The UCLA Bruins are an undefeated national title contender currently ranked No. 2 in the country, and they have arguably the nation’s most exciting player in freshman point guard Lonzo Ball (who’s drawing Jason Kidd comps).

And still, average attendance for UCLA games has been nearly 5,000 below capacity this season at Pauley Pavilion, according to the New York Times.

To some extent, it’s understandable. Los Angeles is a big city with tons of things to do, related to sports and non-sports. In Lawrence, Kansas, there isn’t much else to do but watch the Jayhawks. In Bloomington, Indiana, there isn’t much else to do but watch the Hoosiers.

Here’s what athletic director Dan Guerrero had to say, from the New York Times:

“It’s an L.A. thing in a general sense,” said U.C.L.A.’s athletic director, Dan Guerrero, who was encouraged that Wednesday’s game drew 10,695, the second-largest crowd this season, on a rainy night during the holiday break. One of Guerrero’s frustrations is that many empty seats close to center court — and visible on TV — have been sold, but those who bought them chose not to come.

“In L.A., it’s known to most that you need to be relevant,” Guerrero said. “If you’re relevant, people will show up.”

Well, the Bruins are as relevant as they’ve been since Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook were suiting up in 2008, but the crowds are still lacking. This team has the possible No. 1 pick in Lonzo Ball and another possible lottery pick in T.J. Leaf, and they went to Kentucky earlier this month and ended the Wildcats’ 42-game home winning streak.

On Thursday, CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote a column on UCLA’s revitalization under coach Steve Alford and called the Bruins “the best story in college basketball.” Here’s one response he received and responded to on Twitter.

This is the fanbase that didn’t take long to sour on Ben Howland even though he took the Bruins to three straight Final Fours. And after last year’s 15-17 disappointment, somebody paid to fly a “Fire Alford” banner from a plane over Los Angeles.

They didn’t tweet “Fire Alford.” They didn’t email the athletic department. They frickin’ flew it over the city.

To the people who are buying center court seats at Pauley and not showing up, feel free to send your tickets my way. I’d be happy to fly out to Los Angeles for the chance to see these Bruins ball.

[New York Times]

About Jesse Kramer

Jesse is a writer and editor for The Comeback. He has also worked for SI.com and runs The Catch and Shoot, a college basketball website based in Chicago. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow Jesse on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer.