On Saturday evening, Buffalo saw glimpses of what college basketball can truly become in this city.
A loud, obnoxious crowd of 4,015 people attended Alumni Arena to watch the Bulls clinch the 2 seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament.
The large student turnout looked impressive on television and made great impressions with all of their chants and crazy behavior.
Behind press row and each team’s bench, the stands appeared filled and made Alumni Arena look like a great college basketball environment.
The opponent, Bowling Green, is hardly a name opponent to anyone living in Buffalo outside the most rabid MAC basketball fans.
So why the great turnout?
UB promoted the game magnificently to their students and the Bulls had a bye to the MAC Semifinals on the line.
With the game having so much on the line for the Bulls, the fans showed up to show their support.
The question is, was this a one time thing or is UB Bulls basketball finally gaining some popularity in Buffalo?
The answer, probably somewhere in the middle.
Buffalo, while only a mid-sized city, is a big time sports city. People show up to any big time event in droves, but don’t normally support smaller events such as high school and college athletics.
However, in the past Buffalo has proved that when UB is successful, people will start coming to root on the Bulls.
Back when Turner Battle (now an assistant coach on the Bulls) led the Bulls during Buffalo’s “Glory Days”, Alumni Arena would regularly have over 4,000 people in attendance.
The Bulls maintained decent attendance figures for a while after, but then started to see those numbers tail off once the team started to struggle in 2006 and 2007.
UB started to win again with regularity starting in the 2008 season but fan support has never gotten back to what it once was.
Despite 78 total wins (including this season) over the last four years, fan support has been lacking for the Bulls.
Attendance has hovered around 2,000 fans per game for the most part while the quality of basketball on the court has only gotten better.
The Buffalo media has barely made an effort to cover the Bulls, as they don’t even put game highlights on the local news or talk about UB on the airwaves.
It’s no surprise then that the Buffalo community considers UB to be a minor league event. Buffalo is uneducated on how good UB truly is and is missing out by not supporting the Bulls.
Recently though, some of this has started to change.
With UB’s eight game winning streak earlier this year, people around Buffalo started taking notice of the Bulls.
The attendance numbers at Alumni Arena have gotten larger while the crowds have become more obnoxious.
The local news is starting to cover the team better while stations such as WGR550 have actually brought up the Bulls a few times recently, even interviewing Coach Witherspoon on Sports Talk Saturday this past week.
While there is still room for much progress, it’s a start for the Buffalo community.
Buffalo is starting to appreciate this Bulls team. The crowds are slowly getting larger, the students are becoming more rabid, and the team on the court is getting consistently better.
These are all good signs for the future of UB basketball.
We’ll soon find out in the next few years if Buffalo will ever be able to truly embrace the Bulls. UB has many young stars returning next year while also adding some talented recruits.
All of this put together should equate to a UB Bulls program that should be consistently good for the next few years.
The time is now for people to jump onto the UB bandwagon. They’re waiting.