By Rixon Lane
In case you haven't heard, there's a pretty important basketball game tonight in Columbia.
Top-ranked South Carolina is putting its undefeated season and school-record home winning streak on the line against a powerful Texas A&M team. A national television audience will tune in and the Gamecocks are hoping for a sellout and the highest-attendance ever for a women's basketball game at South Carolina.
But why stop there?
South Carolina currently leads the nation in attendance, averaging 11,631 fans per home contest. The Gamecocks have seen crowds of over 16,000 for their last two home games. While a sellout would be great, South Carolina's fans could do much more for the remainder of this season.
Tennessee has led the nation in attendance for women's basketball every year since the 2003-04 season. The Vols are nearly 2,000 fans behind South Carolina's current pace and are in danger of seeing their 10-year reign at the top snapped by an SEC rival.
Tennessee is also the only women's basketball program this millennium to average over 14,000 fans at home games in a season. The Vols last topped that mark in 2011-12, when they averaged a crowd of 14,414 per contest.
South Carolina could become the second program to average 14,000 fans per home game in a season. In order to do so, the Gamecocks would need to average 17,159 fans at each of their final six home games this year.
South Carolina's remaining home games are: Texas A&M tonight, a matchup of top-10 teams; Alabama on Thursday night, a good night for high student attendance; LSU on the second Thursday in February, which could be a great kickoff for Valentine's weekend; Vanderbilt that Sunday, a noon tip; Tennessee on Monday the 23rd, a nine o'clock game against a storied program; and Mississippi State that Thursday, which will be Senior Night.
The Gamecocks can do something only one other women's basketball program has done since the turn of the century.
As a certain football coach once asked, "why not us?"