Sports

Frogs could use some love from fans

The roar can be deafening. The explosion of sound spine-tingling. The blast of volume so intimidating the team in the visiting jerseys can be weak-kneed and disoriented.

The home-court advantage in college basketball can be the most overpowering environment in sports, where communication between teammates is relegated to hand signals and eye contact.

Players and coaches alike desire a home-court atmosphere that can help them pull out a victory or two throughout a season.

TCU has seen first-hand what overwhelming home crowds can do to the visitor. Three such scenes at Mountain West Conference powers' home dens -- No. 11 UNLV, No. 13 San Diego State and New Mexico -- ended in defeat. The three teams are a combined 40-3 at home.

Sure, those three teams -- tied atop the league and by far leading the MWC in attendance with averages of more than 12,000 a game -- are putting people in the seats with 20-win seasons.

But how often did their home fans help them eke out a victory?

The Rebels (22-4, 6-2 in MWC), who come to Daniel-Meyer Coliseum at 6:30 tonight, are coming off a two-point victory against San Diego State in front of a standing-room only crowd of 18,577 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

"There wasn't a better college environment across the country than the one we had in the Thomas & Mack on Saturday," Rebels coach Dave Rice said.

TCU (14-10, 4-4) averages an announced attendance of a little more than 4,500 per game, but anyone who has attended a game knows that number, which counts tickets sold, doesn't reflect the actual number of people in seats.

But the Horned Frogs are an improved team and have tied for their most wins in a season in six years. If ever there was a team that could use the added boost of a home-court advantage it's the 2011-12 Frogs.

"It can take you over the top when you're playing those teams," TCU coach Jim Christian said. "Every advantage you can gain when you're playing those teams in your building, even if it's one missed free throw -- it helps. If it's one time they're rattled, it helps. It helps our guys, too, because they play harder."

Could a sleepy environment (as DMC sometimes is) be a trap for the Rebels? Rice doesn't think his team will be lulled to sleep. But his confusion with where the Frogs play -- he referred to DMC as Moody Coliseum during Monday's teleconference -- tells you all you need to know about the venue's reputation.

"It's a great question," Rice said. "We understand TCU is playing very well [at home] and that's what's relevant for us. We understand we get other teams' best shot every time out."

TCU has won six consecutive home games, including 4-0 in the MWC. After UNLV tonight, the Frogs have a couple of more chances to shake up the league standings with rematches at home against New Mexico (Feb. 25) and San Diego State (March 3). Others have shown that the league's top tier is not invincible. Colorado State beat the Aztecs by 17. Air Force took the Rebels to overtime before losing by two. Boise State took the Rebels to overtime before losing by five.

"There's a lot to play for," Christian said. "You're not beating UNLV unless everybody who steps on the floor contributes. Unless everyone is willing to throw their heart out on that floor you're not beating them. I think everyone understands that."

He didn't say it, but the sentiment was there. The Horned Frogs need some love tonight at home on Valentine's Day.

"We envision it to one day be here," he said. "I don't think we understand how advantageous that would be here -- a missed free throw, jittery on a 3, can't communicate. It's just like wanting a loud football stadium so they can't hear what's going on."

The question remains: Are fans listening?

Crowded at the top

A look at the Mountain West schools and their men's basketball attendance figures through last week:

School

Venue

Capacity

Avg. attendance

New Mexico

The Pit

15,411

14,179

UNLV

Thomas & Mack Center

18,500

12,977

San Diego St.

Viejas Arena

12,414

12,036

Wyoming

Arena Auditorium

15,028

5,005

TCU

Daniel-Meyer Coliseum

7,201

4,572

Boise State

Taco Bell Arena

12,380

4,116

Colorado State

Moby Arena

8,745

3,444

Air Force

Clune Arena

5,858

2,121

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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