Colorado brings up rear in attendance

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Wins and losses are not all that separate the haves and have-nots in the Big 12.

It's also how many fans show every game up to root, root, root for the home team. Five Big 12 programs are averaging more than 11,000 fans, led as always by the perpetual sellout of 16,300 who jam Kansas' Allen Fieldhouse.

On the other side of the coin are the sad crowds that rattle around in lonely gyms at such places as Colorado, Baylor and Texas Tech.

"Colorado has a better team that it's had in years, and I think they are drawing better than they were earlier," said Kansas coach Bill Self, the owner of the league's most consistently supportive fan base.

So why are only about 7,000 showing up each night to see Bob Knight's Texas Tech team?

"You've got a guy chasing the all-time win record, and you'd think you'd want to be there to say you were a part of it," said Self.

One problem may be what fans are looking for.

"They not only expect you to win, they expect to be entertained," Self said. "If they're not entertained, they don't come back so much. I think that's sad. It's across America, not only in our league."

Behind Kansas, the big draws in the Big 12 are Texas, which is averaging 12,746, Iowa State (11,813), Oklahoma (11,676) and Oklahoma State (11,580).

Nebraska's average attendance is 8,889, but nobody else in the league is averaging more than about 8,000.

Colorado, which is challenging for an NCAA bid and has one of the league's most sensational players in Richard Roby, is averaging a shade under 4,000, although the crowds have been getting better.

The Buffs have still not sold out the 11,064-capacity Coors Events Center. Nevertheless, coach Ricardo Patton is grateful for the recent increase in interest.

"If you're averaging five or six [thousand] and wind up with eight (thousand), that's certainly moving in the right direction," said Patton. "At this point we don't have any complaints about the crowds we've had in the last few games."

Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson still seemed downcast after the Sooners let a 16-point lead get away from them in a one-point loss to Kansas.

"I think we've just got to learn to sustain," Sampson said. "Turnovers can come in a lot of forms. Sometimes a bad shot's a turnover. Shot-selection turn-overs. It was a frustrating game."

Gardner to start for MU

Missouri coach Quin Snyder said Thomas Gardner, who has led the Big 12 in scoring most of the season, would be back in the lineup in the Tigers' next game tonight against Baylor.

Snyder, whose team has lost five in a row by double digits, kept Gardner on the bench throughout the second half against Texas Tech on Saturday. He wound up with two points.

"I wouldn't even characterize it as benching," Snyder said. "That kind of implies he was doing something that was upsetting me. He wasn't playing well. I felt like there were other guys who were playing better."

The Tigers lost 73-55 but did stage a second-half rally with Gardner out of the game.

"I felt like that gave us the best opportunity to win," Snyder said. "There are no after-affects. I absolutely expect Thomas to start and play great basketball against Baylor."

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