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Lady Jackets unhappy with homecourt disadvantage
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The NCAA is happy that there'll be a good crowd, Bowling Green is happy to be in Ohio and Ohio State is happy to be staying on campus.

But Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph is anything but pleased that her team put together a 23-10 season against a muscular schedule, was handed a No. 5 seed and has to play one and possibly two Ohio teams in their own backyards.

"Yes, I am a little bit confused about that, how you justify that," Joseph said Friday, clearly angry.

The Yellow Jackets feel slighted. They received the program's highest seed ever, yet it'll be as if they're playing a true road game when they meet 12th-seed Bowling Green - which had to travel two hours by bus - at Ohio State's arena in an NCAA first-round game on Saturday morning.

"I expected to be a 5 seed on a neutral floor," Joseph said. "And, yes, I am disappointed."

The NCAA women's tournament tries to position its four-team first- and second-round games in or near the home city of teams in the field, to boost interest and attendance. When the local team falters and doesn't make the field, attendance falls.

Bowling Green (28-4) expects to bring in thousands of fans - and maybe hijack thousands more. Part of the reason is the Falcons' top player, Lauren Prochaska, a senior from the Columbus area who is the school's all-time leader in points (2,271), 3-pointers, free throws made and free-throw percentage.

Ohio State (22-9), which takes on Central Florida (22-10) in the second game, figures to bring in a huge following to St. John Arena - a few long Jon Diebler 3-pointers from Ohio State's homecourt at Value City Arena.

"When our name went on the board and we saw Columbus, it was fantastic," said Bowling Green coach Curt Miller. "We hope to adopt a lot of OSU fans because of Lauren and because of us being in Ohio and because we're the underdog."

Curiously, Ohio State coach Jim Foster denies his team has any kind of homecourt or other advantage.

"It's not our home court, and there's a huge, huge difference," he said. "When you're a senior and you've played 70, 75 games on a court - we've played here maybe four times in their career. You know, it's a place where we practiced once this year before this week, and played one game."

He said the Buckeyes received no benefit from their familiarity (or lack of it) with the on-campus facility.

"We got as lost getting into this building as any of the other three teams," he said. "We paid attention to the signage, and the signage took us to the river."

Even though Joseph and the Yellow Jackets probably won't have many supporters in the stands, that doesn't mean they'll be an easy touch. Nine of their 10 losses came against ranked opponents, including defeats at the hands of then-No. 1 Connecticut, No. 3 Duke and No. 4 Tennessee.

"It's a great location; it is not a dream matchup," Miller said.

He is most concerned about Georgia Tech's willingness to press all 94 feet, all the time.

"We have not seen in our tenure a team that's willing to press with the intensity and for as long as they press," he said.

The Falcons have won their last 11 in a row, including taking their second consecutive Mid-American Conference tournament title.

The nightcap will feature two vastly different teams coming off dramatically different seasons.

Ohio State climbed to No. 6 in the rankings by winning its first seven games, then lost nine of 15 to end any thoughts of extending their Big Ten championship streak to seven in a row. Then the Buckeyes reversed course again, winning their last nine.

The Big Ten tournament champion Buckeyes start 6-foot-4 Jantel Lavender, a four-time Big Ten player of the year, and 6-5 freshman Ashley Adams. UCF, winners of the Conference USA tournament, are comparatively height-challenged.

"It's no secret, we don't have a starter over 6 feet," said coach Joi Williams, whose team has won 11 straight.

"But if we can defend and do things fundamentally and rebound, then we give ourselves a chance every night, no matter who we play."

She knows her team won't be favored in front of a crowd of around 5,000.

"Anytime you play at home, that's a no-brainer," she said. "You have an advantage of having a home court and a sixth man in the crowd. But like our kids said, we're excited about being in this tournament and we knew wherever we went we were going to face a tough opponent."

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