Kentucky takes home 2016 attendance title for first time in three years

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The NCAA released their attendance figures on Wednesday morning, and for the first time since 2013, Kentucky led the nation in average attendance.

The Wildcats drew 23,361 fans per game to Rupp Arena, a big enough gap over second-place Syracuse that Kentucky brought in a total of 30,000 more fans on the season than the Orange did despite playing two fewer home games.

Syracuse, who had led the nation in average attendance the past two seasons, fell to second place. They were followed by Louisville, who was the only other program to average more than 20,000 fans per night.

North Carolina and Maryland, whose average attendance jumped by more than 5,000 fans in 2015-16, rounded out the top five while Wisconsin, Indiana, N.C. State, Kansas and Creighton rounded out the top ten.

The Bluejays finishing in the top ten may surprise some folks, but considering that Creighton plays in an arena big enough to hold an NBA team and the good people of Omaha both love their Jays and have little else to do in the winter, their spot near the top of this list is an annual occurrence. According to their SID, Creighton has been top ten the past five years. The real surprise is Nebraska, who isn’t a traditional basketball powerhouse and who has been to just one NCAA tournament under Tim Miles. They were in the top ten last season as well, which should tell you that college athletics are flourishing in the Cornhusker state.

The one thing to keep in mind — to say nothing of how tickets sold does not always equal fans in seats — here is that arena size plays a major role in just how many fans show up to these games. In Kentucky played their home games in a dome they might average 50,000 fans. Duke is 48th on this list, two spots behind Wake Forest, who went 1-17 in the ACC, and more than 7,000 fans behind N.C. State, because Cameron Indoor Stadium uses every possible inch to squeeze 9,314 fans into seats every night.

Another example: Georgetown was 51st on this list despite playing in a Verizon Center that feels empty and lifeless at times while Gonzaga was 90th playing in The Kennel, whose environment is so raucous it is a bucket-list venue for any college hoops junkie.

Another interesting note: UCLA, who got crushed by Sean Miller for having an apathetic fan base during the season, actually drew more fans per night than VCU and Oregon.

Anyway, if you want to browse through the entire list, you can find it right here.