Everyone would admit that the Comcast Center on the University of Maryland's campus in College Park is a terrific spot to watch a college basketball game, with wonderful amenities and lots of room for everyone to move about, the media included. And it is centrally located for teams located around the state, from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland, and for all the schools in the I-95 corridor, if you will.
That said, it is a lousy place to watch a high school basketball game for precisely those reasons. Simply put, there's too much room at Comcast Center. The distance between a school's fans and their teams is so vast that the players probably feel a serious disconnect. And while the court is the same 94 by 50 feet that you get in a high school gym, the areas surrounding the court are vast and the high ceiling takes away any sense of intimacy. Also, the teams don't get to practice on the site before the games, and the shooting percentages in many cases reflect their lack of familiarity with the floor and its surroundings.
Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association executive director Ned Sparks says the organization wants to give teams a Division I college experience for championships and that's quite understandable. And the MPSSAA has worked assiduously to establish a relationship with College Park, staging the field hockey, softball and golf championships there, and that's good too.
But there are other smaller venues around that can hold the boys basketball tournament, say the Towson Center or Morgan State's Hill Field House, or better yet, Cole Field House on the College Park campus, where the games used to be played before Comcast Center opened in 2003. Atmosphere does matter, and the atmosphere at Cole used to be the best ever.
And speaking of atmosphere, we'll discuss what we noticed at the girls basketball championship at UMBC later.