The Top 15 Arenas in College Basketball
by Jon Pease
This one is about the 15 greatest areas in college basketball. I based my criteria on the history, atmosphere on game day and overall “coolness” of the arenas. The ones with the best blend of the criteria made my list. So without further ado, I present my take on the 15 best arenas in college basketball.
15. Dean Smith Center
Team: North Carolina Tar Heels
Nickname: The Dean Dome
The Dean Dome starts off my list at 15. There’s no doubt, UNC has a storied history. The rafters of the Dean Dome are filled with countless banners commemorating ACC regular season titles, ACC tournament championships and National Championships. But the Dean Dome isn’t as intimidating as other venues.
Early on in its history, the front rows of the Dean Dome were awarded to alumnus and boosters. The typical age of those receiving the close seats led to visiting teams getting the feeling that the UNC crowd was a “whine and cheese” type crowd. Recently UNC has begun to change this policy, and the intensity by the students is beginning to rival those of other schools. The Dean Smith Center is impressive, but not quite impressive enough. 15 is where it belongs.
14. Bud Walton Arena
Team: Arkansas Razorbacks
Nickname: The Basketball Palace of Mid-America
The Bud Walton Arena checks in at 14. Although Razorback basketball has fallen on some tough times recently, that hasn’t stopped the fans from packing into Bud Walton Arena. In fact, in the first season playing in Bud Walton Arena, the Razorbacks went on to be the NCAA Champions, going unbeaten at home. Since its creation in 1993, Bud Walton Arena has been in the top 15 in attendance every season, with an average of finishing 8th. No matter if the team is good or bad, Razorback fans show up to show their support.
Bud Walton Arena’s design is unique in itself. For its type of building, Bud Walton Arena has more seats in less space than any other building in the world. This unique fact contributes to the noise level, as The Basketball Palace of Mid-America is constantly seen as one of the ten loudest arenas in college basketball. While the team inside may not have the history of other schools, Bud Walton Arena’s features put it on this list.
13. Pauley Pavilion
Team: UCLA Bruins
Nickname: Nell and John Wooden Court
Pauley Pavilion is an out-dated, run down court. It’s scheduled for a massive upgrade, and it desperately needs it. But still, Pauley Pavilion belongs on this list. And it’s because of the history of the court alone. A trip to Pauley Pavilion to watch the game begins and ends with the image of legendary coach John Wooden pacing the bench. Because honestly, you can’t think of UCLA without thinking of Wooden, and you can’t see the court without picturing him there.
Pauley Pavilion is also unique in the banners it hangs from the rafters: only National Championships and retired numbers belong. With 11 alone in men’s basketball and numerous others from other sports, Pauley Pavilion has as many banners as some of the other arenas across the country. The simple awe of entering Pauley Pavilion erases any blemishes the arena itself has, and puts Pauley Pavilion on this list.
12. Assembly Hall
Team: Indiana Hoosiers
Nickname: Branch McCracken Court
Assembly Hall is another stadium that made it here more so because of the history instead of the court itself. The fans support the team regardless of how they are doing, as almost every home game is sold out and features screaming fans urging their Hoosiers to victory. The stadium is unique, but almost in a bad way: the fact that there are only 10 rows of bleachers behind each basket is a common complaint about Assembly Hall. As such, the majority of the fans watch from the left or right of the court.
The arena also shows off the storied history of one of the greatest programs in college basketball history. Banners show off the dominance Indiana has shown. Visiting teams feel somewhat awed by the knowledge of the history of the building they are entering. Pauley Pavilion may have more of a history, but Assembly Hall is in much better shape. As such, Assembly Hall was included on my list, a single spot ahead of Pauley Pavilion.
11. Carrier Dome
Team: Syracuse Orange
Nickname: The Loud House
The largest on-campus basketball arena in the nation is at 11 on my list. Despite being a Syracuse fan, I know there are more historic and more deserving arenas than the Dome. Watching basketball at the Loud House has a different feeling to it. There’s no air conditioning, the crowds are huge (setting numerous on-campus records), and there’s always the threat of a huge snowstorm rolling in and burying you. But all of that adds to the thrill of Syracuse basketball; it’s a different breed than anywhere else in the nation.
The Loud House isn’t exactly loud each and every game. Instead, the fans build up over time. While games against Rutgers and St. John’s may have average attendance, the fans show up in mass to games against the Georgetown’s and the Villanova’s. Then, the Loud House truly lives up to its name, as 30,000+ unleash on the visiting team as they try to urge their team to a win. The Carrier Dome is a great stadium, and belongs on this list.
10. Breslin Center
Team: Michigan State Spartans
Kicking off the top ten is the Breslin Center. Michigan State has been flat out dominant at the Breslin Center. That fact alone has fueled fans of Michigan State, and has made games at the Breslin Center a must see. The court itself is a piece of history, as Coach Izzo had the court from the RCA Dome, on which Michigan State won a national championship, installed.
On any court in the Breslin center, opposing teams struggle. 19 out of a possible 99 opponents have ever won at the Breslin Center, with only one out of conference opponent winning twice. Michigan State plays will in its top-of-the-line arena, an Arena that belongs in the top ten.
9. Hinkle Fieldhouse
Team: Butler Bulldogs
The 6th oldest arena still in use is 9th on my list. While Butler may be known as one of the premier mid major programs, Hinkle Fieldhouse has a reputation of its own. Hinkle Fieldhouse has played host to more than just basketball games; numerous presidents have given speeches in it, national track meets have been held, and the famous movie Hoosiers has a scene in it. That’s a history for you.
Games in Hinkle Fieldhouse are something special as well. When the time is right, sunlight shines in through the famous east windows and adds a special element to the game. The fans are crazy. The arena is loud and rocking. The team is talented. The stadium is a national landmark. A basketball game at Hinkle Fieldhouse is something special.
8. MacArthur Court
Team: Oregon Ducks
Nickname: Mac Court
MacArthur Court is the second oldest on-campus arena still in use. It’s ancient, in a good way. The locker rooms are in the basement under the bleachers, and they’re tiny. The bleachers are practically on the court, and right behind the benches. The fans are so intense that the floor vibrates, the basket almost sways, and the scoreboard that hangs from a few cables seems to sway. The court screams old, and Oregon fans love that.
A game at MacArthur court is an experience nobody forgets. The visiting team won’t forget how small the locker rooms were, and how the arena seems to move beneath them. The fans won’t forget being right on top of the action, and willing their team to victory. While UCLA may have dominated the Pac-10 and was a team few wanted to play, just as few teams wanted to travel to ancient MacArthur Court to play the Ducks, regardless of talent.
Next: The top 7:
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