UCLA fans pass on exhibition

Want to see one of the saddest Instagram photos of all-time? Here.

That comes courtesy of UCLA senior and Daily Bruin sports columnist Sam Strong, who snapped that shot of an entirely empty Bruins student section five minutes before tip-off of last night's exhibition game against Cal State San Marcos. Strong followed up for the Daily Bruin today:

“I thought they canceled it,” freshman guard Jordan Adams said Monday.

So did UCLA fans, apparently.

While the Bruins beat the Sycamores of Indiana State in front of a sold-out crowd (13,513) to open the season, only 4,174 showed to watch them topple the Cougars (7-3). The student section on the baseline remained empty for the entirety of the game.

“It was awkward, but you have to take every chance you get to get better,” said redshirt senior guard Larry Drew II. “We knew it wasn’t going to count but we wanted to go out and give it our best effort.”

On one hand, it's hard to blame Bruins students and fans for deciding to ignore a weird midseason exhibition game that won't even count on UCLA's record.

On the other hand ... really? Your stands are that empty? No one wanted to watch the basketball team? Literally nobody showed up? That's not normal, right?

Of course, your "normal" mileage may vary, of course, largely depending on where you're from. I am from the Midwest, and so when I think of college basketball fandom I think of Allen Fieldhouse and both Assembly Halls and the Breslin Center and Rupp Arena and Hinkle Fieldhouse. I grew up watching college basketball, so I also think of classic ACC and Big East games, where schools thrived on their packed houses and vibrant student sections -- Duke, Maryland, Syracuse, Georgetown, even Wake Forest -- where you couldn't possibly conceive of something more fun than to pack a gym and root for your school's college basketball team.

UCLA is not that, and maybe never was, and that's OK -- it's cooler, more self-aware, more stylish, more L.A. But keep in mind, this is just a few days after UCLA, the West Coast's only blueblood program, was swarmed by San Diego State fans in the Honda Center. If this sort of "meh" apathy becomes a feature of this season, and begins to bleed into other games, expert analysis alert, but that would be bad.

Empty seats are the last thing Ben Howland needs in his life right now.