It has been well documented that the best teams in college basketball are not nearly as good this season as they have been in years past. Eight of the top-ten teams lost last week, and that has been the norm throughout the season. In most instances, when “upsets” occur, the upper-echelon team is playing on the road.
Come tourney time, not many teams will be playing de facto home games, making road-tested squads all the more valuable for bettors. With that in mind, let’s find a low-major, mid-major, high-major, and Power 5 team that have been solid on the road this year.
As we go, you’ll notice that our road warriors have certain qualities in common; they all defend well, execute the fundamentals, and limit avoidable mistakes. These are the type of teams that will be especially dangerous during March Madness.
The Hawks are the only team in the country with 13 road wins, and they didn’t all come against their small Northeast Conference rivals; they won road games at UCLA, Georgetown, and Rutgers during non-conference play. They also have neutral site wins over Notre Dame and USC. The Hawks are top-25 in field-goal defense and three-point defense, and hit free throws at a 77-percent clip. They are fundamentally sound and that kind of play always travels.
These Hawks are also flying high with a 10-1 mark on the road. Their lone loss came at Davidson, where the Wildcats, one of the top-scoring teams in the nation, exploded for 99 points. St. Joe’s signature wins are not as impressive as Monmouth, but their conference, the Atlantic 10, is ranked eighth by Jeff Sagarin, and the Hawks count Temple, Richmond, and George Mason among their victims. Like Monmouth, St. Joe’s plays great perimeter defense, holding opponents to less than 30-percent on three-point tries. They also rarely turn the ball over and commit comparatively few fouls.
St. Joe’s’ Philadelphia neighbor is 10-2 away from home. In fact, one of the Wildcats road victories came at Saint Joseph’s. Their most impressive wins away from home came at Butler, Georgetown, Seton Hall and Providence. Their only two road setbacks were against Virginia and Xavier, both top-ten teams. The Cats are 20th in the NCAA in field-goal defense, and are the best free-throw shooting team in the NCAA. Add in neutral site wins over Stanford and Georgia Tech, and you have to like Jay Wright’s squad heading into the tournament, despite their recent March struggles.
The big boys don’t have to play as many road games thanks to getting their pick of the litter in non-conference play. But Kansas went 7-3 away from home this year while playing a difficult Big 12 slate. They slaughtered Texas in Austin on Monday after recent wins at Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma. As you may have guessed by now, the Jayhawks are among the best in the country defending the three-point line. They certainly have the look of a Final Four team.
(Photo credit: Keith Lovett (originally posted to Flickr as Jay Wright) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)