The NCAA released their 2015-16 men's basketball attendance figures on Thursday, and Illinois saw their nightly turnout drop for a third-straight season. The Fighting Illini ended up at No. 28 nationally in this department -- which is still very good -- but that's down from No. 15 the year prior. In fact, The News-Gazette notes that the average attendance of 12,723 is the program's lowest since 1977-78 (Lou Henson's third season).
What went wrong for the Orange and Blue? Pretty much everything, obviously. The Illini (15-19, 5-13) finished the year as the No. 132 team in the KenPom rankings; to put that into perspective, teams like Buffalo, Northeastern, and Grand Canyon were all slotted higher. Losing at such a high frequency is a fantastically efficient way to discourage fans from purchasing tickets.
2015-16 Big Ten Basketball Attendance
|Rank||School||G||Total||2016 Average||2015 Average||Net Gain/Loss|
While Illinois struggled, the Big Ten had another very strong year. Led by Maryland, a total of seven programs cracked the Top-25, and over 3.1 million fans attended games. I'm sure that's music to Jim Delany's ears as he continues to negotiate massive new television contracts for the conference. Perhaps some of that future money can help transform the Illini back to their 2005 Death Star version.
Illinois Fighting Illini News
The Illinois ace was selected with the No. 27 overall pick on Thursday night. Program history was made, as this was the first-ever time that the Fighting Illini have produced First Round prospects in back-to-back years (Tyler Jay, 2015).
The four-time team captain has been awarded another senior season after missing 2015-16 with a torn Achilles tendon. Abrams averaged 10.7 points and 3.2 assists per game when he last played for the Fighting Illini, so hopefully he'll be able to find a way to stay healthy and on the court.
The Indiana native will take an unofficial visit to Champaign early next week. He's the program's top remaining point guard target, so it'll be a big day for John Groce and his coaching staff.
The Florida native also included Florida, Oklahoma State, Baylor, West Virginia, and several more power conference programs. Don't know too much about him, but the Fighting Illini are in need of some more front court players.
Recruiting for the class-of-2017 is still in full swing, but a small handful of 2018 Illini targets have already been recognized by ESPN and Scout. Two of them -- Tim Finke and Ayo Dosunmu -- are Illinois natives.