Marquette, Wisconsin, and UWM Student Section Report Cards
A big Pun City shout-out to the Wisconsin Badgers on their new ranking of #4 in both polls.
On a somewhat-related note, this blog was able to sit in the student sections of 3 of Wisconsin's Division I basketball programs in the last month, so it figured it could now provide a primer and some ratings for these sections. (In the interest of full disclosure, this blog is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin, so has much more game experience in that section). Here goes:
Tough to rate this one with the program rebuilding. This blog has been to a few of the bigger games that UWM has had over the last few years, and sat in the student section for most of those. The students always pack it full for big games. And this blog can say that the section was by far the drunkest basketball student section this blog has ever encountered. Pun City is convinced you would blow a .06 just having breathed in the air all game. This is a double-edged sword, of course. On the one hand, you have uninhibited students willing to scream anything and everything at the players and officials. While this can lead to some humorous moments, the drunk students aren't usually well-informed on college hoops in the first place, so there are some seriously dumb comments that detract from the game.
That's the big-game crowd. As previously mentioned, UWM is rebuilding this year. Which brings us to the next point: UWM's student fans are very much of the fair-weather variety. This year, the 2-11 Panthers have seen multiple games where there are less than 50 students in the section. This blog sat in the student section last week for a game where they were giving away free shirts to students, and less than 20 students showed. That's too bad. Now given the small sample size, this blog does have to give those that show up credit.
Obviously they're showing tremendous team spirit by being there, and they still make it a challenge for opponents when they're on the student end of the court. While not the most hoops-savvy crowd in the state, this blog gives those that show up all the credit in the world. Marquette and Wisconsin haven't had down years in a long while to test their fan bases, so it's tough to say what would happen if those programs were in rebuilding mode. This blog needed to borrow a Student ID to get the free shirt, but as long as you look mildly like a student, the section is easy to get into and closely-situated seats are no problem. This blog surmises that you could probably sneak in there even if you were well above college-age since the US Cellular Arena ushers are pretty cool.
Hoops Knowledge: 4 out of 10
School Spirit: 7 out of 10
Attendance: 3 out of 10
Ease of Entry for Non-Students: 10 of 10
This is the student section this blog has the least experience in of the 3 reviewed. Definitely a section that fills it up for big games. Weird attendance patterns outside of that. First off, being a school where a lot of students don't stick around over winter break, those games are poorly attended (by all fans including students). One might ask: Why would the other fans not attend these games? A fair question. This most likely has to do with the quality of non-conference opponents Marquette schedules for their home games.
To this point in the season, Marquette has the 112th-best strength of schedule in the nation. UWM has the 104th-best, Wisconsin the 64th. MU is typically the worst of these 3 because of their standard scheduling practices. Marquette's basketball program (like UWM's) has to support the bulk of their athletic department's budget. Because of this, MU will only go on the road in exchange for a home game that they are sure will sell out. On other occasions, MU will give a 1-and-1 to some schools when MU has a player from around the opponent's home. The "auto-sellout-type" opponents are few and far between. Recent examples of "1-for-1s" include Wisconsin (every other year) and Arizona (one shot deal). These games sold out. Other examples were Oakland, near former Golden Eagle Chris Grimm's hometown; and Valparaiso, near current players Dominic James' and Jerel McNeal's hometowns.
Anyway, the NCAA has a subset of teams that will play Marquette in Milwaukee without a promised return game. These teams support their athletic programs by getting a huge check from MU. These teams also tend to suck. Which finally brings us back to the student section. Faced with unpalateable opponents, students (and other fans) miss these games in droves. Now granted, these aren't big-name opponents, but this blog still thinks you should show up (especially if you already have the ticket).
They do still fill the lower deck student section with regularity, so it's not the worse attendance you could have there. This blog thinks it can chalk it up to bad luck, but thinks it is worth mentioning that both the guy next to Pun City and the guy behind Pun City spilled their beers during one visit, and in another visit frequent contributor Wells had his jacket spilled upon. MU's Gold Rush as a result gets the award for "most beer-spillingest" section in the state.
This blog would say they are also the most fiercely loyal section in the state, having enormous rivalries with non-conference and conference schools alike, and students rabidly defend their school and team. Sometimes this leads to some insane proclamations, but those can be fun as long as one remembers to keep it all in perspective.
A positive is that MU, like UWM, doesn't have another sport to distract most students, so Midnight Madness is the first major sporting event they have during the school year. Not a lot to do (sports wise) other than catch up on basketball, so the students generally have a good grasp on the college hoops landscape.
The biggest downside from this blog's perspective would be the difficulty in sneaking into the student section, since they have all entrances blocked by fences, and you generally have to show your ticket (which is paper and thusly very different-looking than a normal ticket) to ushers to gain entry. Some games they haven't been very stringent, but typically your best bet is to sit in a section adjacent to the student section, then sneak over when an usher isn't looking, since the ushers within the section generally are there just to indicate when the section is filled.
Hoops Knowledge: 8 out of 10
School Spirit: 8 out of 10
Attendance: 6 out of 10
Ease of Entry for Non-Students: 3 of 10
The section Pun City has the most experience with (pretty much in all sports). Perennially sells out, similar to Marquette except Wisconsin fills in all decks for the games where school is in session. Winter break usually finds some empty seats, but mainly just a lot of old people replacing the students.
The Kohl Center does not sell alcohol (except for Suites, where it's included in the cost of the Suite), so there aren't too many issues of drunk students and definitely not any spilled beer. A rare drunk student will have had to have gotten drunk before the game and/or brought in a flask. This blog has seen maybe 2 or 3 drunks in the student section in roughly 100 games over the last 7 years. This isn't half bad because everyone's brains are working at full capacity when they're screaming at the officials or opponents.
This blog would say that sneaking into the student section isn't a problem, since they don't really check tickets too closely. The main issues would be a) Getting into the building in the first place, and b) Finding an unoccupied seat that someone isn't going to boot you from.
Since the entire season has been sold out for all seats since around 2000 (if not before), it's tough to get a ticket. Obviously they're available at a price, but still a pain to mess with. If you're lucky enough to get into the building, and for some reason want to switch seats into the student section, good luck. On the one hand, there's probably a couple seats here and there that you can find. This blog imagines most of them would be on the 2nd or 3rd deck, even though there are a few to be had on the lower level for some Winter Break games or early non-conference games. On the other hand, students are a late-arriving crowd so it's unlikely that you'll be there long before someone kicks you out of their seat. And unlike MU and UWM, it's pretty rigidly-followed assigned seating, so you can't just go anywhere.
A plus is that ushers never check your ticket unless they're called over by someone who's had their seat taken, so you can get into the student section easily although it's tough to find an individual seat once there.
The Wisconsin basketball crowd is a lot different than the football crowd there, so this blog is going to rate them pretty high in hoops knowledge. After all, this blog went there, so there's some knowledge base right there. Although, there's some overlap of football and basketball fans and the football fans are not always the most focused sports fans, to say the least.
Wisconsin hoops fans are pretty rabid as far as school spirit goes. There's a bunch of different chants and songs that most students seem to keep up with. This blog is among those that think some of the songs/hand motions are kinda dumb, so people like Pun City often sit out a couple. There is probably more school spirit exhibited at football games, but there's still a lot at the hoops games. Perhaps not as much as Marquette because UW fans "split" their intensity over the 2 sports (and for some 3 or 4 with Hockey and even Volleyball factored in). UW fans, at least in this blog's estimation, also avoid being as unrealistic/optimistic/delusional as MU fans can sometimes get. This speaks to their hoops knowledge but detracts from school spirit.
Hoops Knowledge: 9 out of 10
School Spirit: 7 out of 10
Attendance: 9 out of 10
Ease of Entry for Non-Students: 5 of 10