On the Road Again
If the 2018-19 basketball season had a theme, it would be road losses. The Dunkin’ Dawgs lost ten of their fourteen games away from the Thomas Assembly Center. And only one of those victories came when it counted the most: conference play.
It’s fortunate that curse didn’t rub off on the baseball program, because 12 of the remaining 16 games for the Diamond Dogs take place away from Ruston.
At this point in the season, Tech baseball is a solid 11-4 (73.3%) on the road. In fact, Tech’s away record is currently the best in the conference:
This chart also confirms something that seems obvious: teams typically win more games at home than on the road.
But of the twelve C-USA baseball programs, there are two exceptions to this rule: Tech and this weekend’s opponent: Rice.
For the Owls, the difference between the home and away records is negligible (about 1%). But the Bulldogs have only won 67% at home, while winning 73% on the road.
And this season isn’t a fluke either. For the past few years, Tech’s away winning percentage has been stellar (and improving):
(According to math, Tech should win over 100% of the road games they play by 2022.)
The season isn’t over yet, but winning this many road games is remarkable. In the past three years, only one C-USA program has topped that (USM 2017).
So all things being equal, winning road games are often more impressive than home ones. And that makes sense. It’s usually easier to win when you have the crowd advantage.
But as the Bulldogs found out last year
and the year before that, beating good teams is much more important than just winning games
So to see how impressive Tech’s road record truly is, we need to see how tough their opponents were. And we can do that with RPI:
A lower RPI means a more difficult opponent. So this chart shows that on average, Tech’s road opponents have been tougher than their home ones. That’s not too unusual; Tech fans of any sport should be accustomed to the struggles of getting good teams to play in Ruston.
Looking forward to these last few games, here’s what we’re looking at RPI-wise:
For comparison, Tech currently has an RPI of 33. These are all games/series that the Bulldogs will be expected to win (except for LSU, but I personally expect Tech to win that one too).
So to recap, Tech has performed phenomenally on the road this year. That’s especially true considering the added difficulty of the opponents the Bulldogs faced on the road. Will Tech be able to keep that momentum going?
Well, there’s one more thing that could help down this final stretch: the hot streak
Every time the Dogs win a game, the line goes up. When, they lose, it goes down. That long stretch without a dip down? That was Tech’s ten game winning streak.
Combine Tech’s road prowess and the hot streak, and you can see why Tech is appearing in projections for regionals.
But we’ve heard this kind of talk before. In 2017 and 2018, Tech fell just short of a chance to compete for a national title. But record wise, Tech is actually two games further above .500 than they were at this point last time they made a regional (2016):
And if the Bulldogs keep up the road success to finish the season, they can assuredly expect to find themselves in a regional. And funny thing about regionals:
If you don’t host them, all the games feel like road games.