The theories behind this have been rehashed ad nauseam thanks to Stony Brook being eliminated by Albany in the America East tournament while playing the semifinals at SEFCU Arena last season, but I just wanted to point out one more time what the league is doing by allowing its fourth place team to host. Even if it is a lovely “neutral” site environment for everyone else.
To determine the impact of Albany’s home court advantage this season I ran my Monte Carlo simulations of the America East tournament first with the assumption that it was the status quo, then with a truly neutral court scenario, and finally with the 2015 rules of home court advantage for the higher seed all the way through. The three tables below show the results.
Truly Neutral Site:
- It’s a testament to how good Vermont is that even playing nearly all of their semifinals on their opponent’s home court they still manage to win the league title 62.5% of the time. The Catamounts are ranked 61st in Pomeroy and probably the best America East team since, well… the Stony Brook team that lost in the semifinals last season. Before that though it would be the 2009 Vermont team. They also didn’t go to the NCAA tournament. (I’m sensing a trend…)
- If the 2015 rules were in place this tournament would truly be a two-horse race. Maybe that’s a drawback of that system. Giving the top two teams (Vermont and Stony Brook) home games eliminates risk. Let me tell you. If Vermont and Stony Brook could be playing at Patrick and Pritchard Gymnasium this weekend instead of SEFCU then John Becker and Steve Pikiell would be doing backflips. It’s going to make the race for conference tournament seeding all the more important next season.
- Playing on its home court objectively gives Will Brown and Albany an advantage. There are some really good teams in America East and even if the Great Danes win two at home there’s still the chance they have to go to Stony Brook or Hartford for the championship, so the odds still aren’t great, but by playing at home instead of a neutral court Albany’s odds noticeably (4.2 percentage points) improve.
- The bottom of America East was brutal this season. I’d be quite surprised to see any first round upsets this season in the America East tournament. Per KenPom the odds of the higher seed advancing in each game are: Vermont 95%, Stony Brook 89%, Albany 87%, Hartford 78%. Maybe one of the bottom four teams gets through, but it seems awfully unlikely.
You want your best team playing in the NCAA tournament. The current America East model makes that much more difficult. While it might hurt the overall fan experience, it’s good that’s changing next season.