The biggest games in college basketball — those played in the NCAA tournament — are held on a neutral court. The 2020-21 season could feature more neutral-court games, or at least a higher percentage of non-conference games that are played on a neutral court, due to health and safety measures.
So, with potentially more emphasis placed on neutral-court games this season, at least outside of conference play, NCAA.com analyzed which programs have been the strongest in those environments.
Using March Madness correspondent Andy Katz’s preseason Power 36 rankings, I looked at the neutral-court records of each program over the last 10 seasons — from the 2010-11 campaign through the 2019-20 season. I used the kenpom.com game logs to calculate how many games each program has won and lost that haven’t been in a true home or true road environment.
Here are some of the main takeaways:
- Duke has the highest neutral-court winning percentage (.791) over the last 10 seasons, while Kansas has the most neutral-court wins (77) in that time.
- Eight teams in Andy Katz’s preseason Power 36 rankings have won at least 70 percent of their neutral-court games over the last 10 seasons.
- Villanova holds the best single-season neutral-court record among the 360 individual seasons examined with the Wildcats going 15-0 on a neutral court during the 2018 season. UConn’s 14-0 neutral-court record in 2011 was the second-best mark.
- Three programs among those examined have won at least 10 neutral-games in three different seasons since the 2010-11 campaign: Duke, Kansas and Kentucky.
Among schools ranked in the preseason Power 36, here are the schools with the best neutral-court winning percentages over the last 10 seasons.
1. Duke – 76-20 (.791)
Highlighted by a national championship run during a 2015 season in which the Blue Devils went 11-1 in neutral-court games, Duke has the best neutral-court winning percentage among the teams ranked in Andy Katz’s preseason Power 36. Duke also reached the 10-win mark in 2017 and 2019 — the former came in spite of the team losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
T-2. Gonzaga – 70-20 (.777)
The ‘Zags have been unafraid to challenge themselves in non-conference play in neutral-site multi-team events (MTEs) and matchups, and in true road contests for that matter. Last season, they played Oregon and Michigan — a pair of teams that finished the season in the top 20 on kenpom.com — in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The year before that they faced Arizona, Illinois and Duke in the Maui Invitational, as well as Tennessee in Phoenix. The 2018 season saw Gonzaga matched up against Ohio State, Florida, Texas and Villanova.
OK, you get the point.
And the point is that Gonzaga has made it a habit of playing some of the best teams in the country and it has won at a ridiculous rate.
T-2. Villanova – 63-18 (.777)
From the 2011 season through the 2014 season, the Wildcats were 9-12 in neutral-court matchups, finishing the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons with a losing record in such games. However, during the next five seasons — from the 2015 season through 2019 — Villanova went 51-5 in neutral-court games as the Wildcats won four Big East tournament titles and two national championships in three years.
A feat like Villanova’s 15-0 neutral-court record in 2018 is only possible if a team wins a non-conference tournament, its conference tournament and the NCAA tournament.
4. Kansas – 77-24 (.762)
No team has won more neutral-site games over the last 10 seasons than Kansas, which has won 77 of them. The Jayhawks won 10 games on a neutral court in the 2011, 2016 and 2018 seasons, and excluding the 2020 season, they won at least six neutral-court games in each of the other nine seasons. Their worst single-season, neutral-court mark has been three games over .500 — 8-5 in 2012, 6-3 in 2014 and 4-1 last season.
5. Kentucky – 69-22 (.758)
At the start of the 10-year period that I examined (the 2010-11 season through last season), Kentucky went 23-3 on neutral courts in the 2011 and 2012 season. During the Wildcats’ national title season in 2012, they went 12-1 on neutral courts, and they also had one-loss records in 2015 (9-1) and 2017 (10-1), when their only neutral-court loss was in the NCAA tournament.
Kentucky starts every season playing in the Champions Classic against Duke, Kansas or Michigan State — two of which are among the four programs examined that have a better neutral-court record in the last 10 seasons than Kentucky.
6. Michigan – 61-22 (.734)
1-2 under current coach Juwan Howard
Thanks to national runner-up seasons in 2013 and 2018, when Michigan went 9-2 and 12-2 on neutral courts, respectively, the Wolverines have been tough to beat in a neutral-court environment. Michigan won the Big Ten Tournament in back-to-back years in 2017 and 2018 — as a No. 8 seed, then a No. 5 seed, by the way — as the Wolverines have been blowing up Big Ten and NCAA tournament brackets recently.
7. Virginia – 45-17 (.725)
Similar to Villanova, Virginia elevated itself in the sport’s hierarchy in the middle of last decade. From the 2011 season through 2013, the Cavaliers were just 3-8 in neutral-court games, only to go 42-9 in the next seven years, including a 10-1 neutral-court record during their national championship season in 2019. The 2014 and 2018 seasons were also seasons in which Virginia lost just one neutral-court game all season.
Among all the teams ranked in the preseason Power 36, Virginia’s 17 neutral-court losses in the last 10 years are the second-fewest, behind only Houston (21-16 neutral-court record) and Rutgers (12-16 record). Virginia won the ACC Tournament in 2014 and 2018.
8. North Carolina – 71-27 (.724)
The Tar Heels’ combined neutral-court record in the 2016 and 2017 seasons is as impressive as any two-year run, as North Carolina went 24-3 in such games, highlighted by a national championship in 2017 and a national runner-up finish in 2016. The Tar Heels also won the ACC Tournament in 2016.
Here’s my complete data set:
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