There are just some venues across the college basketball landscape where fans and teams go into the game expecting to lose. You know them all too well – Phog Allen Fieldhouse at Kansas, Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke, Rupp Arena at Kentucky, Breslin Center at Michigan State, and even The Kennel at Gonzaga.
Protecting the homecourt and winning in front of program's faithful fans is a major step in making a basketball program what it is. And you also notice that the schools that have the biggest home court advantages are often the teams nationally known as powerhouses across the sport.
Since Mike Krzyzewski took over the head coaching position at Duke 33 years ago, he has made Duke into one of the nation's powers while winning home games over that time period at an 88 percent clip (413-55).
At Kentucky, John Calipari has been unbelievable in Rupp Arena since he hopped on in 2009, winning 82 of 86 home games in his tenure with the Wildcats.
Bill Self has had even more success protecting Kansas' home floor. Under Self, the Jayhawks have more conference titles (9) than home losses (8). He has racked up a silly 161-8 record in Allen Fieldhouse.
Winning in any of these arenas is a major accomplishment. Not only do you have the satisfaction of beating either Duke, Kansas, or Kentucky, you also pull off the rare feat of sending their fans home disappointed.
And after three years with Arkansas, Mike Anderson has turned Bud Walton Arena into one of those venues. Anderson is 51-6 in Fayetteville in his three years, three of the losses came in year one, all in a row to end his inaugural campaign.
But after his first season on the sidelines for Arkansas, the Razorbacks have held down the homecourt as well as any team in the nation. Arkansas is 34-3 at home the last two seasons, with two of the three losses coming to teams that made the Final Four the year they won there.
Two of the last three teams to win in Bud Walton Arena have made the Final 4 the year they won there. My theory is starting to grow legs.— Scottie Bordelon (@gsbordelon) March 30, 2014
That is my theory – It takes a Final Four team and/or a Final Four Most Outstanding Player performance(s) to win in Bud Walton Arena. That is how tough it is to win in Fayetteville these days.
When No. 6 Syracuse came into Bud Walton Arena and left with a 91-82 win, James Southerland dropped 35 points and drained 9-of-13 from deep. Soon-to-be lottery pick Michael Carter-Williams was also one assist away from a triple double in the game – 17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists. Both outings would earn Final Four MOP honors. Final Four team: Yes. Final Four MOP performance(s): Yes.
When No. 10 Florida rolled into Fayetteville (without Casey Prather and with a limited Scottie Wilbekin) and escaped overtime with an 84-82 win, Dorian Finney-Smith poured in a career-high 22 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. Final Four team: Yes. Final Four MOP performance(s): Yes.
And then we have Missouri. The Tigers stole a game from Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena, winning 75-71 behind monster games from Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross. Brown and Ross poured in 24 points each, and combined to go 16-16 from the free throw line.
Obviously, Missouri did not make the Final Four, but they did get Final Four MOP games from Brown and Ross, who combined to score all but four of Missouri's 39 second half points. In my opinion, Ross was the player of the game with his offensive rebound, three pointer sequence with just over a minute to go. That was a Final Four MOP performance in my eyes.
So what does it mean to win in Bud Walton Arena in this day and age? First of all, you've won in one of the top 10, possibly even top 5, toughest venues in all of college basketball. That's special. It also means your team is mentally tough, taking whatever the raucous BWA crowd had for for you and sticking it back to them.
So, college coaches across the nation, the message is pretty clear. If you want a barometer of how good your team truly is and can be that season, travel to Fayetteville, put Arkansas on the schedule and test your fate. If you win, the odds are in your favor for a great year.
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