ESPN all but has a monopoly on the sports world, whether you love or hate their content, so when they come out with any sort of ranking, people listen. Writer Myron Medcalf, an ESPN blogger, was tasked recently with ranking all the Big 12 MBB venues and you can bet some people weren't happy with it. Bramlage Coliseum doesn't even make the top half of the list, cellar-dweller Texas Tech bests Baylor's digs, and WVU Coliseum shot up to 2nd despite holding a middle-of-the-pack home record in recent years.
As a blogger, Myron has every right to rank these places however he sees fit. Most of the time, these posts are meant to ruffle feathers and continue conversation. But I'm more about ranking things a little more objectively, so I'm going to do that. I think there are 3 areas that define home court advantage and the difficulty of playing somewhere: Overall arena success, frequency of upsets, and how full the arena gets.
**NOTE: This is not a quest to find the "most historical" or "most storied" arena in the Big 12. Keep your rants about how difficult it was to play in your favorite arena in the mid-'90s for another thread because this is about how difficult it is to play in the current era of basketball**
Historical success of an arena is tricky. For instance, Gallagher-Iba Arena was once known as one of the premiere arenas in the country, with crowds allegedly so loud, they shattered lights. But that was back in the 20th century and before renovations doubled the arena's size to 13,000+. Seemingly every season in the past decade, ESPN has had to find ways to frame the OSU crowd so as not to reveal the literally thousands of empty seats around the upper deck. Not only that, but when your arena's history reaches back to 1938, your overall home record is going to be watered down.
Regardless, if your arena is tough to play in, your record should support that and vice versa. To iron out some of the historical kinks that inflate or deflate the current state of the arena, I'm averaging the overall record with the team's record at home in the past 5 seasons:
1) Kansas: 747-109 (.873) // 78-3 (.963) = 0.918
2) Oklahoma: 528-93 (.850) // 65-12 (.844) = 0.847
3) Iowa State: 522-169 (.7554) // 76-7 (.916) = 0.836
4) Texas: 477-112 (.809) // 70-17 (.805) = 0.807
5) Kansas State: 329-107 (.7545) // 67-16 (.807) = 0.781
6) Oklahoma State: 773-217 (.779) // 59-21 (.738) = 0.759
7) West Virginia: 512-148 (.776) // 55-21 (.724) = 0.750
8) Baylor: 297-151 (.663) // 69-19 (.784) = 0.724
9) Texas Tech: 205-91 (.693) // 54-34 (.614) = 0.654
10) TCU: 562-277 (.670) // 49-37 (.570) = 0.620
This plays out just about how you'd assume it would, with many of the historical arenas staying near the top and the newer and less awe-inspiring ones near the bottom. But that's not the only way to measure an arena's difficulty!
You can't claim to be a difficult venue if you're not beating the best teams that walk in the door consistently. So, I've searched each team's record against ranked teams in the past 5 years at home. I use 5 years because (1) it's a round-ish number, being half a decade, (2) it doesn't creep too far back before TCU and WVU were in the conference, and (3) it takes a lot of work to find these statistics one-by-one, so 5 years is about all I'm going to do with 10 teams.
Anyway, instead of looking purely for "upsets," I've just found each team's home record against ranked teams in the past 5 years since some teams like Kansas are rarely the underdog. Ranked wins = tough environment.
1) Kansas: 20-1 = 0.952
2) Iowa State: 18-5 = 0.783
3) Oklahoma: 14-6 = 0.700
4) Kansas State: 12-10 = 0.545
5) Texas: 11-12 = 0.478
6) West Virginia: 9-10 = 0.474
7) Baylor: 8-10 = 0.444
8) Oklahoma State: 8-15 = 0.348
9) Texas Tech: 5-19 = 0.208
10) TCU: 4-20 = 0.167
Things are starting to shape up a bit, but it's basically more of the same from the previous section. But wait! What about the FANS? That's what fuels these arenas, so why don't we measure how many are actually coming to these games? Okay, let's do it!
I'll just say it: Size doesn't matter. You can be huge and still not satisfy, or be smaller but produce an incredible climax. It just doesn't matter when you're talking about arena size.
That's why I'm not going to measure arenas on how big they are, I'm going to measure on percent capacity filled. BYU's 14,700 fans per game may have been a top-15 attendance mark, but with a 19,000-seat arena, the atmosphere didn't sniff lower capacity arenas like Hilton Coliseum, Koch Arena and Cameron Indoor Stadium. So how do the Big 12 teams stack up in the past 5 seasons?
1) Kansas: 16,428 // 16,300 = 1.008
2) Kansas State: 12,377 // 12,528 = 0.988
3) Iowa State: 13,833 // 14,376 = 0.962
4) Oklahoma: 10,101 // 11,528 = 0.876
5) West Virginia: 9,611 // 14,000 = 0.687
6) Texas: 11,432 // 16,734 = 0.683
7) Baylor: 6,897 // 10,347 = 0.667
8) TCU: 4,765 // 7,201 = 0.662
9) Oklahoma State: 8,641 // 13,611 = 0.635
10) Texas Tech: 7,816 // 15,020 = 0.520
This is where the division really starts. Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma are consistently filling arenas, while the rest of the conference hovers near 2/3rds capacity over the past 5 years.
But, by the magic of math and a very scientific formula, I have given each arena a score. The higher the score, the more difficult the arena.
AND YOUR FINAL RANKINGS ARE:
1) Kansas (Phog Allen Fieldhouse): 95.9
2) Iowa State (Hilton Coliseum): 86.0
3) Oklahoma (Lloyd Noble Center): 80.8
4) Kansas State (Bramlage Coliseum): 77.1
5) Texas (Frank Erwin Center): 65.6
6) West Virginia (WVU Coliseum): 63.7
7) Baylor (Ferrell Center): 61.2
8) Oklahoma State (Gallagher-Iba Arena): 58.1
9) TCU (Schollmaier Arena): 48.6
10) Texas Tech (United Supermarkets Arena): 46.1
1) There is no dethroning Phog Allen and that's just a fact of life in the Big 12.
2) Hilton is a pretty clear 2nd and certainly ahead of WVU Coliseum, which further makes me question where Medcalf's head was in his personal rankings knowing Oklahoma's fantastic home record, plus many other deserving Big 12 arenas. But I digress.
3) Bramlage deservingly makes the top-4 with some of the most consistent attendance and a winning record against ranked teams in the past 5 years at home.
4) Gallagher-Iba—which was a top-arena as recently as the mid-2000s—just simply isn't the home court it used to be. The arena ranks in the bottom half of the Big 12 in every category and even though Baylor hasn't been fantastic at home considering their recent success, they still edge them out in this ranking.
5) TCU and Texas Tech just don't have much of a home court advantage. With only a 65% win mark and an even worse percentage of attendance, the teams really aren't much better off at home than they are away from it.
This is extremely scientific and should be taken very seriously, but I'd love to hear your guys' thoughts in the comments. I'll follow up with a Big 12 football stadium one in the upcoming week, as well (WARNING: Jack Trice isn't going to be top-5).