Tuesday, January 7, 2014

After seven years, Mullins Center sellout worth the wait

By Zachary Baru

After many years of fans showing up at the box office, buying walk-up tickets to games, the first sellout crowd in seven years for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team was a delight to the 9,493 in attendance for the Minutemen's 69-67 win over Providence on December 28.

The feeling may not have been the same for fans waiting in line when the announcement was made that the game was sold out, and tickets were no longer available at the time.  A long line of fans continued to wait in the cold, as some tickets became available after about a half hour. 

This is the reality of having a team that is nationally ranked.  Presently, UMass is #19 in the Associated Press poll, making this the lowest AP ranking for UMass since 1998.  The sellout - which UMass also had at the MassMutual Center on December 7 - will likely not be the Minutemen's last this season.

The Saturday night start time helped, and playing Providence did not hurt either, but the remarkable aspect to the sellout was that it occured during intersession for students.  While the student section certainly had its fair share of supporters, there were still less students in the Mullins Center than usual, sometimes making the arena eerily quiet for a sellout. 

The Providence game was a hometown supported game, and a nice treat for UMass fans to see what the fan base is capable of, without all of the help from students.  It is comforting to know the potential of Western Massachusetts fans, which could be seen live nationally on ESPNU.  UMass, and all of Western Mass. was represented well, something that hopefully will become the norm.

The Mullins Center was built on success, and finally that excitment is back in the arena.  There should be no excuses now as to why fans can't fill the building.  It has been done this season in Springfield, and now Amherst.  It is amazing what the affects of a national ranking can bring for a team. 

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.

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