The college basketball season has entered its final month. Conference tournaments are in full swing and Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament is coming up this weekend.
And as the season winds down, the talk of the Columbus sports scene has been the revitalization of Ohio State’s men’s basketball program under first-year coach Chris Holtmann.
A new coach and a reinvigorated program traditionally leads to significant attendance boosts over the course of the season, and that’s been the case at the Schottenstein Center with attendance up nearly 1,200 fans per game compared to last season’s numbers.
By the time the regular season ended, average attendance was 13,495 people per game, according to associated athletic director Brett Scarbrough. He said that puts Ohio State above the 2015-16 and 2016-17 attendance numbers of 12,283 and 12,324, respectively, but below recent years such as 2012-13 and 2013-14 when more than 16,000 fans filled the stands every game.
“Ohio State basketball fans have supported the Buckeyes through ups and downs and we anticipate our fans will continue to do so moving forward,” said Dan Wallenberg, Ohio State athletic communications director for Ohio State.
The rise in average attendance was boosted in part by a pair of games that welcomed more than 18,000 fans near the end of the season. The Buckeyes had 18,743 people attending the game against Illinois on Feb. 4 and a season-high 18,809 fans against Iowa on Feb. 10.
The Buckeyes missed the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons and struggled to land high-profile recruits, which could have led to a drop in attendance.
Even though the average attendance hasn’t been what it used to be, James Prisco, director of the NutHouse, the student section at men’s basketball games, believes the NutHouse is as loud and excited now as it has ever been.
“We always had this passion, excitement, but I mean it’s very, very different this year when that passion and excitement gets carried through to a win” he said. “I mean, who would have thought at the end of February we were going to have 19 wins? So, you just feel that excitement even more.”
Even though the Buckeyes will not return home for another game, they will play an opponent that has yet to be determined in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State will find out its next opponent at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.