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NCAA attendance: BYU and Dayton continue to draw well

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And look at all the power conference schools that Grand Canyon outdrew

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

They really seem to love their college basketball out west.

The NCAA released its annual attendance numbers for 2016-17 on Tuesday, and out of the 24 mid-major schools to make the top 100 in average attendance, 13 came from schools west of the Mississippi.

BYU led the charge with 14,476 fans per game, while Nevada had the biggest increase in average attendance from last year for a mid-major. The 2,368 additional seats they sold per game was good for the fifth-best boost nationally.

Dayton came in behind BYU at 13,018 fans per game, with San Diego State (12,195) and New Mexico (11,768) after that. Wichita State, which has since moved out of the mid-major ranks and into the American Athletic Conference, ranked fifth among mid-majors in attendance at 10,738 fans per game.

All of the mid-majors schools in the top 100 for average attendance can be found here:

2017 Per-Game Attendance

School Average Attendance
School Average Attendance
BYU 14476
Dayton 13018
San Diego State 12195
New Mexico 11768
Wichita State 10738
Nevada 8922
VCU 7637
Utah State 6872
Weber State 6869
Fresno State 6586
Old Dominion 6572
UTEP 6400
Ohio 6372
Richmond 6317
Hawaii 6233
Gonzaga 6000
Illinois State 5943
Siena 5925
Middle Tennessee 5908
Marshall 5815
Saint Louis 5593
Bradley 5487
Boise State 5396
Rhode Island 5172

Nevada, just two years removed from a nine-win season, has seen a resurgence under head coach Eric Musselman, and the fans have taken notice. The Wolf Pack drew 8,922 fans per game in 2016-17, compared to 6,554 in 2015-16. With Nevada primed for another strong season, that number could continue to rise.

Arkansas State had the second-highest attendance jump from 2016 for mid-majors. The Red Wolves more than doubled their attendance, bringing in 3,383 fans per game — 1,935 more than 2015-16. Not coincidentally, Arkansas State also won 20 games last year, up from 11 each of the prior two seasons.

Here’s a look at the mid-majors who cracked the top 31 nationally in attendance increase:

2017 Attendance Increases

Team 2017 2016 Increase
Team 2017 2016 Increase
Nevada 8,922 6,554 2,368
Arkansas State 3,383 1,448 1,935
North Dakota State 3,832 2,778 1,054
Mississippi Valley St. 2,320 1,269 1,051
CSU Bakersfield 2,685 1,657 1,028
ETSU 4,053 3,065 988
Alabama A&M 2,000 1,169 831
Illinois State 5,943 5,199 744
Middle Tennessee 5,908 5,183 725
Penn 3,915 3,213 702
Fort Wayne 1,961 1,278 683
Winthrop 2,137 1,454 683

Other notes:

  • The Mountain West drew better than any other mid-major conference overall, bringing in 6,456 fans per game. The Missouri Valley (5,010) and West Coast Conference (4,731) ranked second and third respectively.
  • The mid-major conference tournament with the best attendance was actually the Summit League, which drew 9,978 fans per game. The Missouri Valley’s Arch Madness was close behind at 9,339, with the MEAC after that (7,286).
  • Grand Canyon, which is still transitioning to Division I, drew 6,817 fans per game. That’s better than Baylor, Arizona State, TCU, Georgia Tech, Temple, Oregon State, and DePaul’s per-game averages.
  • The NCAA also included Division II and Division III attendance numbers. Of note there: Cal Baptist (791) and North Alabama (784), which will both begin a transition to Division I in 2018-19, drew better than average for Division II schools (642).
  • Division III Grinnell, which plays the most bonkers style of basketball in the country, averaged 859 fans per game, far above the D-III average of 370.
  • Attendance was actually down overall but shhhh don’t tell anybody. I don’t care. I’m going to keep going to games and you should too.