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The Truth About Home Cooking In The SEC

Nothing gets fans going like college basketball officiating.  In football this past year we got our first taste of full-blown conspiracy theories, but the idea of “home cooking” has always been around in basketball.

Prompted by dozens upon dozens of emails stating that Kentucky is being aided by officials, I decided to do a little digging.

Is Rupp Arena really “CoRuppt Arena” as some have suggested?

Which arena does provide the biggest boost to its inhabitant?

In which arena should fans expect to get the fewest calls?

I’ve gone through all of the SEC’s in-conference games to date, including Thursday night’s action.  I’ve added and subtracted and averaged.  That type of cyphering can be a pain in the rump, but the findings were worth the work.

Now, before I start revealing the truth about home cooking, let me make a couple of points:

1.  Foul totals can be skewed by end-of-the-game fouls committed by teams trying to come from behind.

2.  I’ve long believed that officials (just like opposing players) can be intimidated by loud, rowdy, rocking gyms.

3.  I also happen to believe (and many agree) that officials usually give teams that play a more physical style the benefit of the doubt on judgement calls.

4.  I also think that teams that come into games as favorites are more likely to get judgement calls.  Not because officials are eyeing the Vegas Line but because it’s only human to think a lesser team will have to foul a better team more often.

All that said, here are my findings:

1.  Which Team Gets The Most Fouls Called Against It?

Below you’ll find the fouls-per-game data for each SEC school.  I’ve also included each team’s league record… as I only used the data from in-conference games.

Rank School Fouls Called Against
1 Auburn (3-8) 20.63 pg
2t Vanderbilt (9-2) 19.72
2t Ole Miss (5-6) 19.72
4 Alabama (4-7) 18.81
5 Tennessee (7-4) 18.63
6 LSU (0-11) 18.36
7 South Carolina (5-6) 18.09
8 Arkansas (7-4) 17.72
9 Kentucky (10-1) 17.54
10 Georgia (3-8) 16.72
11 Mississippi State (6-5) 15.81
12 Florida (7-4) 14.72

Do you see a pattern there?  I don’t either.

Which Team Enjoys The Biggest Foul Differential Over Its Opponents?

For this one, I look at the average number of fouls called on an SEC team as compared to its opponent.  Below you’ll see how many more (or fewer) fouls are called on each SEC squad as opposed to its opponent.

Rank School Foul Differential
1 Vanderbilt (9-2) + 4.46 pg
2 Kentucky (10-1) + 3.91
3 Arkansas (7-4) + 2.28
4 Mississippi State (6-5) + 2.19
5 Florida (7-4) + 2.18
6 Tennessee (7-4) + 0.18
7 Georgia (3-8) - 0.36
8 LSU (0-11) - 1.36
9 South Carolina (5-6) - 2.09
10t Alabama (4-7) - 3.72
10t Ole Miss (5-6) - 3.72
12 Auburn (3-8) - 3.91

Aha!  Clearly the best teams are getting “taken care of,” right?  Perhaps.  Or those inflated numbers for the league’s winning teams could be a by-product of holding late-game leads which forces opponents to foul more often.

It is interesting to note, however, that once again Kentucky is not the league-leader.

In Which Gym Do Road Teams Get Called For The Most Fouls?

Below you’ll find the average number of fouls called against an opponent in an SEC gym.  Pretty self-explanatory.

Rank Home Team Gym Fouls Called Against Opponent
1 Vanderbilt (Memorial) 25.40 pg
2 Kentucky (Rupp) 23.33
3 Arkansas (Bud Walton) 21.83
4 Tennessee (Thompson-Boling) 20.40
5 Georgia (Stegeman) 19.80
6 Mississippi State (Humphrey) 18.83
7 Florida (O’Connell) 18.00
8t LSU (PMAC) 17.80
8t South Carolina (Colonial Life) 17.80
10 Auburn (Beard-Eaves) 17.40
11 Ole Miss (Tad Smith) 17.20
12 Alabama (Coleman) 16.50

Anybody else notice that the league’s three biggest arenas (Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas) all rank near the top of these standings?  And the leader just happens to be the rowdiest band box in the league.

Which Team Gets The Biggest Boost In Foul Differetial By Playing At Home?

When we compare the overall average foul differential for each team to the foul differentials those teams enjoy at home, you’ll see that every team in the league gets some amount of home cooking.  (Another reason that I don’t believe basketball is on par with football as a sport… but that’s just me.)

Below you’ll find the boost in foul differential each team enjoys when comparing home numbers to overall numbers

Rank School Foul Differential Boost At Home
1 Florida + 4.22 bigger differential pg
2 Georgia + 4.16
3 Auburn + 3.71
4 Arkansas + 3.39
5 Vanderbilt + 3.14
6 Alabama + 3.06
7 Mississippi State + 2.64
8 Tennessee + 2.62
9 South Carolina + 2.29
10 Ole Miss + 1.72
11 LSU + 1.16
12 Kentucky + 0.92

Yep.  You read that right.  Kentucky gets less of a boost in foul differential at Rupp than any other SEC school gets from playing on their home floor.

Now, some will say that’s only ’cause the refs are cheating for the Cats at home AND on the road.  But the above numbers don’t seem to suggest that.

In fact, I think it’s more likely — as I stated earlier — that teams with winning records get the benefit of the doubt more often from officials… and they tend to be fouled more toward the ends of games.

It’s also worth noting that the two most physical teams in the league (Vandy and Kentucky) rank near the top in several categories.

Make of it what you will.  See what you want to see.  You now have the numbers in hand.  Enjoy.




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