Geospatial Determinants of Game Outcomes in NCAA Men’s Basketball

By Daniel C. Clay, Aniseh Bro and Nathan J. Clay.

Published by The Sport Collection

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This study examines how travel through space and time affects the results (odds of winning) of 3,296 team performances from all 1,648 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament games played over 26 years from 1985/86 to 2010/11. Tournament schools and game sites over the period have been geocoded to enable accurate computation of changes in the geospatial variables. Logistic regression is used to assess the independent effects of all variables in the model and estimate odds ratios of winning. Findings show that traveling across time zones is a disadvantage for all, particularly for teams traveling from west to east. While elevation and temperature changes are known to affect the results of other sports, they do not appear to be a significant factor in NCAA basketball tournament outcomes. The longstanding importance of home region advantage is also reinforced. The NCAA’s adoption of the “pod format” for matching tournament seeds to sites succeeds in keeping higher seeds closer to home in the early rounds and in slightly improving their win percentages. However, the pod system, when introduced as a covariate in the model, does not exert a significant effect on tournament results or on the importance of geospatial variables in determining game outcomes.

Keywords: College Basketball, Geospatial Determinants, Circadian Rhythms, Time Zones, Elevation, Temperature, Distance Traveled, Home Court Advantage, NCAA Tournament, Bracketology, Pod Era

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 4, Issue 4, February 2015, pp.71-81. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 562.807KB).

Dr. Daniel C. Clay

Professor, Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation, & Resource Studies, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

Dr. Dan Clay is a professor in the Dept of Community, Ag, Recreation & Resource Studies (CARRS) at Michigan State University. He is a demographer accomplished in the analysis of large-scale data sets for research and development purposes. Formerly he worked for the US Census Bureau as a survey statistician. These interrelated programmatic interests and experiences are represented in Dan’s extensive record of professional publications, media interventions, grants administration, consultancies and other professional activities. Dan is the co-recipient of the Dudley Seers Memorial Prize in 2004 awarded for the best article published by the Journal of Development Studies in the economics category.

Aniseh Bro

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation, & Resource Studies, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, MI, USA

Aniseh Bro is currently a PhD student in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University. She received a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from the University of New Mexico and a Masters of Science in Statistics from Oregon State University. She is enjoying the opportunity to use her background in statistics in different research projects.

Nathan J. Clay

Ph.D. Candidate and Research Assistant, Geography Department, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA