10: University of Illinois-Chicago vs Yale, November 21. 173 fans in attendance. (Men Against Breast Cancer Classic):
This is the first of many “Classics” that we will see in this list. With only 173 people in attendance, you have to wonder how well the economics of some of these tournaments work (okay, okay, it’s television rights). While that works well for headlining games in the tournament, UIC vs Yale doesn’t seem to have been a profitable venture, with only 173 hearty souls making the journey from Chicago and New Haven to Kent, Ohio. Of course, you have to think that there were quite a few more fans sitting at home wishing they were there, judging from the lone comment on ESPN’s Conversation about this game:
And for the record, Yale won 70-58.
9: Champion Baptist at Southern, December 16. 169 fans in attendance.
Southern throttled Champion Baptist 114-50. And Southern is not exactly Kentucky. Of course Champion Baptist is an unaccredited school with only 250 students (and a website that ends in .com, not even .edu!), so even if the entire student body had taken the bus down to Baton Rouge, the attendance wouldn’t have topped 500. That being said, this game was still good news for Champion Baptist basketball fans (???), as it was only a 64 point loss, not a 104 point defeat like the previous season. For the record, Champion Baptist has not given up fewer than 100 points in any game in the last two years against a Division 1 opponent. And they may have the worst grammatical twitter for a higher education institution in America.
8: Prairie View at Grambling, February 16. 139 fans in attendance.
Another throttling of a SWAC team, this time Grambling. Prairie View won 95-44, while Grambling managed to only connect for 1-11 from beyond the arc. Of course, after going 0-28 in 2012-13, fans can’t be too upset that up until this game, their Tigers had won two games this year. Despite the thrashing, the good news for the 139 Grambling faithful that turned out was that the high scorer in the game came from the Grambling side, with A’Torre Shine scoring 15.
T-6: Eastern Illinois at Southern, November 29. 135 fans in attendance. (Emerald Coast Classic)
T-6: North Carolina-Central at Northern Arizona, November 29. 135 fans in attendance. (Emerald Coast Classic)
These two games actually happened on the same day in the same arena, so I tend to think this attendance number is overinflated. Especially when you consider that these two games may be the two worst games that were played on this list. In the first, Eastern Illinois started off with a 24-1 lead, while Southern shot 15/47 over the entire course of the game. Despite the shooting percentage, Southern only lost 54-43, which polarized the Southern fanbase:
The night cap didn’t get much better as North Carolina Central edged out Northern Arizona 40-36, with each team shooting below 34%. Good defense you say? Well, combined the teams shot 11-24 from the free throw line. Not so much. I seriously hope that 135 poor people did not stick around through both of these games.
5: Chicago State at Western Carolina, November 26. 130 fans in attendance. (CBE Hall of Fame Classic)
Another example of a “Classic” that just isn’t so classic. Western Carolina squeaked by Chicago State 66-61. Despite the loss, Chicago State
fansfan (and the Vietnamese) were out in force with some hot takes:
Of course, at 8-22 as of present, Christian’s prediction is not looking so good, pending a miraculous WAC tourney and then the Cinderella story to end all Cinderella stories. But hey, it was the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest bar day of the year.
T-3: Georgia State at Chicago State, November 24. 125 fans in attendance. (CBE Hall of Fame Classic)
Another tie up involving the eventual 2015 National Champions (or so I’m told), as two days earlier Chicago State faced Georgia State in front of a whopping 125 in Rochester, MI. The Cougars lost this one as well, but a 69-46 margin to Georgia State. Chicago State shot 29% from the field, meaning that those Cook County residents who bothered to drive all the way over to Pure Michigan saw nothing but pure disaster.
T-3: Eastern Illinois vs North Carolina Central, November 28. 125 fans in attendance. (Emerald Coast Classic)
The night before each team in this matchup would go on to play the games in the 6th position, they faced off head to head in front of 125 folks with nothing else to do in the Greater Kent Metropolitan area. Unfortunately for them, the game was over at halftime when NCC was up 40-20. Eastern Illinois only ended up scoring 40 in a 65-40 blowout by the NCC Eagles. The good news for EIU fans, however, is that they can always go back to campus and enjoy a nice meal at the world’s first Jimmy John’s. I guess that’s worth something… right?
T-1: IUPUI at Howard, December 15. 57 fans in attendance.
T-1: Alabama State vs North Dakota, November 26. 57 fans in attendance. (Utah Tournament)
Now to our number one(s). The sub 100 attendance group stands alone. And of all possible numbers, both games had exactly 57 people. ESPN summarizes IUPUI vs Howard perfectly:
Clearly the Howard fans, while few, were enough of a distraction: IUPUI shot 28% from the field, 4-26 from beyond the arc and 56% at the free throw line.
Meanwhile, at the Utah tournament a month earlier, North Dakota (who are now just known as “The North Dakota Basketball Team” in place of the Fighting Sioux) beat the Alabama State Hornets 75-68.
Despite only 57 in attendance (again, on the busiest bar night of the year, though the 3.2% beer of Utah probably doesn’t flow like honey on any day of the year really), this game generated a wide range of emotions on ESPN with a record high (at least for the games on this list) FIVE comments:
This pretty much sums up ESPN’s Conversation in one picture. You have the Ralph Wiggum-esque “My cat’s breath smells like catfood” post by Matthew Fisk. You have the degenerate gambler (and if you’re gambling on a game that is being attended by 57 people, it’s time for a gut check on the gambling. Just saying), as well as the unreasonable expectation of a bottom tier team (and a bonus: using the other in-state team’s war cry).
That sums up the year for sad basketball, except in the SWAC where no other type of basketball exists. But when you’re sitting on your couch in April watching Chicago State and Alabama State play for the National Championship, you can always look back and remember the true oracles who saw it coming, despite the teams playing in front of fewer than 200 people at one point in the season.