Making a case for IU, Louisville
Which teams are best-suited to win on a neutral court in the tournament?
If you saw Sunday's thrilling game between Indiana and Michigan in Ann Arbor, you know that the Hoosiers are capable of winning on the road. (Barely capable, in this instance.)
And indeed we find that Tom Crean's team owes its outright Big Ten title in part to a stellar 7-2 record in conference road games. That's all well and good, but I wanted to break these numbers down even further. So I decided to pull up how well all 75 major-conference teams have performed, on a per-possession basis in league play this season, at home versus on the road. My guiding assumption here is that if a team plays well away from home, that fact should, other things being equal, bode well for said team now that we've reached the neutral-floor time of the season. (I love the neutral-floor time of the season.)
At the risk of giving away the ending, I'll just say up front that calculating these home/road splits has made me even more confident in the prospects for two teams I already respected very highly -- namely, Indiana and Louisville. Then again, this same exercise has led me to reconsider just how far Kansas might be able to go in the field of 68 now that the Jayhawks have played their last home game of the season. Let's take a look at each of these three contenders. Next to each team I've listed their per-possession scoring margins at home and on the road in conference play.
Assembly Hall in Bloomington is renowned as one of the toughest places in the nation for opponents to record a win. But what's striking about Indiana's performance this season is how steady it's been whether the Hoosiers are at home or on the road. Indeed, IU's offense was actually more efficient on the road in Big Ten play.
While the Hoosiers did drop games at Illinois and Minnesota, for the conference season as a whole they shot 44 percent from beyond the arc in Big Ten play as the visiting team. And IU really hit the offensive glass when it hit the road, pulling down 39 percent of its own missed shots. Against the Wolverines on Sunday, Indiana rebounded an astounding 57 percent of its misses, as Victor Oladipo alone recorded seven offensive boards in 33 minutes. Tom Crean's team has shown beyond a doubt that it doesn't require the friendly confines of Bloomington in order to excel.
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