With only four games separating its first and last-place teams, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) is in the midst of one of its most up-and-down seasons since Loyola joined the conference in 2013. Despite this, there’s been one major consistency: home-court advantage.
MVC home teams have won 31 of 52 home games this year for a .600 clip. To put it in comparison, the Southern Conference — which is ranked similar to the MVC — saw its teams win 32 of 54 home games this year for a .593 clip. Some of the MVC’s top coaches said this advantage stems from a variety of reasons, including travel distance and the noise made by home crowds.
And Loyola isn’t an exception. The Ramblers sit at 6-0 in home conference games and are currently riding a 13-game home conference winning streak.
“To take care of your home court is just gonna be paramount if you wanna win at the end,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “[In Gentile Arena], it’s night and day different from years past. Our guys feel it. You put four to five thousand [fans] in there and it’s different than it was when there was 1,200 and I can’t credit the students enough.”
The Ramblers aren’t the only conference contenders to dominate at home this season. Illinois State University sits at 5-1 after falling to Valparaiso University 69-53 Feb. 5. Illinois State head coach Dan Muller contributed this success to the level of comfort he said his team holds when playing at Redbird Arena.
“I just think players are a little bit more comfortable at home,” Muller said. “I wish that wasn’t the case for my team, but our guys seem to play with more confidence at home and seem to play a little harder and can handle adversity better, but I think the crowd has a lot to do with that.”
“To take care of your home court is just gonna be paramount if you wanna win at the end.”Porter Moser, Loyola head coach
One daunting task for these road teams are the quick turnarounds of the MVC’s midweek schedule. Since conference play began Jan. 2, home teams have found major success during these games as they boast a 14-6 record. This disparity, according to University of Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson, is due to fatigue and travel as the season wears on.
“Even with guys being used to travel, as it’s just what they do now, I don’t know if it’s made it a whole lot easier but it’s a bit different now,” Jacobson said. “No question it’s hard, this conference schedule can be a complete grind to the finish.”
This season has followed a trend from 2017-18 in which home teams won 62 of their 90 matchups — a .688 winning percentage. This success was also shown by every team posting at least a .500 record at home, with the Ramblers leading the way at 14-1 as their sole loss came to Indiana State University Jan. 3, 2018.
While still a strong trend, this success has dropped marginally from last season’s highs, with players and coaches alike saying adjustments and experience have helped road teams remain more competitive.
Despite this, junior Loyola guard Bruno Skokna said especially in the MVC, road games are always a huge test as the Ramblers have struggled to a 2-3 record this season on the road including two blowouts at the hands of University of Evansville and Missouri State University.
“Any team can beat us on any night and especially on the road,” Skokna said. “Every road game is tough and every team in The Valley has qualities to beat you and we saw that with Missouri State who blew us out.”
The Ramblers’ season is scheduled to continue Feb. 10 as they travel to Valparaiso, Indiana to take on Valparaiso University at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.