Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie could have joined the throngs of fans who are likely griping about the unfair advantage Michigan State had in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament. Instead, she took another path Tuesday after ninth-seeded MSU ended top-seeded Duke's season with a 63-49 upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament. (Check out top women's tournament moments)
"We play in front of a lot of hostile crowds," said McCallie, who left Michigan State for Duke two years ago. "I'm sure it helps, yes, of course it helps. Is it the reason why they won? No. I'm sure it helped in some way, but the reality is, we didn't play very well tonight."
Good call, McCallie.
Despite complaints otherwise, the location of the game shouldn't have any bearing on the results -- or at least not to the extent that some top teams have dropped games this tournament. It shouldn't have mattered for Duke, which has traveled to Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland this season. The site had nothing to do with scoring drought that lasted nearly the final eight minutes of the game, just like it shouldn't have mattered for second-seeded Auburn, which lost to No. 7 Rutgers, 80-52, on its home floor. No crowd can account for 28 points.
After all, home court didn't save No. 7 Notre Dame from getting knocked off by No. 10 Minnesota. It didn't keep from LSU from losing in the second round, either. If the Blue Devils couldn't defend their No. 1 seed in East Lansing, how would they expect to get through a potential matchup with Stanford just a few miles away in Berkeley? How could Auburn get past Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, which just hosted the Big 12 tournament?
While it may seem unfair at first glance, the fact is someone has to play on someone else's court in the opening rounds of the women's tournament. The game simply isn't ready for neutral courts, which is evident by taking a look in the stands when the home team isn't in the game. At Notre Dame, attendance dropped more than 1,800 after the Irish were eliminated in the first round. More than 5,600 fans showed up for the opening round with where Iowa was the host but with the Hawkeyes out there were fewer than 3,000 in the stands to watch Georgia Tech and Oklahoma, which featured one of the best women's college players ever in Courtney Paris.
So, until those numbers increase, this is the way it has to be in the women's game. If you're a top seed in the NCAA tournament, you better be able to win anytime, anywhere.
No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 3 Ohio State -- This could be quite the frontcourt battle. Ohio State center Jantel Lavender, who averages 21 points and 10.8 rebounds, won Big Ten Player of the Year honors for the second straight season. At 6-foot-4, Pac-10 Player of the Year Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen are making life tough in the paint for opponents and the Cardinal's inside game has only improved with the emergence of freshman Nnemkadi Ogwumike. Pedersen's size and ability to play on the perimeter make her a difficult matchup.
No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 7 Rutgers -- They certainly can't match the feat of Ball State, which made history with a first-round win against Tennessee, but the Boilermakers and Scarlet Knights did pull of upsets of their own. Purdue took down a North Carolina team that many had penciled into the national title game earlier this season. Rutgers dominated Auburn, holding the Tigers' high-scoring offense to 52 points, well below their season average of 77.3. The play of Kristi Toliver has turned Maryland into a Final Four contender. Perhaps EpiphannyPrince can carry Rutgers as well. She's averaging 26.5 points in the tournament.
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh -- The Sooners did OK against the pressure of a harassing Georgia Tech defense on Tuesday. Their prize? Danielle Robinson and the Sooners will have to contend with Shavonte Zellous, who already has 55 points in two tournament games. The Panthers will need her and everyone else, though, to keep Courtney Paris at bay.
No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 3 Louisville -- With four different players leading the offensive attack the past four games, a Baylor lineup missing leading scorer Danielle Wilson has proven itself to be more than a one-dimensional. The Bears will have to be if Rachel Allison can't go. Allison injured her knee late in the second-round win against South Dakota State. Louisville would have a tougher time without its leading scorer. Angel McCoughtry accounts for one-third of the Cardinals' offense.
No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 9 Michigan State -- The Cyclones are about to face a second straight team opponent that is coming off a big upset. They dispensed of Cinderella team Ball State, which gave Tennessee its earliest elimination ever. They could prove to be an even more difficult matchup for MSU than Duke. Iowa State has the potential to score from anywhere with a good inside pair and five starters capable of hitting from three-point range.