edges provided a 3-0 sweep against the spread. The same three teams played at the same locations in 9 games since the start of the conference tournaments, providing a 7-2 (78%) against-the-spread win record for those who recognized the hidden home edge in each game.
The hidden home advantage will have you winning, but there is more to March Madness handicapping that is just as powerful. To get all of my winning selections for the tournaments, including a huge Conference Crowne Jewel tipping off this afternoon, CLICK HERE