The Miami Hurricanes have been as up and down as their attendance, and guard Angel Rodriguez says there's a connection.
"The fans can't expect consistency if they're not even consistent with the support they show us," Rodriguez said Monday.
The Hurricanes have had trouble filling their 7,972-seat arena this season, as usual. Rodriguez believes a subdued atmosphere at some home games has contributed to the team's erratic play, and coach Jim Larranaga agrees.
When asked what sort of crowd he expects Tuesday against No. 9-ranked Louisville, Larranaga smiled.
"We are anticipating a sellout," he said as he looked skyward for assistance and crossed fingers on both hands.
The Hurricanes (14-7, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) have been at their best in noisy environments. They won by 16 points at Duke, won at Syracuse before more than 30,000 fans, and beat Illinois and North Carolina State with lively crowds at home.
But there was little energy in the stands for home games against Green Bay, Eastern Kentucky and Georgia Tech, and Miami lost all three.
"It has been hard for our guys, the inconsistency of the crowds at home," Larranaga said. "It's human nature to think when you're doing really well, you'll get more support. When you come home after beating Duke and it's half empty, it's deflating.
"But it's not part of Deflategate."
While the Hurricanes' fourth-year coach tried to joke about the situation, he and his players are frustrated at the modest size of their bandwagon. The Hurricanes have gone door to door in dorms trying to cultivate student support, and they were ranked 23rd before losing the past two games to Georgia Tech and Florida State.
Even so, there were more than 3,000 empty seats for the most recent home game against the Yellow Jackets.
"At Miami, you have to win in order for fans to come," said Rodriguez, who lived in Miami in high school and is well aware of the Hurricanes' attendance-challenged history.
"But to tell you the truth, I thought we won a lot of good games and did enough for fans to come and support us. Yes, we have some up and downs, but we've showed signs we can be a really good team. We deserve to have a better amount of fans. It's kind of disappointing."
The Hurricanes are quick to cite additional reasons for their roller-coaster results. Effort, inexperience and outside shooting are all issues, Larranaga said.
"We can be very good in spurts," he said. "There are some nights we don't play well at all. Some of that may have to do with nine new guys, and four freshmen and four transfers. So it's complicated for us. We're not there every night."
Larranaga said the effort was excellent despite a loss Sunday at Florida State, but outside shooting — a strength early in the season — has become a problem. The Hurricanes are deep at guard but lack offensive presence inside, and as they continue to rely heavily on 3-pointers, opponents now focus on defending the perimeter.
"It definitely has changed from the beginning of the year to now," leading scorer Sheldon McClellan said. "Teams are getting familiar with us, and the scouting reports kicked in. It's tougher to get open looks."
As a result, the Hurricanes' field-goal percentage and scoring have declined in recent weeks. Rodriguez, for one, is shooting 29 percent in ACC games.
"We're going to be inconsistent, because 3-point shooting by its nature is inconsistent," Larranaga said.
The coach expects plenty of harassing defense from Louisville (18-3, 6-2). He also anticipates a big crowd, noting that ranked opponents typically help ticket sales for Hurricanes games.
"That's one of my goals before too long — that people don't come to watch the opponent," Larranaga said. "They come to watch us."