Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NCAA Tournament and the Constant Center: Where were the Lady Monarchs?

West Virginia coach Mike Carey assigned his guards homework after Monday's subregional final loss to Stanford at the Constant Center.

Watch the film and more importantly, watch Stanford's guards. And while you're watching, learn.

We're not sure if Old Dominion -- comprised largely of underclassmen -- learned from this past weekend's game. From what we can tell, the Lady Monarchs were largely MIA at the Constant Center.

Granted, it's tough. Your school is a host. You didn't make the tournament. It must be painful to think of another team playing on your home floor for the chance to advance to the Sweet 16. Who wants to watch it?

Know what? What's good for you -- and in this case, what's best for your sport -- isn't always the easy decision.

LadySwish didn't walk up and down every aisle, so we will be the first to admit if the Lady Monarchs were in that arena, save for assistant coach Adrienne Goodson, sophomore Becca Allison and walk-on Brianca Washington, we didn't see them. Our belief is anybody planning to wear an ODU jersey next season had a responsibility to be in the stands -- not as an individual, as a team, as a visible representation of their sport and their school. So even if the returning Lady Monarchs were there, they were not there as a team.

In 2008 ODU defeated VCU at Delaware, host of the CAA Tournament. Tina Martin and every one of her players were in the stands as spectators. Martin, coach of the 2012 CAA champions, understood the responsibility a host team has but moreso, she understood how valuable it was to have her players see up close the level they need to reach to succeed.

A sage we often quote in this blog noted to me once that if the home team is playing, folks will go, sometimes in droves. If UConn and Tennessee are playing across the street, they'll walk right by. Women's basketball suffers from that philosophy. The Constant Center rocked when ODU hosted first and second rounds in 2008 -- beating Virginia en route to the Sweet 16. In 2010, ODU hosted again and minus the Lady Monarchs, got lucky when a revered UConn team came to town. Husky fans travel.

No such luck in 2012 when the only true buzz in the stands came from Hampton fans greeting the Pirates the first time they took the floor. Women's basketball fans of the sport -- not of their team -- can be hard to find.

But in this case, the Lady Monarchs, coaches and staff wouldn't be just two dozen more bodies in the seats. They're representatives, ambassadors for their sport. We LadySwishers don't play women's basketball; we watch it and we consider it our sport. When our sport comes to town and plays in NCAA Tournament games, it would feel wrong to be sitting at home watching "Jersey Shore."

We talk to a lot of players and often ask them about other players. Kobe and LeBron are the names that most cite as favorites, and on occasion we'll hear about Maya and Candace and Diana. All five have had terrific careers, but so has a kid named Nneka Ogwumike, as skilled and athletic a player as any these LadySwish eyes have laid eyes on.

Perhaps many Lady Monarchs have seen the smooth, lithe forward on TV. If they weren't at the Constant Center this weekend, they missed their last chance to see one of women's basketball's finest in person. We can't help but ask if you're playing women's basketball and you don't care about your own national championship, why should anyone else?


  1. I spotted 2 Lady Monarchs at the TED... I'm sure the others were there as well. I wasn't looking for them, saw them getting refreshments.

  2. Glad to hear that, though again, a visible presence as a team makes a statement.

  3. I was so impressed to see and hear that others saw all of the team there! Even more impressed how they volunteered their time to work the event. Disappointed your more concerned looking for faults instead of reporting the game. Maybe you and Chris Carlson are related or went to same journalism school. He's great at finding faults, instead of finding the truth