College Basketball: 13 of the Best Court Designs in College Basketball

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

College Basketball: 13 of the Best Court Designs in College Basketball

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    Earlier this week, I took a look at the ugliest court designs in college basketball, which included such wonders as a headache-inducing floor at Oregon and Cal-State Bakersfield’s answer to Boise State’s smurf turf.

    In the interest of fairness (to both basketball floor designers and your eyes), here is a list of the 13 best court designs in college basketball.  

    These certainly aren’t as easy to pick out as the ugly ones, so feel free to give me some pointers below and let me know why your school belongs here. Nevertheless, you have to appreciate these floors for their overall simplicity, effectiveness and aesthetic appeal.

    There are no defined rules for making the cut, things such as confining the mid-court logo to something that resembles mid-court certainly won’t hurt (I’m looking at you Kansas).

    Without further ado, enjoy.

Michigan State

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    The Breslin Center floor has undergone somewhat of a makeover recently, and it is definitely for the better.

    No longer is the top of the key painted orange like a basketball (if it was, it wouldn’t be on this list), and the Big Ten logos subtly accent the paint instead of the more distracting Spartan logos that were there before.

    Throw in the fact that the mid-court Spartan decal is better looking (and more intimidating) than the block S, and Michigan State has itself a solid floor.


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    Full discretion time: Maryland is only on here because it found a way to incorporate its state flag into something without making it look entirely ridiculous.

    Obviously, we have all seen what the Terrapins look like in their football jerseys, but the basketball court is simple and effective. I like the color scheme, the mid-court logo is not garishly large and, as I said, the state flag isn’t distracting.

    Not bad.


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    There is nothing fundamentally wrong with a two-toned court if it is done in a subtle and non-obnoxious way.

    To demonstrate this, there is a big difference between Northwestern’s Crayola crayon colored surface and USC’s stylish (and barely noticeable) faded fill inside the arc.

    The “SC” and arced “Trojans” works better for a basketball court than the giant helmeted head of an actual Trojan, and the overall color scheme meshes nicely with the floor.

North Carolina

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    Our first truly classic court on the list, North Carolina’s Dean Smith Center elicits images of the program’s historic past whenever you look at it.

    At this point, Tar Heel Blue is almost an institution in itself, so surrounding the playing surface with it was an obvious move.

    But it is the iconic half-court design that cements North Carolina on this list. The outline of North Carolina filled in with, of course, Carolina baby blue and the perfect-sized “NC” logo is an impressive combination.


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    As long as we are on the topic of iconic state outlines at center court, let’s mention Indiana’s Assembly Hall.

    Placing the “IU” logo smack dab in the middle of the Indiana design gives off the sense that the Hoosiers are claiming their territory. Perhaps it’s telling Purdue (and Ohio State and Illinois when it comes to recruiting) that this is our state. Or perhaps I am just reading too far in between the lines.  

    Either way, you can feel the history of basketball’s heartland as soon as you walk in the entrance.

    You’d think they would make a movie centered around the Hoosier state's love of basketball one day...

Long Beach State

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    For those of you who read my ugliest courts article, you know this flies directly in the face of my "less is more" generalization I used there.

    Call me a hypocrite if you like, but I can’t help myself. I just like everything Long Beach State is offering.

    As if calling itself "The Beach" instead of the plain old 49ers at half court isn’t enough, the surfer dude-ish font, usually obnoxious volleyball lines (but not here) and palm trees make it seem as if we are all on vacation instead of watching a basketball game.

    If the floor does that to the list of impressive opponents the 49ers are playing this year, it could once again be a good season in Long Beach.


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    UCLA may have taken my advice to confine the half-court logo to something resembling half court a bit too literally, not that it’s a bad thing.

    I have never been to Pauley Pavilion, but from what I've read, the facility itself could use a bit of an upgrade. Hence, the recent $136 million renovations that are currently underway.

    But this list is primarily focused on floor designs, so I’m not going to hold that against the Bruins.

    While it may be somewhat different in the future following the renovations, the small and simple circle at mid-court with back-to-back UCLAs written inside hearkens back to the days of John Wooden.

    And I don’t think UCLA fans will mind being reminded of those times when they watch a basketball game.


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    Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena is a simple design with hardly any paint at all.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Somehow, the Cavaliers’ brass was able to incorporate a large “V” logo, the wording University of Virginia, the two ACC logos in the paint and a picture of two dueling swords and make the overall floor look simpler than perhaps any other one on this list.

    Well done, Virginia. Well done.


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    It’s not exactly easy to integrate a Razorback pig in a way that is noticeable but not distracting.

    Somehow, Arkansas manages to find a way to do just that on the floor of the Bud Walton Arena.

    It doesn’t matter how good or bad the Razorbacks are, fans always pack the place. It’s an aesthetically pleasing place to watch a game, even if the same can’t always be said about the Arkansas team itself.


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    It may not be as classic of an entry as rival Indiana’s Assembly Hall, but Purdue’s Mackey Arena deserves a spot on this list.

    The black paint in the lane gives it that tough Big Ten feel right where the centers of the nation’s grittiest league will be banging for rebounds and position. Throw in the fact that there seems to be a hint of gold on the hardwood that you just don’t see everywhere else, and the floor combines Purdue’s two main colors perfectly.

    I also like the way the letters are cleverly integrated in with the overall locomotive image at mid-court.

Oklahoma State

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    If a collegiate court is going to be nicknamed the Madison Square Garden of the Plains, there must be something special about it.

    Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena doesn’t get the type of love that North Carolina’s Dean Smith Center and Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium do, but it may deserve it.

    The unpainted portion of the hardwood is a bit lighter than most arenas, which really accentuates the black and orange design in the paint. There’s just something about the black and orange combination, as it’s intimidating and appealing at the same time.

    Throw in Eddie Sutton’s signature, and this may be the best floor in the entire Big 12.


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    You didn’t really think Cameron Indoor Stadium would be left off this list, did you?

    Duke-haters can complain all they want, but the one thing you can’t take away from the Blue Devils is the historical excellence of their court (and coach).

    Even though the center court decal looks a bit like an unopened blue Pokemon ball, Cameron Indoor’s floor is simple and effective. The royal blue color surroundings and the subtle inclusion of the Coach K Court decal serve to remind opponents of just where they are playing.

    Chances are those opponents aren’t coming away with a win either.


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    You can make an argument that The Palestra is one of the most important arenas in all of college basketball.

    Penn’s home court has hosted more games, more visiting teams and more NCAA tournament contests than any other facility. Throw in the games between the “Philly Five” teams, and it is almost a historical monument in the world of college sports.

    After all, it’s not called the Cathedral of College Basketball for nothing.

    The two-toned “P” at mid-court is distinctive and aesthetically appealing, and the fans are basically on top of the court.

    The Ivy League has a real gem here.