Geographical Advantages for Teams Playing in the Sweet 16
The Sweet 16 is set, and we know where the remaining teams are going to be heading to later this week. And that means we can take a look at the geographical realities of the regional assignments and what impact that could have on the teams going forward. Teams can have an advantage on the coming weekend in two ways - if they have favorable travel compared to their opponents or if they are likely to have significantly better crowd support than their foes.
The Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., the home of the Capitals, Wizards, and Georgetown, plays host to this region. This location gives one team an edge - but they were going to have that edge anyway.
Duke is closest to their weekend location, having to travel 260 miles to get there - 10 miles more than Virginia Tech. Michigan State has a 590 miles trip ahead of them, which is almost half the distance that LSU has to go - 1,150 miles. Duke will have the most support in this one, not because they are the closest but because they are the most public and most avid - and because their alumni base gravitates to D.C. much more than the other schools. Duke will also have the strongest group of fans opposing them, though - if you don't love Duke then you hate them.
Virginia Tech had the worst travel last week in the region - and some of the worst in the tournament, having had to travel to San Jose. Coming home Sunday night from that makes for a rougher week than the other teams here. Duke, on the other hand, has nothing at all to complain about - they have not had to travel a combined 500 miles to get to their two game locations. All but three of the other 15 teams in the Sweet 16 are travelling further for this round than the 490 total miles Duke has travelled to their two locations.
The games here will be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim, the home of the Ducks from the NHL - so they won't be worrying about getting the arena ready for the playoffs.
This region is all about travel - no team is playing close to home. Gonzaga has the advantage of playing in the same time zone, but they still have to travel 1,250 miles to get to the game. Texas Tech is actually slightly closer at 1,100 miles - though they still aren't within walking distance. Florida State and Michigan are equally far from home here - 2,250 miles. None of these teams get a real break on travel. What stands out, though, is the fan support. Michigan travels far better than the other teams at the best of times, and they have a strong Southern California alumni base to draw on - like they do in most places. The Wolverines are going to have as many fans as the other three teams combined - at least. The difference will be particularly pronounced in their opener against Texas Tech.
Florida State has had to travel to Hartford from Tallahassee for their first two games, then back to Florida before heading to California. Rough travel - the roughest of the group.
The Sprint Center in Kansas City, a building without a permanent sporting tenant, hosts this regional. The arena hosts the Big 12 Championship every year, but that doesn't help here as the Big 12 isn't represented in the region.
Kentucky has the travel advantage here, but not in a meaningful way - they are still 580 miles away. Houston is at 730 miles, with Auburn at 860 and North Carolina at 1,050. None of the teams have particularly rough travel. North Carolina and Kentucky, as the two basketball schools with a long history of success, will have the significant advantages in crowd support in their openers.
The worst name for a major arena in the country is, without question, the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. It's the freaking exclamation mark. The biggest tenant of the building is the Louisville Cardinals, which means that Virginia has a slight edge here - they play their ACC foe in the building most years, so they will be the most comfortable. They won't be the closest, though. Purdue is only 180 miles away, with Tennessee at 240 miles. Virginia is a reasonable 490 miles away, while Oregon has to cross the country - 2,350 miles - to get to the game. Aside from the Ducks, the three schools should see strong support, with no clear edge to any.
While Oregon faces rough travel here and will have relatively little crowd support to go with it, the team was relatively lucky in their opener. San Jose was in the same time zone, and not too far down south.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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