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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Big Ten Fans Rule The Roost

For all the heat the Big Ten conference takes for experiencing a down cycle in on-court quality, the fans are still supporting their teams at a record pace. Wisconsin led five Big Ten teams that placed among the nation's top 25 in average home attendance for the 2007-08 season, according to the Big Ten Network.

The release of these figures confirms the Big Ten's status as one of the premier basketball conferences in all the land, with consistent support from fans and athletic departments across the board. Many quality basketball programs around the country may have the ability to sell out every game, but do not have the matching commitment or resources from the university to maintain state-of-the-art facilities. The reverse is also true in other cases. The Big Ten has the best of both worlds. Together the 11 conference teams averaged 12,978 fans per contest, easily out-pacing the SEC's average.

Badger fans packed the Kohl Center for all 18 regular season home games, for an average sellout crowd of 17,190, good enough for seventh nationally. It marked the fifth consecutive season that UW has announced a full crowd for every home game. Wisconsin has consistently placed in the top ten for attendance since the Final Four season of 2000, thanks to increased capacity at the Kohl Center.

Indiana improved to reclaim the ninth spot in the rankings. Illinois (#11), Ohio State (#12) and Michigan State (#17) also placed among attendance leaders. Almost a thousand fewer fairweather Buckeye fans attended OSU games this season without Oden and Conley, while the putrid Illini still had the benefit of playing of in front of a packed house at Assembly Hall, much like the Spartans in East Lansing.

See: 2006-07 attendance numbers

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After reigning in a giant JUCO project and another impressive 2009 prospect, Indiana may have another 2008 recruit in its sights. Emmanuel Negedu is being released from his LOI at Arizona and will take a closer look at the Hoosiers. However, if Tom Crean wants to stay alive in the Jamil Wilson sweepstakes (or in the running for any other 2009 player for that matter), any further scholarships extended for 2008 must be to an incoming senior who has already sat out a year or is coming from a non-Division I school. Highly unlikely. (ed: Problem solved!) The other option? Cross that bridge when you come to it and run off an incoming 2008 recruit after one year of play. Two candidates would be Matt Roth or Tom Pritchard, who were already committed to Indiana when Crean hit the scene.

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