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March Maddening for Knicks fans?

As I surfed through Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, I wondered how Knicks fans are viewing the Tournament this year.

Is it harder to watch knowing pretty much all of the top players are out of orange-and-blue consideration because this year's first round pick belongs to the Utah Jazz?

Or do you distract yourself from that reality by scrutinizing the less heralded players to find diamonds in the rough for those two second round picks in Donnie Walsh's pocket?

If you're a hoops junkie, it's impossible not to watch. The basketball isn't as polished (the officiating is certainly awful and often over-the-top) but the passion is intoxicating. Still, it has to be frustrating when a player catches your eye and you hear an annoucer suggest he could be an NBA lottery pick. Scratch him off the list.

But what about that other kid who catches your eye? Smart player, great range, tough kid. Is he a senior? If not, does he have reason to be an early entry? Could he slip to the second round? Perhaps the Knicks could buy another late pick?

[Bloghost note: I refuse to name any names here at this point because there's no reason to speculate off of one game. I am hardly a college hoops expert, so I can't start considering potential targets until I've seen a few games and some video. I refer you all to fellow Fixer Jon Rothstein, who has college basketball on lock].

So what do you do on a night like this, when the Tournament is in full bloom and yet your beloved Knicks are playing the 76ers at the Garden? Let's see: Gonzaga, Duke and Syracuse are on the schedule tonight....then again, Toney Douglas is going up against Lou Williams and that J.R. Giddens kid should get some burn.

As absurd as that just read, I know many of you Fixers are actually torn. And that's what makes you special.

And that's why the greatest asset the Knicks have to sell to free agents this summer has nothing to do with the few players they may keep around next season or the coach with the fun system. It isn't even the Garden, itself, as the venerable basketball stage in the heart of the game's mecca.

It's you people who consistently fill the place at a time when, for pretty much every other franchise in the league, it would be mostly empty.

Tonight, of course, it probably will be. As far as I'm told, there are limited tickets available for the Knicks-Sixers epic at the Garden. This means they're limited at the box office, but on StubHub there are 203 listings for the game, ranging from one ticket to four with prices from $19 to four courtside seats for $10K. But from the Knicks perspective, those seats are sold.

And that's something the New Orleans Hornets wish they could say.

In fact, the Knicks not only have the fifth-highest attendance average this season (19,528), they're sixth in capacity percentage (98.8) which is more of a reflection of how many tickets are sold per night. Since every area has a different capacity size, some may fill the building but average less because their building holds less.

In Dallas (104 percent), Portland (102.5), Cleveland (100) and Orlando (100), they are above or at full capcaity. Capacity at Amway Arena is 17,461, which is why the Magic rank behind the Knicks in average attendance.

The Lakers average 18,997, which is 99.7 percent capacity. A sellout at the Garden is 19,763, which is why the Knicks are at 98.8 percent.

Among those top six teams, only the Knicks have a losing record. In the top 10 rankings for capacity percentage, the only the Knicks and Bulls (98.6 percent/20,619) are under .500.

Ask any GM, coach, player and even scout in the league, they'll tell you this is the most intriguing thing about playing in New York. If 19,528 people show up per night for a 24-win season, how popular would this team be in this city if it actually was a winner?

From Feb. 4, 1993 through Nov. 2, 2003, there were 433 consecutive sellouts at the Garden for Knicks regular season and playoff games. I guess as far as attendance goes, 10 years of sellouts is an amazing run for Broadway.

For perspective, since 1988, Phantom of the Opera has packed The Majestic Theater for 8,575 performances, a Broadway record. So not only did the show start it's run before the Knicks sellout streak, it is still going strong well after it.

Patrick Ewing was the leading man during that Knicks era and, all due respect to The Big Fella, who gave his heart-and-soul in every performance, he wasn't really a marquee star away from the game.

Just imagine if one ever did come here and have success. Could the Knicks challenge Phantom?

Maybe they just need the Phantom to work for them in convincing free agents to sign with the Knicks. I heard he can be pretty persuasive.

New York Sports