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Schwartz: 10 Sentences – The Road Worrier Edition

February 16, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Big Ten teams fall apart on the road. Why? We don’t know, but the Hawkeyes are on the road again this afternoon. Ten sentences that don’t offer many useful answers:

1. The Hawkeyes, shorthanded and outshot, lost another road game Thursday at Indiana, and Sunday at noon they play another, this time at Minnesota.

2. Overall this Big Ten season, road teams haven’t just struggled, they’ve been decimated to the point that we can basically save ourselves a lot of time and energy by not watching; just give a preemptive W to the home team.

3. Unfortunately the Hawkeyes are not immune: they’re 1-5 on the road in Big Ten play – 1-6 if you count losing to Penn State on a “neutral court” in Philadelphia.

4. Which brings us to the big question here, which isn’t necessarily about how the Hawkeyes can and/or should do better on the road, or about how performing well as a road team is what separates the great teams from the pretty good teams, but rather whether the advantage of playing at home is real or psychosomatic, or a little of both, and whether it’s more about the benefits of playing at home or the disadvantage of not playing at home.

5. According to research conducted by sports psychologists and researchers of sports fandom, home-court advantage in American sport is more pronounced in basketball and hockey than football and baseball, which leads to the hypothesis that the proximity of the crowd to the playing surface might have something to do with it.

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6. That then leads to the next question of whether the close crowds positively affect the home teams, disrupt the road teams, or some mix of the two options, meaning, is the home team pushed to victory on the cheers of their fans, or is the road team doomed to defeat because they lack a supportive crowd?

7. Nor does this phenomenon rest with middle-of-the-pack teams or cellar dwellers; Maryland leads the Big Ten with an 11-3 record, with all three losses coming on the road; Penn State, the second-place team, has suffered three of its four conference losses on the road; five of Indiana’s seven B1G losses and five of Ohio State’s seven happened on the road.

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8. We can throw out as many stats as we like, but at this point we don’t seem any closer to figuring out why a team can consistently shoot 40-45 percent from three-point range at home, then suddenly shrink to 20 percent as the visiting team, or why offensive boards so often favor the home team, plus other statistical evidence.

9. Could it be as simple as athletes are emotionally weak and crumble when the crowd doesn’t cheer for them and tell them how great they are?

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10. Of course not, but just writing “of course not” is neither scientifically nor anecdotally helpful, it’s just a way of saying that sometimes things don’t make any sense, and if the Hawkeyes can somehow pull out a victory Sunday at Minnesota, it will mean infinitely more than when they beat the Gophers at home earlier this season.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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