“Oh my goodness! I can’t believe that Siena, the eight seed, gets to play in the MAAC tournament on its home court,” the traditionalists cry.
The MAAC is moving from Springfield, MA to the certainly more lucrative location of Albany, NY this season and even though the Saints aren’t one of the top challengers, they receive a slight advantage thanks to playing on their home court. Just how much? Glad you asked.
I ran 10,000 simulations of the MAAC tournament both with and without the Saints hosting. The difference in Siena’s performance? About five percentage points to make the finals and three percentage points to win the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Three percentage points seems like a fine price to pay for moving the tournament to a central location in one of the MAAC’s strongholds — of course Iona head coach Tim Cluess might not feel the same way. If Siena survives its 65% chance the 8/9 game at 5 p.m. on Thursday night against Niagara, Cluess’ top-seeded team will have the home jerseys, but certainly not the home crowd.
Still, even with the home court advantage, KenPom has Siena as only a four-point favorite against Niagara. Ultimately this is Iona’s title to lose. The Gaels are ranked 98th in KenPom and then followed by five teams in the 146-184 range. All of those teams have a better chance of winning the title anyways.
Here’s the full breakdown:
The Gaels aren’t an overwhelming favorite because the tournament isn’t being played on their home court and they have to go through three rounds of basketball to win a title. Quite honestly, if I was Cluess, I’d be more upset about the fact that the MAAC does nothing to protect its higher seeds than playing in Albany.