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San Francisco's War Memorial Gymnasium: BYU basketball's home away from home

It's not just your imagination: BYU really does shoot better by the Bay than anywhere else — including the Marriott Center.

By Dmarzan at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As the final moments of BYU's 25-point pounding of San Francisco ticked away on Thursday evening, several fans on Twitter remarked at the incredible comfort that the Cougars seem to feel in the allegedly unfriendly confines of the Dons' War Memorial Gymnasium.

After all, we had just witnessed the Cougars score an eye-popping 114 points as a team while shooting 63 percent from deep in the 5,300-seat venue, headlined by an incendiary individual performance from freshman guard Nick Emery, who erupted for 37 points on a school record-tying 10 made threes.

But it was also more than just one good showing. If you strain your memory and search back over BYU's first five seasons in the West Coast Conference, you can remember several performances in San Francisco that were nearly as explosive as Thursday's output, with several herculean individual efforts to boot.

This got me thinking: Is it just our inherent bias toward a few particularly memorable moments (like Matt Carlino igniting in the second half to post a 30-point game in 2012) that makes it seem like the Cougar pretty much own the Hilltop? Have they actually performed better and more consistently elsewhere on the road in the WCC, and we just haven't noticed it for some reason?

Naturally, I decided to explore what the numbers had to say on the matter. The big takeaway? BYU should probably lobby to play all their games in the Bay Area, effective immediately.

After compiling and analyzing game-by-game stats of every conference contest that the Cougars have played since joining the WCC in the 2011-2012 season, it's abundantly clear that BYU shoots better and scores more at War Memorial Gymnasium than any other arena — including their own Marriott Center.

Surprised? The numbers speak for themselves:

Location PPG FGM/G FGA/G FG% 3PM/G 3PA/G 3P%
San Francisco 92.2 32.6 60.8 53.6% 10.2 20.2 50.5%
Portland 87.4 28.6 66.6 42.9% 6.2 18.4 33.7%
Pacific 85.3 26.0 55.3 47.0% 9.3 20.0 46.7%
Santa Clara 84.0 29.5 53.5 55.1% 6.0 14.3 42.1%
BYU 81.9 28.1 59.8 46.9% 7.0 19.1 36.6%
Loyola Marymount 80.0 27.0 59.4 45.5% 6.6 19.0 34.7%
San Diego 75.5 27.3 59.8 45.6% 7.0 18.3 38.4%
Pepperdine 70.6 24.6 58.6 42.0% 3.8 15.4 24.7%
Saint Mary's 70.0 26.6 56.8 46.8% 5.8 15.2 38.2%
Gonzaga 67.4 24.6 63.8 38.6% 4.4 17.8 24.7%

In short, BYU has converted more shots (especially 3-pointers) at a higher percentage in games at San Francisco than any other gym in the conference, including their own. In five games at War Memorial, the Cougars have scored a mind-boggling 92.2 points per outing — nearly five full points more than the second highest location — while shooting 53.5 percent from the field (second only to games played at Santa Clara, where they shot 55.1 percent) and a blistering 50.5 percent from beyond the arc.

That's good, y'all. (And probably a big part of why they've never lost to the Dons in their gym.) But just how good is it?

Well, for comparison's sake, BYU averages 81.9 points per contest when playing at home, shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from deep. And you know what? That's still pretty good! If you're averaging more than 80 points and shooting over 45 percent from the floor, you're probably a really respectable college basketball team. But the fact that BYU is averaging 10.3 more points and shooting 13.9 percent better in some random opponent's gym than they are in their own — which boasts one of the best home court advantages in the country, no less — speaks volumes about just how completely bonkers the Cougars have been in their trips by the Bay over the last five years.

So now that it's been fairly well established that the boys in blue have a well-documented tendency to get a bit crazy on the Hilltop, the obvious next question is "Why?"

I don't have an answer for that.

Maybe it's the softness of the rims. (Nick Emery specifically mentioned this factor in his postgame interview on Thursday.) Maybe it's the lighting. Maybe it's the dimensions of the space. Maybe BYU just really hate the Dons and relish scoring on them at will. As anyone who has every stepped on a basketball court knows, there are countless different components that can affect how you shoot on any given day or in any given gym.

But at the end of the day, some gyms just feel better than others. Often it's a personal thing, and it's never really something that you can adequately put into words. But you know it when you step on the floor and launch your first shot. It just feels good.

I'm confident the Cougars know what I mean. After all, they've probably felt that exact same way every time they've suited up in San Francisco.