Tom Noie has a great article on the crowd support during the current home winning streak. As the Irish look to break the record tonight, it is definitely interesting to reflect on how this team has been successful even when playing in a half empty arena. Tory Jackson has a great quote, "We don't dwell on the fact that nobody comes. The people that do come, we're very thankful for, but we think a lot more should check out how good we are." That's exactly the spirit to have. Hopefully more winning against better competition will fill the seats.
This post, part of a weekly series from BlackandGreen on BasketballForum.com, can be found at the weekly blog here.
As the Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to break the school record for consecutive home wins, one pauses to reflect on winning streaks and "home court advantage" in general. Currently the fourth longest home winning streak in basketball at 24 (trailing Memphis (36), Brigham Young (35), and Wisconsin (28), the Irish have played in front of crowds well short of capacity throughout the majority of the run. Averaging only 9,404 fans last season (in a 11,418 seat arena), Notre Dame games sometimes have little more life than the county morgue. Compare that to the top three current home streaks: Memphis had 14,866 fans a game last year (capacity of 19,000 in the arena shared with NBA's Memphis Grizzlies), BYU averaged 11,069 (22,700 seat Marriott Center, 4th largest college basketball arena) and Wisconsin ended the year with 17,142 a game (17,190 seat arena). Memphis and Brigham Young fail to impress with their crowd support. While both bring solid numbers to their games, the number of open seats hurts atmosphere and calls into question a team's "home-field advantage." Wisconsin, on the other hand, certainly relies on loud crowds to keep winning home games.
Ease of competition is a plus. Last season, Memphis played only two major conference opponents at home, Mississippi (58th RPI) and Cinncinnati (174). Neither provided much competition. Then, the Tigers cruised through an inferior CUSA season to finish the year undefeated at home. BYU similarly had very little home competition. Though they played UCLA and Michigan St. on the road, the Cougars used a 13-3 overall conference record and easy nonconference schedule to roll through the year unblemished at the Marriott Arena. Wisconsin's home slate included #2 Pittsburgh and #5 Ohio State. Four games were decided by five points or less. Notre Dame also played some talented teams during its unbeaten run last year, defeating #4 Alabama and #21 West Virginia.
Parity in college basketball has lessened the amount of winning streaks in recent decades. Since 1984, only one of the top 12 home court winning streaks has been set. In the 1960s and 70s, seven of the current longest streaks were completed, ranging up to nearly 100 games and six full seasons. To crack the top 10, Memphis would have to nearly double its current streak, as Arizona holds the 10th best mark with 71 straight home wins.
What do these four teams have in common that make them so successful at home? While BYU and Memphis play in conferences with some teams much lower on the talent scale, Notre Dame and Wisconsin have conference opponents all over the Top 25. Both had to defeat top 5 teams to continue their string of success at home. One school boasts a top 10 attendence average, but the other continually lacks full home support. What binds these teams together to their shared runs of home success? As Notre Dame forward Zach Hillesland said, "It's a level of comfort. We really have a fun time playing in here." Fans from four different schools, great and small, hope their players can continue having fun, as Memphis, Brigham Young, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame look to continue their current home success.