first_imgNo college basketball broadcast would be complete without the timeless act of announcers dropping buzzwords into their commentary that excite the average fan and fill airtime.Among the group of phrases and exclamations heard over and over again stand several overused terms that don’t have easily discernable meanings: slasher, hustle play and extra pass, and several terms that are overemphasized: diaper dandy, PTPer — the latter two being attributed to the incessant, but loveable, screaming of Dick Vitale.Included among the ritual of throwing out buzzwords is the eternal mentioning of the home team playing with either a “sixth man” or having a home-court advantage. Like they have for its poorly used cousin terms, most hoops fans have come to tune-out the term. After all, hearing it every single time a game is on gets old quickly.Well, despite being as cliché as possible and used as often as Steve Lavin’s tube of hair gel, home-court advantage is very much real and important.On this page last week, Brigham Young University protecting its home winning streak of 27 games against a surging UNLV team was cited as a “Game to Watch.” Had the game been played in Las Vegas, or for that matter, on any other 94-by-50 foot court in the nation, the mediocre Cougars trying to upset the Rebels wouldn’t warrant more than a casual mention to non-Mountain West Conference fans.But, funny things happen when teams play at home, and sure enough BYU protected the Marriott Center, blowing out UNLV in a 90-63 win.In the past week alone, three solid but unspectacular teams playing at home — Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina State — were able to pull impressive upset victories over highly ranked teams. Playing on the road, on the opponents’ home court, probably would have meant crushing losses for all three teams, but with the support of the home crowd, the upset victories were made possible.Sean Singletary, the Virginia point guard, arrogantly pointed his finger right at the ESPN camera after hitting an incredible shot which ended up the game winner as the Cavaliers upset Duke. The arrogance of the senior was able to emerge as he played at home because unlike playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Singletary was playing in front of a crowd wearing blue and gold and supporting him.It’s inevitable that any debate over the greatest upset of all time will center around Joe Namath and the Jets in the 1969 Super Bowl, or the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team defeating the Soviets in Lake Placid, but in the pantheon of college basketball, tiny Chaminade’s victory over #1 Virginia in 1982 ranks as the biggest upset in history. Despite having a total enrollment of just 800, Chaminade, in front of 2,500 fans, was able to upset Ralph Sampson and the nation’s top team while playing at home in Hawaii. The Cavaliers, playing 4,000 miles from home, were shocked by their 77-72 loss. Though a very different outcome most likely would have occurred if the game had been held in Virginia, the game was in Hawaii and the Cavs were stunned.Even more impressive than a school with a student body of 800 playing at home upsetting the nation’s best team though, is the ability of anyone, regardless of whether they play basketball or not, to help determine the final result of a college basketball game.You don’t need to be 6 feet 5 inches with a chiseled upper body, a silky-smooth jump shot and have an off-the-charts basketball IQ to affect the outcome of a college basketball game. All you really need is a ticket, the ability to yell and a shirt the color of everyone else — though a rainbow wig and funny necktie might help.An entire stadium standing and yelling while the opposition tries to settle into an offense or shoot free throws can be pretty distracting. Try writing a paper with 15,000 people wearing red and chanting derogatory things about you while you work. It wouldn’t be a very comfortable working environment.And, despite what they may say to the media, coaches don’t have a surefire way to game-plan against a raucous crowd. Teams can’t go to a box-and-one on the student section, and there’s no way to run the high post against the school band.Home-court advantage comes into play even during the postseason. That’s why in about a month and a half, every college basketball analyst from Joe Lunardi to Rick Majerus is going to advise people to pick teams playing near home. They’ll tell the wonderful stories of George Mason winning at the nearby MCI Center and provide recommendations about teams playing in their home states in the first couple of rounds. As predictable as it is though, they’re going to be right. Teams playing at home do have a clear advantage, and when the games matter most in the NCAA tournament, schools playing in front of a packed house of their fans are probably going to win more than they lose.Maybe that’s what makes college basketball so great. In a world and a sport where everything — team names, styles of play and even rules seems to change every year — it is nice knowing there’s always going to be home-court advantage. As sure as the home school’s mascot is going to be engaging in various hijinx and the cheerleaders are going to be hopelessly optimistic, it is never going to be easier to win on the road in college basketball.last_img

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