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Terps Savor Playing at Home

Both Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman were asked on Saturday why they enjoy playing at Comcast Center so much, and both pointed to the fan support that the team receives. Said Coleman, "Our fans are the best in the country, they come out to support us, and they are loud and they heckle the other teams."

The crowd during Sunday's first-round games certainly backed that up: 10,847 fans watched as top-seeded Maryland beat 16th-seeded Dartmouth, 82-53, and extended its home winning streak to 35 games. It was easily the biggest crowd at any of the 16 first-round sites for the NCAA women's tournament (the complete list is below), and it also surpassed the announced crowd at Miami's American Airlines Arena for the men's second-round tournament games on Sunday (10,204).

For the Dartmouth players, who hadn't played in front of a crowd larger than 1,710 this season, it was a thrilling experience. Sophomore Brittney Smith said it was "really exciting. I love the energy." But she also said that she and her teammates had a hard time hearing one another because of the noise in the arena.

Is it fair for one team to play on its home court in the tournament? Or is that the price that needs to paid in order to draw attractive crowds? This is an issue that is raised every year in the women's tournament. Check out the story that Kathy Orton did on this subject two years ago.

"You have to be realistic when you're trying to do neutral courts," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said on Sunday. "It hasn't worked out for the women just yet. Obviously in an ideal situation, [neutral courts] would be the most fair and the most equitable, but we wouldn't be playing in front of what you saw tonight with 10,000 fans."

There was a small but enthusiastic group of Utah supporters at Comcast Center on Sunday, cheering as the ninth-seeded Utes upended eighth-seeded Villanova, 60-30. But those fans will be swallowed up by Maryland supporters when the teams meet in a South Region second-round game on Tuesday night.

"Home games in the women's tournament are not good, certainly, unless you're the home team. That's the reality," Utah Coach Elaine Elliott told the Associated Press. "There's no doubt that it's a huge challenge, and there's no doubt that the advantage is theirs."

At least on Tuesday night, it will be the higher-seeded team that has the advantage; top-seeded Connecticut (East Region) and third-seeded Ohio State (West Region) also get to play second-round games in their home towns. But in four other games, a lower-seeded team gets to host a higher-seeded team: ninth-seeded Michigan State plays top-seeded Duke in East Lansing, Mich. (West Region), seventh-seeded Rutgers plays seconnd-seeded Auburn in Piscataway, N.J. (Midwest), 10th-seeded San Diego State plays second-seeded Stanford in San Diego (West) and sixth-seeded LSU plays third-seeded Louisville in Baton Rouge (South).

San Diego State, playing on its home court (Cox Arena), has already upset seventh-seeded DePaul. But it also should be noted that seventh-seeded Notre Dame (East) and eighth-seeded Iowa (Midwest) were upset by lower-seeded teams—10th-seeded Minnesota and ninth-seeded Georgia Tech, respectively—despite the advantage of playing in front of large crowds at home.

NCAA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT FIRST-ROUND ATTENDANCE
1. Comcast Center (College Park, Md.) – 10,847
2. Gampel Pavilion (Storrs, Conn.) – 8,548
3. Joyce Center (South Bend, Ind.) – 6,395
4. Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City) – 5,615
5. Nationwide Arena (Columbus, Ohio) – 5,249
6. Breslin Center (East Lansing, Mich.) – 3,983
7. E.A. Diddle Arena (Bowling Green, Ky.) – 3,907
8. The RAC (Piscataway, N.J.) – 3,883
9. Cox Arena (San Diego) – 3,651
10. Maravich Center (Baton Rouge, La.) – 3,610
11. The Pit (Albuquerque, N.M.) – 3,111
12. Bank of America Arena (Seattle) – 2,853
13. United Spirit Arena (Lubbock, Tex.) – 2,748
14. Gwinnett Center (Duluth, Ga.) – 2,704
15. McKenzie Arena (Chattanooga, Tenn.) – 2,424
16. Galen Center (Los Angeles) – 1,292

By Camille Powell  |  March 23, 2009; 11:48 AM ET
Categories:  Women's basketball  
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Comments

I was watching that Middle Tennessee vs. Michigan State game. I can understand a one seed getting home court, but a 9 seed? Seemed patently unfair to the Middle Tennessee, but until women's basketball gets a wider following, this is a necessary compromise to bring in better revenue.

Posted by: Joran | March 23, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

As Brenda Frese said, it is what it is. I don't think anybody likes the current arrangement, but the women's game isn't ready for neutral sites. Which is too bad, because it can be a lot of fun (except for the Nova-Ute snoozer...don't get me started on that one).

It's worth noting that Dartmouth had a lot of fans present yesterday. At times, they were louder than the Maryland fans, even though they were probably outnumbered 10 to 1.

Posted by: krae-kartoons | March 23, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Couple thoughts on yesterday:
1. Terrible call against Middle Tennessee for a charge at end of game. That cost them advancing in the tournament.
2. Ball State looked great against Tenn. And someone should come hard at their coach. She's a future Brenday Friese.
3. Is Terps Wallace out permanently? Or is she coming back next season?
4. Kristi is the best pt guard in the country.
Go Terps.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 23, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

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