MSU up in hoops attendance, UM down

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Bryn Forbes makes a 3-pointer in front of the Izzone during the game against Northern Michigan in November.

Michigan State continues to climb the ranks in men's basketball attendance, while Michigan continues to drop.

Michigan State was ranked 13th in the nation in average home attendance for 2015-16, with 14,797 fans per game, according to figures released this week by the NCAA.

That's good for 13th in the nation, up from 14th in 2014-15 (also 14,797) and 18th in 2013-14 (also 14,797).

That 14,797 figure is considered capacity for Breslin Center in East Lansing.

Michigan, meanwhile, averaged 11,611 fans per home game at Crisler Center -- capacity 12,693 -- for 2015-16. That was 33rd in the nation, down from 28th in 2014-15 (12,316) and 24th in 2013-14 (12,698).

Syracuse, Kentucky, Louisville and North Carolina held onto the top four spots.

Michigan State, a perennial NCAA Tournament team that often has marquee nonconference opponents at home, always is among the biggest draws in college basketball. It had Louisville and Florida at home this season.

Michigan, despite six NCAA Tournament appearances in coach John Beilein's nine seasons, still has a tougher time drawing sellouts.

According to Michigan attendance figures, it officially had four sellouts this past season -- Penn State, Michigan State, Purdue and Iowa drew a reported 12,707 fans each game. Other than Michigan State, though, there were many noticeable empty seats.

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Michigan, in a roundabout way, has acknowledged the problem in many ways in recent months, under new athletic director Warde Manuel. The ticket office reached out to student-ticket holders asking for input on how to make the experience better, and this week, it offered improvements for general-public season-ticket holders.

Michigan is keeping the student-ticket price at $200 for the season, $120 for those eligible for federal Pell Grants. That's what it was in 2015-16, as well.

For the general public, Michigan also is letting fans pick their exact seat location at MGoBlue.com/tickets, and pay in three separate installments, with a final balance due by Sept. 5.

The Wolverines missed the NCAA Tournament in 2014-15 and clawed to get in 2015-16, so that could've impacted the overall enthusiasm for fans. This past season, Michigan also dealt with bad weather -- it happens in Michigan in November, December and January -- and could've seen a ticket drop because of a weaker nonconference home schedule that included Division II Northern Michigan, Elon, Xavier, Houston Baptist, Delaware State, Northern Kentucky, Youngstown State and Bryant. Only Xavier drew close to a sellout this season.

Virginia Tech is coming to Ann Arbor as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in 2016-17, and Michigan will play home games against Cincinnati and UCLA in 2017-18.

For the 40th consecutive season, the Big Ten led the nation in overall men's basketball attendance. Michigan State was fifth in the Big Ten and Michigan was 10th.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984