Life on the Road in the ACC: Still Predictably Difficult

Posted by Jimmy Kelley on January 23rd, 2013

N.C. State is 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the ACC and has as much potential of any team in the conference this season. Led by powerful big men and electric wing players, the Wolfpack got their signature win when they knocked off Duke in the RBC Center a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, Mark Gottfried‘s crew has also picked up two very telling losses that speak to the existence of home court advantage in the ACC more than the Wolfpack’s inconsistent play.

Wake Forest Fans

Wake Forest fans at the Joel celebrate during their upset win over N.C. State on Tuesday. (AP Photo)

NC State currently has a 1-3 record on the road with two of those losses coming in their last three games. Losses at Maryland and Wake Forest look bad by themselves but when looking at them next to their lone road win — a five-point win at Boston College — the trend becomes upsetting. By this time of the season they have shed the “young team” moniker and their big-minute freshmen have actually been the bright spots for this team away from home. In their three ACC away games, the Wolfpack are shooting 43 percent from the field, down from their outstanding 51 percent total for the season. This is where the issue has been as Gottfried’s team is holding opponents relatively in check on defense with a negligible difference between home and away (41 percent on the road, 40 percent overall). Typically, teams that rely on their defense and scoring inside do well on the road (see Florida State last year), while teams that rely on shooting the ball well from the perimeter inevitably falter in hostile situations.

Which brings us to the greater trend at work: Home court advantage still exists in the ACC. So far this year, home teams are an impressive 19-9 with only Miami (three wins) and Florida State (two) picking up more than a lone win on the road — NC State, North Carolina, Boston College and Virginia Tech are the only other teams with road wins. However, no road team has won a game since January 16 when Miami beat BC in Chestnut Hill thanks to a missed free throw by Olivier Hanlan, as home teams have posted a perfect 7-0 record over this span. A home court advantage implies that the home team raises its game while making things difficult on the opponent, leading to upsets that would seem out of the realm of possibility had they been played on a neutral court or in the other team’s gym.

Miami has managed to go on the road and play relatively as well as it has played at home. The Hurricanes’ field goal percentage on the road (43 percent) is almost identical to their total for the season (44.3 percent). Where Miami makes the case for home court advantage is in looking at the opponent’s field goal percentages. A stingy defensive team, Miami is actually allowing their opponents (North Carolina, Boston College and Georgia Tech) to shoot slightly better than they otherwise would. The difference is minuscule (38.6 percent in road games vs. 37.5 percent overall) but it is still there. Miami’s record is simply a product of the Hurricanes being a better team than their opponents. That notion will be put to the test tonight as the Hurricanes host Duke (0-1 on the road this season) in Coral Gables.

So before fans in Raleigh start inching closer to a cliff the next time the Pack goes on the road, rest assured that you are not alone in struggling outside of your friendly environs. Home court advantage is back in the ACC, and that’s a good thing.

Jimmy Kelley (20 Posts)

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