For tomorrow afternoon’s event at MCI Center, the buzz has been building for months. Students camped outside McDonough Arena hours before the box office’s 10 a.m. opening last week. Some fans mused about pitching tents, Kryzewskiville-style, tonight outside MCI. And the average issue of Sports Illustrated provides more press for J.J. Redick than any NCAA defense.

Yet beware, Hoya fans. Come tomorrow, in perhaps the most anticipated men’s basketball game of the year, you will find yourselves among mixed company. Come tomorrow, when Georgetown takes on the machine-like Duke Blue Devils, the battle on the court will surely be accompanied by a battle in the stands.

It’s no secret that the Hoyas’ home court will be flanked by a great deal more blue than gray. We witnessed it last year against Illinois, when interlopers from the Prairie State were in enough force to coordinate numerous chants of “I-L-L-I-N-I,” albeit to a chorus of boos from the home crowd. Blue Devils faithful, if I remember my geography correctly, will endure a significantly shorter journey.

Ashanti Cook summed it up best in a Thursday press conference: “I mean, it’s basically an away game anyway.”

No Georgetown fan wants his team to lose tomorrow’s game, but, more than that, no Georgetown fan wants to be among the minority at his home court. Especially when the game is televised on CBS.

Things are easier, for sure, at Duke, where the home team plays in a cathedral of raucous supporters. Things are easier, too, at schools like Rutgers and Syracuse, where games are held at university stadiums rather than unaffiliated metropolitan arenas. But MCI’s accessibility doesn’t have to be a boon to opposing fans – and after eight years at its downtown home, Georgetown should have figured that out.

I am not suggesting that the good people of Ticketmaster cease to sell tickets over the phone or Internet and rely purely on the revenue of buyers within box-office walking distance. That would be a financial nightmare and, for that matter, bring forth serious questions of legality. The Big East alone has mandated that 240 seats – 200 in the stands, 40 courtside – be offered to the opposing university at every contest.

Yet other schools have found solutions to the home-representation problem. Villanova, which splits its home games between the on-campus Pavilion and downtown Wachovia Center, is among those teams to negotiate successfully with the management of a professional arena.

The result was a ticket package – three Wildcats games, all at the Wachovia Center – offered to fans three weeks before individual tickets were on sale. At a place like Villanova, where games sell out faster than UNC basketball players, a three-week window is enormous.

The strategy “worked well this year given the fact that we’re pretty highly ranked,” Wildcats ticket manager Garry LaJoie says. “What that enables us to do is theoretically get more Villanova people in. If someone is willing to buy all three games, chances are they’re a Villanova fan.”

We at Georgetown don’t like to admit defeat to Villanova, but the Wildcats have the Hoyas beat when it comes to promoting home-court electricity. A game against Duke or Syracuse, after all, will sell out regardless of inclusion in a ticket package. If only Georgetown were to consider such an approach, imagine what that sellout crowd would look like.

It would help the Hoyas, too. Last year Georgetown thrived on home-court advantage, going 12-5 at home and 4-6 away. The year before, when the Hoyas lost their last eight games, only one of their home defeats came at the hands of an unranked team – not a single away loss, meanwhile, was to an opponent in the top 25.

St. John’s, which lost to Georgetown on Jan. 8 before a “home” crowd that made Madison Square Garden look like cDonough Arena, is not among those teams that can afford to play games with ticket sales. “When they play basically in a professional arena, there are going to be considerations that an arena has to look into, so that’s where you sort of open the door to where other schools could purchase tickets,” LaJoie explains.

But it would work for Georgetown, which has substantial fan support that peaks against big-name teams. It worked for the Yankees, who for the 2000 World Series sold tickets at the Yankee Stadium box office while the Mets relied on phone sales. (The result was two stadiums that sounded suspiciously similar.)

If Georgetown can muster a larger share of the seating area, its fans will win, its arena will win – quality basketball breeds greater attendance, after all – and its team will win. The Hoyas’ arena may not resemble those of Syracuse or Rutgers or Duke, but with a little tact, MCI Center just might begin to feel like home.

Alex Fumelli is a sophomore in the College and a sports editor for The Hoya. He can be reached at fumellithehoya.com.

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