NCAA Basketball Arena Hall of Fame: The Elite 8 of All Time
With the recent $136-million facelift to UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, I got to thinking, will this overhaul return the basketball arena to its former glory? If so, what other arenas would also belong in the NCAA Basketball Hall of Fame?
Pauley Pavilion opened on Nov. 27, 1965 for the first time and in the exhibition game, the freshmen beat the varsity squad 75-60. Yes, the two-time defending national champion varsity squad that was once again the preseason No. 1 team. The freshman squad was led by Lew Alcindor, who scored 51 points against some of the best basketball players in the country. Head coach John Wooden knew he had a special team and he now had a brand new home to show off to future recruits.
Alcindor, Wooden and others proceeded to win an unprecedented 10 national championships in the next 12 seasons, and Pauley Pavilion became one the most feared basketball arenas in the country where Bill Walton led the Bruins to an 88-game win streak in the '70s. Over the decades, the old girl began showing signs of age and like everybody and everything else in Los Angeles, Pauley Pavilion had "some work done."
Now, let's see if it makes the Elite Eight Arenas of All Time.
Honorable Mention: The Palestra
- Team: University of Pennsylvania Quakers/Philadelphia 5
- Opened: 1927
- Capacity: 8,722
The Cathedral of College Basketball has hosted more regular-season games, more postseason NCAA basketball games, more visiting teams and more NCAA tournaments than any other arena.
The Philadelphia Big 5 (Penn, Saint Joseph's, Temple, La Salle and Villanova) originally played all of its games at The Palestra, including intense double and tripleheaders. Rivalries between the Philadelphia schools have grown more heated over the years, most notable the Holy War between Saint Joseph's and Temple.
The glory days of The Palestra have come and gone and the crowd levels are nowhere as big as they used to be, but I would be remiss in not including this historically significant arena.
8. Gallagher-Iba Arena
- Team: Oklahoma State Cowboys
- Opened: 1938
- Capacity: 13,611
Originally opened in 1938 and named the 4-H Club and Student Activities Building, the arena was changed to Gallagher Hall a year later to honor wrestling coach Ed Gallagher. The original white maple that was installed was the most expensive floor of its time and would be worth nearly $25 million in 2012 dollars.
The arena was renamed Gallagher-Iba Arena after famed basketball coach Henry Iba in 1986, and the most recent renovation in 2000 cost $55 million and increased the capacity to its current 13,611; more than doubling its size while maintaining the oldest original basketball court still in use.
The Madison Square Garden of the Plains dedicated the court to former head coach Eddie Sutton in 2005. Tents with students begin popping up around the arena hoping to grab tickets for the Big 12 season opener and are continuously inhabited until the end of Big 12 play in the aptly titled "Camp Sutton."
7. Carrier Dome
- Team: Syracuse Orange
- Opened: 1980
- Capacity: 33,000 (for basketball)
The Carrier Dome is the largest arena in the Hall of Fame and the largest on-campus basketball arena as it also hosts football games and expands to hold 49,550.
Although the capacity is listed at 33,000, the NCAA attendance record was set at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 27, 2001 at 34,616 and often sells many standing-room-only tickets.The Dome led the nation in attendance for 10 straight years and has been second for the past 15.
The sheer magnitude of the "Loud House" is what qualifies the Dome for the Hall of Fame, eclipsing even the largest NBA arena by more than 10,000 seats.
6. Assembly Hall
- Team: Indiana Hoosiers
- Opened: 1971
- Capacity: 17,456
Originally opened in 1971 to coincide with the debut of legendary head coach Bob Knight, who led the Hoosiers for 29 seasons, Assembly Hall hosted home winning streaks of 35 and 50 games, three National Championships, 32 straight winning seasons and 12 conference championships.
The arena is extremely unique as there are only 20 rows of bleachers behind each basket and the sides include two balconies.
Year in and year out, good season or bad, devoted Indiana fans always pack the arena and root on the hometown Hoosiers as if they were family.
5. The Pit
- Team: New Mexico Lobos
- Opened: 1966
- Capacity: 17,126
The wall of the tunnel leading down from the locker rooms reads "Welcome to the legendary Pit, a mile high and louder than..." The Pit is aptly named because it is 37 feet underground with steep declines and compact seating.
The Pit has ranked in the Top 20 in attendance every year since it opened 45 years ago. The Lobos have posted a .820 winning percentage at home, along with 14 NCAA tournament appearances and 15 NIT appearances since the opening of The Pit.
The NCAA tournament has made The Pit a regular venue, being a host site 10 times including one of the most memorable championship games in recent history when Jim Valvano's North Carolina State Wolfpack defeated the highly-favored Houston Cougars. If nothing else, the arena deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for that game alone.
4. Rupp Arena
- Team: Kentucky Wildcats
- Opened: 1976
- Capacity: 23,500
The largest basketball-only arena in the country, Rupp Arena is what home-court advantage is all about. The Wildcats have won 51 consecutive games at home leading into the 2012 season and look to break their all-time record of 129 games set at Memorial Coliseum. The arena is named after coach Adolph Rupp, who led Kentucky to the astounding accomplishment in the '40s, and no team has even come close to it.
The Arena has been the host site for 12 NCAA tournaments, including the Final Four in 1985 that saw eighth-seeded Villanova defeat Georgetown.
Rupp Arena led the nation in attendance for nine straight years after opening and ranked second behind Syracuse for the next 10 years and jumped back into first place since 1997.
The tradition to excellence and winning brings out the crazed Kentucky fans by the truckload to watch practices, exhibitions as well as games.
3. Pauley Pavilion
- Team: UCLA Bruins
- Opened: 1965
- Capacity: 13,800
The House That Wooden Built was constructed after two consecutive National Championships and during a stretch that would crown the Bruins as champions 10 times in the next 12 years. Pauley Pavilion is a daunting place to play with only national championship banners, 11 in total, and retired numbers hanging from the rafters.
For six straight years beginning in 1970, UCLA did not lose at home for a streak of 98 games. During this stretch, the Bruins also won 88 consecutive games and five national championships.
Pauley Pavilion was named for University of California Regent Edwin Pauley, who donated nearly one-fifth of the costs to build the arena. In 2003, the home court was dedicated to legendary coach Wooden and his his wife as Nell and John Wooden Court.
Fresh off a multi-million dollar facelift to the arena, it looks like the future of UCLA basketball is looking up and will be elevated to elite status in no time.
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium
- Team: Duke Blue Devils
- Opened: 1940
- Capacity: 9,314
In such an intimate setting, Cameron Indoor is a madhouse that makes a college basketball game more that just a game—it's a lifestyle. The Cameron Crazies are what every student body aspires to be. The student section is directly behind the benches and does its best in making it difficult for any team to escape with the W.
Adding to the crazy moniker, with such limited capacity inside Cameron Indoor, students set up tents and live outside the arena in the make-shift Krzyzewskiville for weeks, sometimes months in advance, in hopes of getting tickets for big games.
The Blue Devils have won 77 straight non-conference games at home and a school-record 95 in the history of Cameron Indoor while winning 83 percent of all games.
1. Allen Fieldhouse
- Team: Kansas Jayhawks
- Opened: 1955
- Capacity: 16,300
Pay heed, all who enter, beware of the Phog. This isn't just a warning to visiting teams, it is the truth. When James Naismith, the inventor of basketball came to the University of Kansas as a physical education instructor, little did we know what effect this small school in middle America would have on a worldwide sensation like basketball.
Allen Fieldhouse takes its name from legendary coach "Phog" Allen, who played at KU under Naismith. The chants of Rock Chalk Jayhawk are deafening for visiting teams as evidenced by their 69-game home-court win streak between 2007-2011. Since its inception, the arena has hosted eight NCAA tournaments and 37 games.
One of the most difficult places for visitors to get a win, the Jayhawks average under two home losses a year.
Not only is Allen Fieldhouse one of the loudest arenas in the nation, it is ultimately the best college basketball arena.