BURN THE HORSEUALR officials seemed pleased with the turnout for Saturday's first-round games at the NCAA Women's Tournament at the Jack Stephens Center, especially the number of folks who stuck around for the second game between Nebraska and Kansas.
Whether they come back tonight for the game between Delaware and Kansas is another matter. Hopefully they will. Neutral site attendance is a big indicator of support for the women's tournament when they make decisions about future tournament sites.
The tournament appears to be running smoothly. UALR and the Stephens Center have received plenty of compliments from out of town guests this week.
One thing that isn't helping with the NCAA is local media. Not counting The Associated Press, there were a grand total of ZERO Arkansas-based media members (print, TV, radio, Internet) at Monday's press conferences for Delaware and Kansas. Fortunately, it appears every Delaware-based media member made the trip. The room was full for them on Monday.
It's a shame because the media coverage was considered one of Little Rock metro's biggest pluses when UALR hosted the men's tournament a few years ago.
Some other observations:
- Why did UALR-Delaware tip off before Kansas-Nebraska? I know. It's TV. The Stephens Center looked great on TV but would have looked even better if the Nebraska and Kansas sections had their folks present. And the end of that Kansas-Nebraska game would have been played before a great crowd.
- The NCAA determines which fans sit where based on the seeds. That's why Delaware and Nebraska (the top two seeds) were seated behind the benches. But it would have looked better on TV to switch the UALR and Nebraska fan sections.
- What? It's not all about TV? Then why is tonight's game tipping off at 8:40 p.m.
- Wish UALR would have made some more first-half free throws. That would have kept the score a little closer and kept the crowd a little more into the game. Those free throw misses took all the pressure off Delaware. And when Elena Delle Donne went on her early second-half run, the game was over and the life sucked out of the Stephens Center.
- We understand why Delaware didn't bring more fans to Little Rock. That's a killer trip. And Kansas doesn't traditionally travel well other than men's basketball. But we thought there would be a lot more Nebraska fans at the Stephens Center on Saturday. Perhaps they were saving their money for a trip to Iowa next weekend. I guess they can now pocket that money for football season.
- No time to rest for either UALR coaching staff. The men's staff has been recruiting since season's end and the women's staff was back at it on Monday.