Attendance at Maryland women’s basketball games has been among the highest in the country, not only during the regular season but also for first- and second-round games in the NCAA tournament. Comcast Center had 5,733 for Sunday’s first-round games, including the fourth-seeded Terrapins’ 90-52 victory over No. 13 seed Army, and that number is expected to increase when Maryland faces fifth-seeded Texas on Tuesday night for the right to advance to the round of 16.
But even as the sport continues its growth, Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese said the women’s game is not ready to move to neutral sites, adding that playing at home, while certainly a considerable advantage, offers no rubber stamp when it comes to advancing in the tournament. The Terrapins found that out in the 2011 tournament, when they lost to Georgetown, 79-57, in the second round at Comcast Center.
Removing “home-court advantage for the first and second rounds, I don’t think we’re there yet from an attendance issue,” Frese said. “We’ve done that. We’ve been there before, and it hasn’t worked.”
A larger concern this season, Frese said, is playing regional games on potentially non-neutral courts. This season’s four regional sites are Lincoln, Neb., South Bend, Ind., Louisville and Stanford. Nebraska is the fourth seed in Lincoln; Notre Dame the No. 1 seed in South Bend; Louisville the No. 3 in its region; and Stanford a No. 2 in the Stanford Region.
Regionals are set to move back to neutral sites in 2015, when those games will be played in Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Greensboro, N.C., and Albany, N.Y. The NCAA women’s basketball championship committee made the decision to switch after receiving complaints from coaches about playing regionals on campus this season.
The first two rounds next season still will be played at campus sites, with the top 16 seeds hosting sub-regionals.
“Having your fans is a tremendous advantage, but we’ve hosted at home and unfortunately been upset,” Frese said. “Not too often, but it takes place all across the country. [North] Carolina almost got upset in its first-round game yesterday, so if you don’t come ready to play and play the best 40 minutes, nothing is guaranteed in the tournament whether you’re playing at home or on the road.”