Hungry Jack's NBL
The NBL Home Court Advantage
NBL teams are winning a higher percentage of home games this season than almost ever before. With 77 of the season’s 112 regular season games in the books, the League’s home winning percentage is currently tracking at 68.8 per cent (53-24). That’s a large number. For perspective, in each of the League’s previous three seasons home teams won exactly 66 regular season games, for a winning percentage of 58.9 per cent. This year’s mark is up nearly 10% on those seasons. In most NBL seasons at least a couple of teams win more on the road than they lose. This year, none. Not a single team currently holds a winning record on the road. Not Perth, not New Zealand… none. On the flip-side, Townsville and Sydney – the League’s two bottom teams – are the only teams in the NBL who do not possess winning records at home. In the NBA, where home court advantage is reportedly on the decline, 23 per cent of the league currently has a winning record on the road. Last season a third of the NBA’s teams won more than they lost on the road. This year in the NBL? Zilch. In fact, this year’s NBL home winning percentage is not only significantly higher than those of the previous three seasons, it ranks as the second highest of all time. So why the sudden spike? Why is playing at home suddenly a bigger advantage in the NBL and why is winning on the road suddenly so much harder to achieve? Let’s start with the Cairns Taipans, who provide an interesting case study when it comes to home/away records. With Wednesday night’s win over Perth, the Taipans are now 7-2 at home but have won only 1 of their 10 games on the road. They’re a good team with good players and a good coach, but their inability to win away from home has resulted in a disappointing season overall. It’s a problem head coach Aaron Fearne has been trying to solve all season. “That fight, desire and tightness as a group that we display at home, that’s the next challenge is to show that on the road in hostile environments,” said Fearne after beating New Zealand at home last round. “It’s a little bit easy to do when you’ve got 5000 people sitting there backing you. The challenge is to do that on the road without them there.” It’s a challenge the Taipans simply haven’t been able to meet this season, a failing that may ultimately cost them a spot in the Finals. “You’ve got to have some real grit when you go on the road together and we’ve been short of the mark,” added Fearne. Melbourne’s Chris Goulding loves his home crowd at Hisense Arena and they love him. The electric shooting guard is averaging 5 points more per game at home than he is on the road, shooting 45 percent from the field in Melbourne and 39 percent elsewhere. His play has helped guide United to an impressive 9-2 record at home but to only four wins from nine games on the road. Interestingly, Goulding says he always wants to know the home crowd numbers before a game. He tracks down the info, he says, because a large number gets him amped for a big performance. “I just feel a responsibility to try to give the people that spend their hard earned money and weekend time coming to watch us a time that they enjoy and want to come back and have again,” Goulding said. “Nothing better than having a loud, sold-out crowd getting on their feet and cheering their team home and the players delivering a win!” The Perth Wildcats have consistently enjoyed large home crowds over the past few years, resulting in arguably the greatest home-court advantage in the NBL. Including Finals, their home record since the beginning of the 2011/12 season is an imposing 59-14. This year Perth has lost only once at Perth Arena, yet not even the Wildcats have a winning record away from home – having lost 7 of 13 on the road. Captain Damian Martin believes increased attendances and improved game-night production are two factors that are making things tougher on the road. “Attending NBL matches has become more than watching a game of basketball,” Martin said. “There’s entertainment and visual stimulation everywhere you look being put on by the home club and all they ask in return is you support the home team as loudly as possible. “It seems to be working.” It sure does and with the NBL Finals just around the corner, the numbers suggest securing home court advantage in the post-season has rarely been more important.