Audience still big, but not record-setting

INDIANAPOLIS -- College basketball fans are still flocking to men's games by the millions.

They're just not setting records.

With 334 men's teams playing 5,251 games last season, both all-time highs, more than 27 million people attended Division I games -- the fourth-highest total ever but a slight decrease from 2008-09.

Some of the numbers released by the NCAA on Wednesday looked familiar.

The top five home drawing crowds were Kentucky, Syracuse, Louisville, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The Wildcats had an average attendance of 24,111 at 18 home games in coach John Calipari's first season. Syracuse was next at 22,152 in 19 home games.

Either Kentucky or Syracuse has led the nation in home attendance for each of the past 34 seasons, but Kentucky has been No. 1 each of the past five seasons and 14 times in the past 15. Kentucky also led the nation in total attendance at home, road and neutral-court games, playing 38 times in front of 724,145 fans.

But even the Wildcats couldn't offset the decline in other areas.

Last season's Division I total of 27,539,459 was down 227,652, or 133 fans per game, from the previous season.

The trend was also evident when Divisions II and III teams were included. Total attendance for all three divisions was 32,820,701, fourth all-time but down slightly from 290,319, or 91 per game, in 2008-09.

Five conferences had more than 2 million fans attend games, including the Big East, which led the nation's conferences in total attendance, and the Big Ten, which led the nation in average attendance for league games.

The 16 Big East teams had 3,138,877 fans attend games -- the second-highest total ever for a conference. The Big East set that record in 2007.

Big Ten schools averaged 12,591 at conference games, finishing No. 1 in the nation for a 34th consecutive year.

Two Division I schools -- Kansas State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff -- each had attendance increases of more than 2,000 per game.

The NCAA's Division I tournament had its eighth-highest attendance total, drawing 706,246 fans, or 20,178 to each of the 35 sessions.