It's just plain hard to win on the road in college basketball.
It's even been nailed down to a mathematical science. In the RPI, a road win is worth 1.4 wins, while a home win is only worth 0.6 wins.
Need more proof?
Consider this Wall Street Journal report from five years ago, which begins with this nugget: “The road winning percentage in major men's college basketball is .340 – meaning the road team wins roughly one out of every three games.”
And if that road team is ranked in the Top 25? Even harder. Crowds are louder, student sections pull out their best stops – remember Speedo Guy? – and sold out arenas become transfixed on creating distractions for the opponent. Whiteouts, blackouts, dizzying towel waving, you name it.
And that's what the No. 16 Massachusetts men's basketball team (14-1, 2-0 Atlantic 10) will face as it embarks on its upcoming three-game road trip, which begins Wednesday night at George Mason.
“We know the crowd is going to come to try to distract us,” UMass forward Sampson Carter said. “So we have to fight the referees, the crowd and the team too.”
UMass coach Derek Kellogg realizes the task his team faces.
“I do think the guys realize it's kind of an us against the world mentality. It's going to be a nice crowd -- Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday -- really whenever we go on the road,” Kellogg said. “What's nice is that we're having nice crowds wherever we go now. Home games we're having good crowds, we're going on the road with good crowds. I'm hoping that continues to keep the guys energized.”
The Patriots (7-9 A-10, 0-2 A-10) enter Wednesday's matchup on a three-game losing streak and 0-2 start to their first A-10 season since leaving from the Colonial Athletic Association. Things looked promising after a 4-0 start, but have since lost nine of their last 12 games.
In the CAA, George Mason enjoyed 15 straight winning seasons – which has included five NCAA Tournament appearances and a Final Four appearance under then-coach Jim Larranaga in 2006.
This season, under coach Paul Hewitt, the Patriots are paced by senior guards Bryon Allen and Sherrod Wright, who are averaging 14.4 points and 13.3 points, respectively. The Patriots start two freshmen, but can make up for a lack of experience with depth as they boast 11 players on their roster who have played at least 12 minutes per game.
Some things to watch for as the Minutemen start their road trip Wednesday night:
KELLOGG RETURNS TO FAIRFAX: Kellogg began his coaching career at George Mason as an assistant coach from 1997 to 1999. On Wednesday, he'll return as a coach for the first time since then seeking his 100th career victory as UMass' head coach.
“That's a great area of the country,” Kellogg said. “I loved living there, I thought it was a great place to work. I think it's a place where they're committed to basketball and it's a place where it's a really great basketball job, and we've got some guys who are from that area.”
WILLIAMS' STATUS: UMass point guard Chaz Williams (deep bruise in left ankle) is officially ruled as a game-time decision for Wednesday's 7 p.m. tip, but Kellogg expects him to play after X-ray results came back negative on Monday.
Williams said he hurt his ankle when he made a big block of St. Bonaventure center Youssou Ndoye on Saturday, which made the No. 9 spot on SportsCenter's top plays. Cady Lalanne landed on Williams' foot on the play, and Williams fell awkwardly.
Williams was in a walking boot during Monday's practice.
“He's OK. I believe he's OK,” Kellogg said Monday. “It might take him a few days. He's bruised up, he's beat up. Not only his ankle, but his body, because he's getting attacked by every team out there and getting hammered every time he dribbles the ball, so he's a tough kid. I think he'll be playing on Wednesday, but a couple days off of practice for his foot to heal will probably be pretty good for him.
“I'll be all right,” Williams said. “I'm from Brooklyn, so hopefully nothing can keep me out.”
PROBABLE STARTERS: Based on previous lineups, here are the projected lineups for Wednesday's game.
*G Sherrod Wright, Sr.: 13.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG
*G Bryon Allen, Sr.: 14.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.6 APG
*G Marquise Moore, Fr.: 3.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG
*F Jalen Jenkins, Fr.: 6.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG
*F Johnny Williams, Sr.: 5.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG
*G Chaz Williams, Sr.: 15.4 PPG, 7.5 APG
*G Derrick Gordon, So.: 9.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG
*F Raphiael Putney, Sr.: 11.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG
*F Sampson Carter, Sr.: 11.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG
*C Cady Lalanne, Jr.: 13.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.5 BPG
WHERE TO CATCH THE GAME: Wednesday's game will be televised on SNY, MASN and NESN-plus. As usual, you can also hear the game on the radio on 105.5 FM WEEI (Springfield), 1440 AM WVEI (Worcester) and 95.9 FM WATD (South Shore). DailyCollegian.com will have a live stream of the game on its website too, so look out for that. I have also made the trip to Fairfax, Va., so give me a follow on Twitter @steve_hewitt for live updates and commentary.
Have a UMass basketball question for Steve Hewitt? Send him a tweet @steve_hewitt or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and it could appear in an upcoming mailbag.