Belt Loops: How Many People Watch MAC Basketball, Anyway?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Is there a connection between MAC basketball attendance and our woeful draft record?

The NBA draft has come and gone, and once again, no MAC players were selected. One team from Serbia had three players taken in the second round, and our whole conference can't muster a single guy. (And not even a team you might have heard of, like KK Partizan. It was something called a KK Mega Vizura.)

Part of me wondered if that's because no one comes to see MAC games. Well, my curious mind was in luck, because the NCAA just released attendance data for the 2013-14 season. Obviously, we're not expecting MAC teams to draw like Syracuse (26,253 home average). But how do the numbers look? Well, here's average MAC home attendance, from top to bottom. No UMass included, as they're A-10 for these purposes.

SCHOOL AVERAGE ATTENDANCE
Ohio 6,124
Toledo 5,002
Akron 3,609
Buffalo 3,486
Ball State 3,066
Kent State 2,934
Western Michigan 2,675
Bowling Green 1,759
Central Michigan 1,694
Miami 1,201
Northern Illinois 1,012
Eastern Michigan 901

This works out to 2,789 as the average MAC home attendance.

Some things aren't surprising here: Ohio at the top by a large margin, no one ever attending anything at EMU, and 8,000 empty seats at Millett Hall in Oxford. But Toledo's regular draw of over 5,000 stuck out like a sore thumb. I know the Rockets are doing much better these days than in years past, but I'd never have thought they'd get that many fans in on average. (In fact, Toledo had the 20th-highest year-over-year increase from last season in the whole NCAA.)

So what of my pet theory about MAC teams being disadvantaged in the draft because no one comes to see them? Well, as it turns out, there were two players taken from schools whose attendance falls comfortably in the MAC range. Elfrid Payton, the #10 pick, went to Lousiana-Lafayette and played in front of 3,405 a game. And Alec Brown, the #50 pick, hails from UW-Green Bay and its 3,979 fans each night.

What to make of this? My thought is that the MAC frankly hasn't had players too deserving of being drafted lately. I know anecdotally that Ron Harper played in front of about 4,000 a night -- high enough for third in today's conference, yes, but he was drafted because he was Ron Harper, not because of the crowds. In the end, then, the right question isn't why no one is coming to see the talent the MAC has to offer, it's where all the talent went in the first place.

After all, those three guys from KK Mega Vizura play in an arena that only holds 1,500.

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