Geography, Travel Could Hold Key for Huskies

The Boston Globe might like No. 3 UConn to make it out of the West bracket and upset top-seeded Duke on the way to the Final Four, but history disagrees. And it has as much to do with the opponents as it does with geography.

According to the New York Times' Nate Silver, how far teams have to travel in the NCAA Tournament plays a role in how they perform once they get there.

"Since 2003, for instance, teams playing an N.C.A.A. tournament game within 50 miles of their campus are a remarkable 24-2," Silver writes. "…By contrast, teams traveling at least 1,000 miles to play their game are 121-174, having won just 41 percent of the time."

The Huskies will begin their NCAA journey in Washington, D.C., 375 miles down I-95 from Storrs. Teams that travel 200-500 miles have won 52 percent of their games since 2003, according to Silver. But wait: UConn's first-round opponent, No. 14 Bucknell, will travel just 186 miles from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Teams traveling 50-200 miles have won 64 percent of their games since 2003.

Clearly, proximity is just one of many variables that play a role in who wins and who loses. Talent, experience, depth and coaching are also all important.

And then there's this via the Hartford Courant's Jeff Jacobs: "San Diego State and Duke potentially lie ahead in Anaheim. The challenge is formidable. A Final Four trip is possible. Calhoun is very happy about saying, 'Go West, young men,' for all three UConn Final Four appearances have run through the West Regional."

Silver points out that, in the last eight years, No. 3 seeds have traveled, on average, 583 miles -- 200 miles more than the Huskies will have to travel for their Thursday opener. As for the teams that could most benefit from playing (relatively) close to home, Silver like Texas.

"[The Longhorns], which could fairly easily play its opening-round games in Tulsa, its regional in New Orleans, and the Final Four in Houston, all relatively quick trips from Austin. In one testing run that we did that involved this scenario, Texas’ chances of winning the tournament increased by about 50 percent — to roughly 6 percent from 4 percent — when we turned the geographic adjustment on."

If the Huskies survive their first two NCAA games they then might be at a geographic disadvantage, at least according to Silver. But they have something that transcends geography: Kemba Walker, who seems unaffected by just about everything.

Contact Us