There are not many things that can match the excitement, hostility, and intimidation of an imposing home crowd in college basketball. The arenas cram in as many fans as possible like sardines in a can, and they put them right on top of the action. Unlike other sports, there is a personal element between players and fans at basketball games. Every cheer, chant, and insult can be heard on the court. It provides a level of intimacy that I’m sure most visiting players at these college games could do without.
The lengths that some student sections go to get under the skin of opposing teams is pure insanity, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. The torture that JJ Redick endured during his Duke days comes to mind when thinking about how intimidating the college basketball atmosphere can be.
Also, let’s not forget about the history that resides in some of these arenas. Iconic moments in sports and world history have occurred on the courts you will see on this list. It is a collection of modern marvels and antiques we should always cherish.
The college game is unlike anything else, and these ten arenas embodied all the traits that were mentioned above.
10. O’Connell Center – Florida Gators
The “Rowdy Reptiles” that occupy the Stephen C. O’Connell Center give the Florida Gators one of the most intimidating home courts in all of college basketball. Florida has been one of the most successful basketball programs in the SEC and the nation over the past two decades and having the O’Dome rock on game nights helps tremendously.
The university recently upgraded its basketball arena, gutting the building to providing a more modernized feel to the facility geared toward increasing the fan experience.
9. WisePies Arena “The Pit” – New Mexico Lobos
“The Pit” as its been dubbed is one of the most unique facilities in the country. The arena sits 37 feet below street level, hence the nickname. The arena has been used many times to host NCAA tournament games, including the iconic Jim Valvano celebration after winning the 1983 national championship. Basketball writer John Feinstein described the arena as “Roman gladiators emerging into a wall of sound”, that about cements The Pit’s place on this list.
8. Rupp Arena – Kentucky Wildcats
Rupp Arena is home to one of the most storied basketball programs in college history. The arena is named after coach Adolf Rupp who ranks fifth in all-time wins and won four national champions at Kentucky. Rupp Arena is the largest basketball-specific designed arena in the country. The scene is electric during Kentucky home games providing an atmosphere as good as its team’s winning percentage.
7. Carrier Dome – Syracuse Orange
The Carrier Dome is another very unique basketball arena, and that is because it’s not an arena at all. The Carrier Dome is home to the Syracuse football team, and during the basketball season half the stadium is cut off and turned into a basketball arena. The Dome has seating capacity for 35,000 fans and gets deafeningly loud as the cheers echo and bounce off of the dome roof.
6. Dean Smith Center – UNC Tar Heels
The “Dean Dome” as it is most commonly referred to is home to the North Carolina Tar Heels. And once the student section was expanded in the Dean Smith Center, the atmosphere has been taken to a whole other level thrusting it into becoming one of the best courts the college game has to offer. The arena is named after legendary coach Dean Smith and is the fourth largest in the country.
5. Gallagher Iba Arena – Oklahoma State Cowboys
The home of the Oklahoma State Cowboys is one of the oldest arenas in college basketball. Gallagher Iba Arena was built in 1938 and named after legendary wrestling coach Ed Gallagher and basketball coach Henry Iba.
The arena has been known by two different nicknames over the years, “The Madison Square Garden of the Plains” and “The Rowdiest Arena in the Country”. In 2005, OK State named the court “Eddie Sutton Court” in honor of the schools second winningest basketball coach.
4. The Palestra – UPenn Quakers
The most historic arena in all of the college basketball resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is home to the UPenn Quakers. If you are a big basketball historian visiting the Palestra and taking in the sights, feel, and smells of the old gym is a must. The arena is designed in such a way the fans are literally right on top of the action giving it a unique atmosphere unmatched anywhere else.
The Palestra has been called “The most important building in the history of college basketball” and “The Cathedral of College Basketball”. The historic arena has hosted more games, more visiting teams, and more NCAA tournaments than any other facility in college basketball. It is truly one of a kind.
3. Allen Fieldhouse – Kansas Jayhawks
Allen Fieldhouse is home to the Kansas Jayhawks and statistically speaking in terms of wins and losses provides the best home-court advantage in the nation. The Jayhawks went on a 54 game home winning streak between 2013 and 2017. During the 2017 season, the noise level was recorded at 130.4 decibels marking the loudest recorded level ever at a basketball game.
2. Cameron Indoor – Duke Blue Devils
They don’t call them the Cameron Crazies for nothing. The home of the Duke Blue Devils is one of the most raucous downright insane atmospheres in college basketball; the scene is quite extraordinary. Also, Blue Devil fans are known for setting up camp outside the arena before big games called “Krzyzewskiville”.
Cameron Indoor does not have a huge capacity, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most intimidating home courts.
1. Assembly Hall – Indiana Hoosiers
Assembly Hall, the home of the Indiana Hoosiers, is truly a spectacle that needs to be seen by every college basketball fan. It has been called by many as the loudest arena in the nation. It has an old-school feel that becomes a sea of Hoosiers’ red on gameday. Sportscaster Gus Johnson dubbed Assembly Hall “The Carnegie Hall of basketball”. The arena has seating for over 17,000 fans that is two walls of red with a basketball court in the middle. The atmosphere and overall historic feel of the arena make it the best in college basketball.