Home-road factor

The home team won 72 of 96 SEC basketball games in 2006-07. That 75-percent success rate qualified the SEC as the toughest conference in America for road teams. This underscores how valuable an SEC road win is and how devastating an SEC home loss is.

That's where the Home-Road Factor comes in. Giving a team two points for each road win and deducting two for each home loss provides a more accurate reading than a simple won-loss record. For instance: A team that is 4-3 in league play but has a 3-0 home record and a 1-3 road record actually is in better shape (plus 2) than a team that is 5-3 in league play with a 5-0 home mark and an 0-3 road record (zero).

By virtue of wins at South Carolina, at Alabama and at Mississippi State, the Tennessee Vols are in terrific shape seven games into the 2008 SEC season. Throw in the fact the Big Orange is 3-0 at home, and Bruce Pearl's boys clearly are on a nice roll.

The Vols are far from shoo-ins, however. Florida, 3-0 at home and 2-2 on the road, is breathing down Tennessee's neck. If the Gators can upend the Vols Tuesday in Knoxville, they'll become the front-runner in the East race.

Kentucky is still very much alive in the division chase, as well. Bouncing back in a big way after a horrendous pre-conference performance, the Big Blue is 3-0 at home and 1-2 on the road. Even South Carolina, though 3-4 overall, is still in the race by virtue of a 2-2 SEC road record. If the Gamecocks can merely start holding serve at home (where they're 1-2), they could be right back in the thick of the East chase.

Every team in the SEC West has at least one home loss already, so there could be a replay of the 2007 division race, when Mississippi State and Ole Miss tied for the West lead with 8-8 conference records.

Here's a tip that will make the Home-Road Factor a little more meaningful: A team's rating coincides with how it will finish in relation to the .500 mark at its current pace. For instance, a team at plus-2 is on course to finish two games above .500 ... or 9-7. A team at minus-4 is on track to finish 6-10. A team at plus-6 is on pace to go 11-5 and a team at plus-8 is on track to finish 12-4.

EASTERN DIVISION

Tennessee 3-0 home, 3-1 road ..... plus 6

Florida 3-0 home, 2-2 road ..... plus 4

Kentucky 3-0 home, 1-2 road ..... plus 2

S. Carolina 1-2 home, 2-2 road ..... zero

Vanderbilt 3-0 home, 0-4 road ..... zero

Georgia 2-1 home, 0-3 road ..... minus 2

WESTERN DIVISION

Miss. State 3-1 home, 2-1 road ..... plus 2

Arkansas 3-1 home, 2-1 road ..... plus 2

Auburn 1-2 home, 1-3 road ..... minus 2

Ole Miss 3-1 home, 0-3 road ..... minus 2

La. State 0-3 home, 1-3 road ..... minus 4

Alabama 2-3 home, 0-2 road ..... minus 6


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