UNLIKE past showdowns between Ateneo and La Salle, the second-round meeting between the two rival schools on Sunday surprisingly didn't attract a sellout.
Not a few readers observed rows of empty seats inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum during a 71-62 Ateneo victory that gave the Blue Eagles an elimination-round sweep of the Green Archers in UAAP Season 81.
That sight, for sure, is odd for the biggest rivalry in college basketball.
The collegiate league, which usually releases attendance records by halftime, curiously didn't reveal the gate figures for Sunday's game at the Mall of Asia Arena. But it's obvious the numbers were far smaller than in the two rivals' first meeting last October 6.
Asked about the decline, UAAP executive director Rebo Saguisag said he has yet to check the numbers, so has yet to look into the issue.
However, the predictability of the games is one of the factors being blamed for the dip in attendance, especially over the past two seasons.
La Salle, powered by Ben Mbala, was an overwhelming favorite to plow through the opposition last season. Rival Ateneo is more or less in the same position this year.
Also being blamed for the decline in attendance is the multiple platforms fans can now use to view the games, which the league's TV coveror ABS-CBN now livestreams through its social media and YouTube accounts.
However, attendance is expected to spike again come the playoffs, especially if Ateneo and La Salle reprise their finals showdown the past two seasons.
But that is still lup in the air.
While the Blue Eagles are assured of being the top seed in the playoffs with their 11-2 (win-loss) card, the Green Archers are still battling University of the Philippines and Far Eastern University for the last spot in the Final Four.
At 8-5, the Green Archers are just a game ahead of University of the Philippines and Far Eastern University (both 7-6). They need to beat UP on Wednesday to avoid falling into a playoff for the last semifinal berth.