What does home-court advantage mean for Alabama and how can it help the Crimson Tide compete at a higher level

Since Avery Johnson was hired as the head coach of the Alabama men’s basketball team, he has preached the importance the atmosphere in Coleman Coliseum has on the game. Johnson wants the students to fill the arena and create a loud and exciting atmosphere, similar to what you might find at places like Kentucky’s Rupp Arena or at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

How well has the Tide played at home in the past? Let’s look at Alabama’s performance at home under previous head coach Anthony Grant, who coached the Tide for six seasons, starting in the 2009-2010 season.

Season                            Home Record     Home Win Percentage

Alabama has actually played pretty well at home. The 2010-2011 season stands out with an unbeaten home record, but even if you treat that season as an outlier the Crimson Tide still won 78.2% of its home games under Grant. The road record under Grant is much worse, but for the purposes of this article let’s focus on the home games.

So Alabama has played well at home for a while, but how does it compare to teams known for having a strong home court advantage?

John Calipari of Kentucky was hired the same season as Grant. He has a 102-4 record at home during his tenure, good for a winning percentage of 96.2%. In that same time period, Mike Krzyzewski and Duke have a home record of 95-4, good for a winning percentage of 96%.

Duke and Kentucky are two of the top programs in college basketball, so comparing them to Alabama may not seem fair at first glance. Yet, Johnson has stressed that he thinks Alabama can become a top program just like Duke and Kentucky. In order to do that, Alabama needs to not only continue to play well at home, but elevate its play and play even better.

Johnson made changes to the location of the student section, and has really worked hard promoting the team to students. He met with leadership of many Greek organizations on campus to stress coming to games.

Students aren’t the only people who need to come to games for a good atmosphere to exist. The average attendance at an Alabama home game over the same six-year span used previously for home records was 11,047 people, which is 71.8% of the maximum capacity of Coleman Coliseum. The average attendance figure has also dropped each of the last three seasons. 

For comparison, Kentucky’s Rupp Arena had an average of 23,572 fans per game. Rupp’s official basketball capacity is just below that at 23, 500 seats. In five of Calipari’s six seasons, Kentucky has averaged at least 23,000 fans at each home game. For Alabama to bring a tangible home court advantage, it has to strive to pack the house every night, like Kentucky does.

So far Johnson seems to be having success in this regard. In the Crimson Tide's lone exhibition game the announced attendance was 10,732. One week later Johnson got his first collegiate win beating Kennesaw State 77-64 in front of a crowd of 14,970. 

Basketball at Alabama will never be as big to students as the football team, simply because football is so interwoven into the school’s identity. However, if basketball can become a focus for the student body, and Coleman Coliseum’s student section can be noisy and crowded, then the Crimson Tide can feed off of that energy and dominate opponents in Coleman similarly to how the football team dominates the competition in Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

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