Whether it be games in the Pacific Ocean or showdowns in NFL stadiums, college basketball has seen an increase in action away from college campuses. This begs the question whether or not these neutral site affairs are good for college basketball, or just flashy disturbances to the game.
Neutral locations bring out the best in teams
By Jacob Hypke
If there has ever been an argument as to why neutral site games work, look no further than March Madness.
Neutral sites even the playing field in terms of comfortability with where you’re playing. Some players play better at home while some play better away. Neutral sites take away any advantage that either team had going into the game, which leads to better, more competitive matchups.
There are a lot of people that don’t watch college basketball during the season but are fully invested when their calendar turns to March. Regular season college basketball is a lot more predictable within each game, much like the NBA regular season. March Madness, however, is some of the best basketball you will ever watch due to its randomness, not the least of which can be attributed to the neutral locations.
Past performances don’t matter when you get to the tournament. You’re on an unfamiliar court in an unfamiliar arena in front of the biggest in-person and television crowd of your life. With neutral game locations, there is no bias towards any side, just two teams giving it their all with skill and overall team character deciding who will win the game.
Neutral sites? Not it
By Thatcher Zalewski
Neutral site games have become popular in recent years with college basketball teams playing all over the country in a variety of different settings. From playing on an aircraft carrier, baseball fields and everything in between, the NCAA has started to make the home team in college basketball ineffective – a bad thing to continue.
For starters, having home court in any sport is an advantage. The players get support from the loud and rowdy crowds which can fire them up, while also getting in the heads of the opposition. Home crowds can play a big factor in deciding who wins and who loses. The home fans usually come out to support their players and classmates and having them in attendance provides extra motivation.
Another reason players should be able to play on their home court is that they are already comfortable playing there and moving to a neutral site takes away that comfort. When it comes time for tournaments, having that home-court advantage is huge. Grinding all season long for the best possible record to then just be shifted to a neutral site is almost demoralizing. Players worked to be the top seed in order to have that advantage, and it is just stripped away to satisfy a neutral site.
One example comes to mind when thinking about neutral site games. Michigan State played Gonzaga on an aircraft carrier on Nov. 11 and Michigan State had to shoot with the glaring sun in their faces for half of the game. This could be considered the home court advantage for Gonzaga. The purpose of neutral sites is to limit these factors, so the NCAA playing into that with these types of settings for games doesn’t make much sense.
Overall, the NCAA should not use neutral sites for basketball games. They take away the fun from the home crowd and can also make it hard on a team that had an incredible year. It’s time to shift away from neutral sites and bring the games back to college campuses, where the fans thrive.