A few days ago, here at Statistically Speaking, we previewed the ACC. Now we come to our second conference preview, the Big East. The conference maintains eight teams in 2012 with the loss of West Virginia to the Big 12 and the addition of Temple from the MAC. To see last year's Big East preview, click here.
How Valuable are the Home Games?
The Big East is unique in that it is the only BCS conference that plays seven league games. Of course, this is because there are only eight teams in the conference. In addition, the Big East, along with the Big 12 and Pac-12 (who play nine) are the only BCS conferences that play an odd number of conference games. Obviously, this means that half of the league's teams get to play four conference home games, while the other half are forced to play four conference road games. Intuitively, with a sample of size of only seven games, getting to play four of them at home would seem to confer a great advantage to those teams. However, as Yogi Berra
once said: 'In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.' Does this bit of intuition pass the test? To answer that I looked at the conference record since 2005 of Big East teams that got to play four conference games at home and compared it to the conference record of Big East teams that had to play four conference road games. I chose 2005 as my starting point because that marked the first season Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida began play in the Big East. The table below summarizes the results.
Surprisingly, the teams that had to play four league road games had a better record than the teams that got to play four league home games in five of the seven seasons. In only a single season did the teams with four league home games produce an aggregate record better than the teams with four league road games. Overall, teams with four league road games won conference games at a .531 clip while teams with four league home games won games at a .469 clip. So that's the aggregate. What about the individual? Was the Big East champion more likely to have four home games? No. Five of the seven champions (West Virginia 05, West Virginia 07, Cincinnati 09, Connecticut 10, and West Virginia 11) played four conference road games in the year they won the league, while just two (Louisville 06 and Cincinnati 08) played four home games. When forecasting Big East success, take heed of the quality of the team and don't overemphasize the value of one additional home game.