ASU men's basketball fans are hiding behind a curtain
Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (center) poses with the ASU student section before a game against UCLA on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. Harden, a former ASU basketball standout, was honored at halftime for his achievements both with the Sun Devils and in the NBA. (Ben Moffat/The State Press)
No, that number is not what teams shoot in the second half when facing the 942 Crew's world-famous "Curtain of Distraction." In fact, it's the average number of seats in Wells Fargo Arena that had living, breathing people sitting in them to watch ASU men's basketball last season.
That number is abysmal standing on its own, but when you think about the fact that ASU removed roughly 3,200 seats from the official capacity in 2010, it gets even sadder. Adjusted for seat removal, the average Sun Devil basketball game seated about 48 percent of the nearly 14,000 possible attendees in 2013-14.
Compare that to archrival Arizona, whose arena boasts a capacity of 14,655 (14,545 in prior seasons). The Wildcats filled 98.8 percent of the McKale Center's seats on average in 2013-14 –– an effective sellout every single game.
Take note that ASU's enrollment currently stands at 82,060 students. Arizona has an enrollment of roughly 41,800. With about half the student body, Arizona has more than twice as many attendees at its men's basketball games than ASU. Let that sink in, Sun Devil fans.
I don't blame ASU students, fans and any of the 350,000+ ASU alumni for not wanting to show up to basketball games. There just hasn't been much to cheer for in the Herb Sendek era.
It's not like he's taken the team to two NCAA tournaments in the last five years when it hadn't made an appearance since 2003 or anything. He definitely didn't recruit current NBA MVP candidate James Harden to play for ASU, or sweep Arizona during Harden's freshman year, or make it to the tournament as a 10 seed last year. Oh wait, all of that happened.
With so much improvement to cheer for in recent seasons, it doesn't make sense that attendance is so poor at Wells Fargo. Students get in free to every single athletic event, so why do we rarely fill much more than the 942 seats in the Inferno (1.15 percent of ASU's enrollment)?
Many have come out and said that the Curtain of Distraction puts the 942 Crew on the same level of fan support as the Zona Zoo. That is simply not true at all. Granted Arizona has a far more storied program to cheer for, but that's no excuse for ASU fans to barely fill half of the arena. School spirit is reflected by attendance as far as I'm concerned, not some ineffective distraction technique that is far more hilarious than impactful.
The Curtain of Distraction made it onto ESPN, the front page of the New York Times, and into the articles of every Arizona journalist willing to believe in the illusion that the curtain creates in order to rake in page views. All outlets used myriad statistics to "prove" that the curtain actually works.
The following is a full list of opponents' free throw percentage by half when they visited Tempe, this season and last season:
|Team ('13-14)||Made FT||Att. FT||1st half %||Made FT||Att. FT||2nd half %|
|Team ('14-15)||Made FT||Att. FT||1st half %||Made FT||Att. FT||2nd half %|
Factually, the Curtain of Distraction does not make a significant difference. Last season, teams shot a better percentage in the second half than they did in the first half by 1.2 percent.
This season is a different story, with teams shooting 5.3 percent worse in the second half, but if you take away the two games against complete cupcake schools to start the season (Chicago State and Bethune Cookman), teams are shooting 2.2 percent better from the line this season in the second half than in the first half.
The Curtain of Distraction is masking more than just twerking horses and fat guys imitating Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball." It seems as though the 942 Crew's special curtain is distracting the media from a severe lack of school spirit, rather than actually distracting the opponent at the free throw line.
Reach the columnist at RClarke6@asu.edu or follow @RClarkeASU on Twitter.