Geospatial Determinants of Game Outcomes in NCAA Men’s Basketball
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.