It seems like only yesterday we were crowning the Kentucky Wildcats as the champions of college basketball. Since last April, college basketball teams across the nation have undergone massive changes, from losing their entire team (Kentucky), getting a brand-new remodeled arena (UCLA), or adding a few cosmetic pieces to prime themselves for a return to prominence (Indiana). As quickly as last season came and went, a new season is already upon us and StubHub has decided to look into fan demand to see which teams are the most popular heading into the 2012-13 college basketball season. As the data shows, we have few surprises – traditional college basketball hotbeds are excited to get back to the hardwood.
Basketball’s Heartland is Back on Top
It’s been a long time coming for the Indiana Hoosiers. Tom Crean brings his Indiana squad into the season as the top ranked team in the nation, a far cry from 6-25 season they endured in 2008-09. While this season is wide open from a national title perspective, Indiana returns an impressive team that took Kentucky to the brink in last year’s tournament. Headlining the Hoosiers is their 7-foot tall center and the preseason All-American, Cody Zeller, who is primed to rack up Player of the Year honors when it’s all said and done. Fan demand and excitement in Bloomington is unmatched and they top our page views chart by a significant margin. Since the season ended last April, they have racked up more than 300,000 page views for tickets, making Hoosiers tickets in short supply. If they get off to a fast start, Indiana basketball fans will be flocking to Assembly Hall in huge numbers to see if their team can win their first title since 1987.
As For The Champs….
Photo by Jonathan Palmer TEAMCOYLE — Herald-Leader
Don’t sleep on Kentucky. As unsexy as it is to pick the defending National Champion to repeat, the Wildcats have as good a chance as any to return to the Final Four in Atlanta. Kentucky is second on our list in fan demand and have more than 250,000 page views since they cut down the nets last season. For most teams, losing all five of their starters and their sixth man would mean a long season of rebuilding, but for coach John Calipari, it’s all a part of his system. He’s brought in another monster recruiting class, led by the number one recruit in the nation, a 6’10” center from Massachusetts, Nerlens Noel. Despite having an awesome name, he’ll also probably bring back memories of last year’s freshman darling, Anthony Davis. In a down year for SEC basketball, I fully expect Kentucky to be one of the top teams by season’s end.
Anyone Else in The Field?
The next teams on our list are the usual suspects of college basketball royalty. Kansas, Syracuse and Louisville are always some of the most popular teams across the country and that is no different ahead of this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of those teams topped the charts at some point in the season. The Jayhawks, Orangemen and Cardinals were all hovering between 125,000 – 175,000 page views during the offseason.
Somewhat of a surprise team in our list is the UCLA Bruins. UCLA, in a combination of having a relatively down year in 2011-12 and being forced to play their home games across town at the L.A. Sports Arena, were nowhere near the top 10 in StubHub’s fan demand charts. It’s funny what a brand new arena and top recruiting class will do. Tonight, UCLA christens the newly remodeled Pauley Pavilion and debuts their stable of top recruits, ranked near the top nationally depending on who you ask. Whether or not UCLA will turn it around this season remains to be seen, but the hot new arena is garnering a lot of attention and page views in Westwood.
Photo by Hans Gutknecht
I’m excited to see how this season plays out. As I mentioned earlier, the race for the National Title is anyone’s game and I wouldn’t be surprised if a team I didn’t mention came out of nowhere to win the crown. We’ll continue to monitor the fan demand chart throughout the season, although probably not on a weekly basis like college football. In case anyone is curious, here are the stats for the Top 10 teams in page views during the entire offseason. It’s essentially Indiana and Kentucky and then the rest of the teams. Let’s see what this season has in store!
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