Gameday: How big a crowd today for USF-WVU?
Can't remember this much anticipation for a USF home basketball game, with so much in play for today's noon tipoff between the Bulls and West Virginia. USF has put itself in position to land its first NCAA Tournament berth in 20 years, and a win today would all but lock that up, giving the Bulls a 13-5 Big East record and their 20th win of the season.
The Bulls could also pick up a double-bye in the Big East tournament if they beat West Virginia and saw Georgetown lose at Marquette; aside from that scenario, USF is likely the No. 5 seed in the tournament -- the Bulls could wind up playing a third game against Pittsburgh or Villanova, or a second against Rutgers or St. John's.
Another question I'm curious about, given the buildup of excitement for this game: How big a crowd will it draw to Tampa Bay Times Forum? West Virginia should bring plenty of fans as well -- the biggest announced home crowd USF has gotten for a single game was the 12,056 that saw the Bulls and Mountaineers play at Times Forum in January 2008. (USF drew an announced 13,181 for Wake Forest in 2006, but that was part of a doubleheader with Florida State-Providence.)
Given that Sunday's game with Cincinnati drew an announced 6,784, it's reasonable to think today should draw at least 8,000 -- USF will give away 7,000 white "MADNESS" T-shirts for all lower-bowl seats. One seemingly random number to shoot for -- how about 10,547? If USF can draw that, it will raise its average home attendance (currently at 3,457) above the 2006-07 average of 3,900, avoiding the lowest average attendance of the Big East era, though it certainly carries an asterisk with no games being played at the Sun Dome during renovations there.
(As a sidenote, if I'm reading this right, Wednesday's crowd announced as 22,114 at Louisville for the Bulls' win there would be the third-largest ever to see the Bulls play anywhere, behind two games at Syracuse in 1987, one against Fordham.)
Here are the top 10 home crowds of the Big East era -- USF has eight games with 10,000-plus fans in the Sun Dome, but none since 2001, when the Bulls and Florida drew 10,444:
1. USF vs. Wake Forest Times Forum 13,181 12/06
2. USF vs. West Virginia Times Forum 12,056 01/08
3. USF vs. Syracuse Times Forum 10,051 02/11
4. USF vs. Connecticut Sun Dome 9,636 03/06
5. USF vs. Syracuse Sun Dome 8,350 01/09
6. USF vs. Connecticut Sun Dome 8,317 03/10
7. USF vs. Notre Dame Sun Dome 7,875 03/08
8. USF vs. Notre Dame Sun Dome 7,705 02/07
9. USF vs. Georgetown Sun Dome 7,015 02/09
10. USF vs. Cincinnati Times Forum 6,784 02/12