Biggest Diehard Fanbases in College Basketball
The beauty of college basketball extends far beyond the fact that the (unpaid) athletes actually play team defense during the regular season.
It transcends the greatest playoff system in sports.
The greatest part of college basketball is, and always will be, the fans.
The countless hours (and in some cases, days) that university students nationwide spend waiting for tickets, painting bodies and cheering on their school represents a devotion unlike any other in sports.
A sense of actual association with the team undeniably propels such behavior; the casual fan doesn't typically have such a direct connection to professional teams.
Sure, the NFL is going to accumulate desirable attendance numbers and television ratings.
But, the environment isn't the same. It's an entirely different experience all around.
Sometimes, 10,000 passionate, exuberant college students packed into a small arena has a far greater impact than 90,000 drunken spectators have in an enormous multi-billion dollar stadium.
And the numbers tend to agree.
Let's take a look at some of the country's greatest fanbases...
North Carolina Tarheels
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The Dean Smith Center (or the Dean Dome) represents one of the greatest home-court advantages in all of college basketball.
Of course, North Carolina's consistent national success helps attract fans to the games, but Tar Heel faithfuls take fandom to a whole new level.
Since it's opening in 1985, the Dean Dome has been a literal house of pain for opponents. The song "Jump Around" is played to stir up the home crowd of 21,000-plus before each home game, and Carolina's jerseys have become so recognizable that they practically have their own shade of blue.
The men's basketball team owns the 14th-highest winning percentage (.834) among division one schools. However, of the 13 schools ranked ahead of UNC, only Kansas, UCLA and Kentucky have a larger sample size for comparison.
The Tar Heels have gone undefeated at home on four separate occasions since 1985, and their 2.1 home losses per year is one of the best averages in the nation.
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The Indiana Hoosiers are one of the most recognizable college basketball programs in the nation. Perhaps, it stems from the famous film about a small-town Indiana high school basketball team or from the famous movie or maybe their five national championships.
Either way, Indiana's men's basketball team has enjoyed years of success at Assembly Hall.
Since the arena's opening in 1972, the Hoosiers are an impressive 487-95 at home. Their .836 winning percentage ranks them 18th in the nation, and the 1976 Indiana squad stands as the last undefeated championship team in men's college basketball.
Just this past season, Indiana's home floor provided the world of sports with one of the greatest games of the year when the Hoosiers knocked off No. 1 Kentucky on a buzzer-beating three-point shot.
Indiana's home attendance hasn't failed to rank in the nation's top 15 since Assembly Hall was opened 40 years ago, and Branch McCracken Court has hosted winning streaks of as many as 50 games.
There is no question that the Kansas Jayhawks are one of college basketball's most historic programs.
Heck, their first coach (James Naismith) literally invented the game of basketball when he was hired as a chapel director in the late 19th century.
Now, KU ranks second all time in the NCAA in wins (2,070), and first all time in winning seasons (96).
And it comes, thanks in large part to an overwhelming home-court advantage that the Jayhawks possess at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas is 685-109 all time on their home court, which opened in 1955. They have accumulated notable win streaks as long as 55 and 69 games (snapped by Texas in 2011).
The rowdy fans at KU are known nationwide for their signature "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" chants, which make Allen Fieldhouse a deafening environment for opponents. The Jayhawks have led their conference in attendance for the last 25 seasons, and their 180 consecutive sellouts ranks among the best streaks in the NCAA.
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Considering that the University of Kentucky owns the most wins (2,090) and the highest all-time winning percentage (.763) in the history of NCAA hoops, they were bound to make the list of biggest diehard fanbases in college basketball.
The only question: how high would they rank?
Lexington has been a national powerhouse for decades, and their remarkable dominance at home has earned them the second spot on my list.
Kentucky is 474-59 (.889) since Rupp Arena's opening, and with an official capacity near 24,000, the Wildcats have led the nation in average home attendance in 16 of the last 17 seasons and 24 times total.
The arena built in 1976 is the largest in the United States built specifically for basketball, and their 129-game home winning streak, which extended over the course of more than a decade, still stands as the longest ever.
Duke Blue Devils
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You'll be camping out for days if you want first dibs on the UNC game.
And the rest of the schedule isn't a cakewalk either.
Over the past handful of decades, Duke University has progressively built one of the greatest fan bases in college athletics.
A sea of blue more properly known as the "Crazies" have been known to make Cameron Indoor Stadium one of the toughest environments to play in as a visitor.
And it's not just in college basketball, but all of sports.
Since its opening more than 70 years ago, Duke's home court has had several different names, but has remained one of the most advantageous in D-I basketball. The Blue Devils' 84 percent winning percentage is good for 18th in the country; however, only one other school (Oklahoma State) in the top 50 has a comparable sample size.
And the Cowboys barely made it, squeezing in there at No. 50.
Persistent, yet clever, taunting and relentless chanting have made the Cameron Crazies one of the most well-known student sections in the nation.
And if you've ever seen a Tar Heel inbound the ball from the sidelines of Coach K Court, you can understand why the Blue Devils have earned the title of college basketball's most diehard fanbase.