Does Bobby Hurley have a point on large crowds leading to wins?

The ASU men's basketball coach has often stressed the importance of having great crowds at home games this season

Throughout the season ASU men's basketball coach Bobby Hurley has praised, incited and criticized the crowd attendance at home games.

As the team nears the end of an inconsistent season of notable highs and lows, one thing remained consistent: the coach's frequent comments on how he believed a large, spirited crowd brought the best out of his team. 

Hurley expressed the importance of drawing an intimidating crowd for last Wednesday's home matchup versus Stanford.

"Where we are now, it's the last two games," Hurley said at a press conference on Feb. 19. "So, I just hope that the crowds are out in full force tomorrow. Just hope that everyone is just knocking down the doors to get into the building tomorrow night. That'll be the perfect scenario for my world."

Hurley went even further in his plea, responding to questions unrelated to the crowd with his want for a great turnout.

"I just think, first of all, we got to get that crowd in there," Hurley said after being asked about Stanford's KZ Okpala. "And just have a massive turnout tomorrow. Anyone that ever thought they might want to watch ASU play a basketball game, just please, everyone show up tomorrow night."

Hurley has expressed his views on having dominant crowds before, once criticizing a low turnout from fans after a loss versus Washington State.

“I was extremely disappointed with our turnout at the game last night,” Hurley said following the game against Washington State. “I thought it was a dreadful environment and our players played exactly the way the crowd performed in that game last night.”

The Sun Devils’ game against Washington State drew only 9,517 people, which is below the season average of 10,538. 

Hurley and the Sun Devils later atoned the loss with a big win versus a Washington team that was previously undefeated in conference play. The crowd of 12,686 was loud and energetic the entire game against the Huskies.

Hurley then went back to praising the energy from that night's crowd.

“First of all, I thought the crowd was unbelievable,” Hurley said after ASU's win against Washington. "...You feel the energy, the electricity. It’s just different. When you get your people in the building and they’re fired up, and then the guys get that emotion, it does help in terms of elevating their level of play.” 

The players on the team are fully aware of the importance of crowd energy as well, noting how big plays during the course of a game give the team more energy.

"You hear every program in the country talking about how important energy is," redshirt senior Zylan Cheatham said after their win versus Arizona. "When (sophomore guard Remy Martin) is hitting shots like that, and he gets the crowd going, it takes some stress off of your shoulders."

But does Hurley have a point: Do bigger crowds equate to wins?

Since Hurley took over in 2015, ASU is 20-12 in home games in which the attendance was over their respective season average. 

On the contrary, in the same amount of time, the Sun Devils are a staggering 26-7 in games where attendance was below their respective season average. 

Even data analysis may back up Hurley's claim.

According to a study from Xavier University on the statistical effects of home court advantage in college basketball, "a team that puts 60 points on the scoreboard with a half-filled arena can add an additional 8 points on the scoreboard if it fills the arena by 10 percent more."

That said, despite a possible advantage to having a big crowd, there are multiple reasons why certain games have attendance well below the average.

"I think it can be simply all kinds of things," Doug Tammaro, media relations director for the ASU men's basketball team, said. "Game time and schedule is a major thing. In November, when football and basketball are playing on the same day not everyone can go to everything."

Tammaro also noted how the opponent may push people away from coming to the arena, adding that, "when you’re playing bad teams, people tend to stay away.” 

Since Hurley took over, ASU's average attendance has dramatically increased. The Sun Devils had the second-largest increase in attendance in the NCAA in the 2017-18 season, with a change in average of 4,103 people.

Tammaro had a simple answer as to why attendance has rapidly increased: "People like winners."

He said aggressive scheduling and playing against big name teams also plays a factor in bringing people to the seats.

"In order to get Kansas, you got to go to Kansas to get Kansas at home," Tammaro said.

With this enormous increase in overall attendance and student attendance, Hurley has the right to believe the Bank should be packed for most games.

However, with Hurley's overall home record of 46-19 in Wells Fargo Arena, it doesn't seem right to blame the crowd.

Even Hurley believes so. He made sure the team didn’t use the low turnout as an excuse for their play.

“We shouldn’t need (the crowd) per se, because we beat Mississippi State on a neutral court with no crowd,” Hurley said. “We have to do better at being able to overcome that. So, that’s not an excuse.”

Conference play for the Sun Devils this season has been marked by inconsistency. Simply put, the team’s uneven play led to the loss versus Washington State and others, not the crowd, or lack thereof.

The talented, entertaining players Hurley has been able to recruit has brought heightened success for the program.

The success along with the draw of top-tier players have people filling the Bank, and Hurley wants to utilize those crowds to push his team to play better, leading to wins.

And Hurley surely wants to keep it that way, game after game for years to come. 


Reach the reporter at jhorst2@asu.edu and follow @HorseySeven on Twitter.

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