Home advantage in women’s court

The Liacouras Center will host the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship beginning Friday. This is the fourth consecutive year the Liacouras Center will be used for the conference tournament.

Temple women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley said there has been discussions about moving the tournament after this season.

That decision will rest in the hands of A-10 officials. Suzanne DeFruscio, the A-10’s associate director of communications, said future sites for the tournament will be discussed in an athletics directors meeting over the summer.

The A-10 tournament came to Temple in 1999, when the Liacouras Center was known as The Apollo of Temple.

The tournament has been in Philadelphia eight times since it kicked off in 1983, mostly because of its location. Philadelphia schools: Temple, Saint Joseph’s and LaSalle all belong to the conference so travel time is cut down. The A-10 headquarters is located at 230 South Broad St.

Temple holds the top seed in the East division plus crowd and home court advantage. The Owls will play the winner of Friday’s Duquense vs. St. Bonaventure game Saturday at 4 p.m.

“I think it gives us the home court advantage,” Staley said. “I’m really pleased with how people came out and supported us and you can definitely hear when the game is on the line.

“So it’s great that we’re playing for the Atlantic 10 Championship here. I think we need to savor the moment and take advantage of the moment because it’s not going to be here for long.”

LaSalle coach John Miller doesn’t mind making the trip down Broad Street but does see how some teams might feel a bit queasy about facing the Owls on their home court.

“Now that Temple finishes in first place, now Temple is a major threat,” Miller said. “So teams might feel uncomfortable” playing Temple on their home court.

St. Joe’s coach Cindy Anderson-Griffin, who will be making her first A-10 tournament appearance as a coach, agreed with Miller.

“The teams that really have a disadvantage are the teams that never played on the court this year,” she said. “I think the teams in the West have more of a disadvantage because they haven’t played on that floor this year.”

Xavier, George Washington and Dayton have yet to play at the Liacouras Center this year. If the Owls advance to the finals they could face one of those teams.

But what it boils down to is who shows up to play. Last year Temple had the home court advantage but was ousted by George Washington in the semifinals.

“I’ve been coaching for 17 years and gone to tournaments 16 times and I really feel that the best team in the end … the best team wins,” Richmond coach Bob Foley said. “I think there’s advantages to being at home and there’s some disadvantages. There’s extra pressure that they should win.”

One advantage for visiting teams is that they know where their players will be, what they are eating and how much sleep they get, as teams stay in hotels. Coaches have players under “lock-and-key,” Foley said, whereas the home team has its players in dorms and might not have as much control or surveillance.

One idea would be to have the tournament at a neutral site, but then a question about attendance could be raised.

“I don’t feel the women’s game draws enough people to justify going to a neutral site,” Miller said.

Xavier drew the most fans this year to its Cintas Center, averaging 1,732 fans a game. Temple brought in an average of 1,239 fans to the Liacouras Center, while St. Joe’s racked in 1,160 fans for each home game.

“My biggest concern about the tournament is that I want to see great atmosphere, I want to see great crowds,” Foley said. “I think that the players deserve to play in front of good crowds and a lot of noise and a tournament-type atmosphere.”

Chris Silva can be reached at CBSRICAN@aol.com

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