Lots of empty seats around the MVC

It’s too early to make a judgment about what kind of long-term partner Loyola will make for the Missouri Valley Conference, which added the Ramblers to the roster in the spring after Creighton bolted for the Big East.

But in the short term, this stinks.

LoyolaLoyola is off to a 5-5 start and the Ramblers’ average home attendance for four games is 1,683. Capacity for the Joseph J. Gentile Arena is 4,486. There were 1,103 in the stands for a Dec. 13 home game against Campbell. I know it’s Campbell, but c’mon. East High draws more.

I want Loyola to work out. I go way back with the Ramblers, to a time when they often visited Wichita to pay the Shockers during much of the 1960s and 1970s. The teams played a two-game series for several years during that span and Loyola was a de facto Valley member even then.

But Loyola is a far cry from the program that won a national championship in 1963. And it’s not evident that anyone in the great metropolis of Chicago, where Loyola is located, has any interest. I hope that changes. I hope the Valley catches on there. It would be a great thing for the conference.

Loyola isn’t the only Valley school struggling to sell tickets. Outside of Wichita State, which regularly packs the house and is coming off a Final Four, nobody is doing boffo box office.

Here are the unsightly numbers:

Bradley – 5,684 average at Carver Arena, 11,164 capacity. The Braves are 1-5 since a 4-0 start and drew only 3,750 for a Dec. 4 game against IUPIU. They have already played seven home games, though, and attendance is dwindling.

Drake – 3,337 average at the Knapp Center, 7,152 capacity. Drake plays in a nice building, the Knapp Center. But forever it’s been a better place to take naps than to watch basketball games. The Bulldogs are 6-3 but had only 3,288 in the building for a game against New Mexico State on Saturday.

Evansville – 3,839 average at the Ford Center, 11,000 capacity. The Purple Aces play in a new downtown arena and have an interesting team, with three sophomores and a couple of freshmen contributing heavily. But there’s not much interest yet in a team that is 6-5.

Illinois State – 4,978 at Redbird Arena, 10,200 capacity. The Redbirds knocked off then-No. 25 Dayton on Dec. 7 in front of 6,697 fans, but have been below 4,600 in three other home games. Illinois State’s top four scorers are junior college transfers, by the way. Not that that has anything to do with attendance.

Indiana State – 5,820 at the Hulman Center, 10,200 capacity. The Sycamores went into the season with high expectations but the home fans have rarely gotten to see the team, which has played only two home games and is off to a 7-2 start.

Missouri State – 4,442 at JQH Arena, 11,000 capacity. Bears fans obviously aren’t buying the team’s 8-1 start. Tuesday night’s game at Louisville could tell a story, but is it one the Missouri State faithful will want to hear?

Northern Iowa – 4,231 at the McLeod Center, 6,650 capacity. There were almost 6,000 for a home win over VCU on Saturday, a victory that might jump start the 5-5 Panthers.

Southern Illinois – 4,576 at SIU Arena, 8,339 capacity. It looks like more of the same in Carbondale, where SIU is 2-7 and fans are staying home in droves despite a nice remodeling of SIU Arena.