You're looking at shots from the stands during the semifinal of the Great West tournament in Chicago, via Brian Sandalow of ChicagoSide. Usually, small programs can at least count on friends and family to make the hike to conference tourney games, but it seems even mom and dad preferred the Big Ten tourney 15 miles away.
The attendance for Friday's game, a thrilling one-point win for Houston Baptist over N.J.I.T., is officially listed as "N/A," which sounds about right. But there are very good reasons for the empty house, starting with the fact that the Great West winner doesn't receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. It's all for pride!
Once called "America's saddest basketball conference," the Great West will almost certainly disband after this season. Originally formed in 2004 as a football conference, literally every single member school bolted by 2011. The replacement programs were raided by the Big West, the Big Sky, the WAC, and even the Southland in recent years, and now conference membership is down to five basketball schools. This tournament consisted of a single play-in game, two semifinals, and a final, won by host Chicago State, 11-21 on the season. Their reward? An automatic bid to the Collegeinsider.com Tournament.
Further realignment will leave the Great West with just a single basketball school next year: N.J.I.T., most famous for holding the longest-ever D1 losing streak.
In years to come, you won't be able to swing a brat without hitting a Chicagoan who will claim they were there for the historic and noble last gasp of the Great West. But these photos exist, so they'll be fucking liars.