Ranking the 20 Best Court Designs in College Basketball

Thad NovakCorrespondent IJune 30, 2013

Ranking the 20 Best Court Designs in College Basketball

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    College basketball is undergoing a wave of court customization, and not all of the results are pretty. With horror stories such as Oregon’s infamous can’t-see-the-forest-(or-midcourt)-for-the-trees look, it’s time to celebrate the schools that got it right—whether by finding a new look or keeping a good older one.

    One such program is Kansas State, whose recent redesign went in for the two-tone wood fad that’s becoming increasingly popular. The Wildcats’ version shows how it's done, using the wood to mark the three-point boundary while still keeping the lane a bright, visible color.

    Read on for more on K-State’s success story and the rest of the 20 best home floors in college hoops. 

20. Arizona

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    The Wildcats could easily be replaced here with a host of other similarly basic court designs (Duke, North Carolina, Michigan…).

    They get all the basics right—the lane is actually a different color so fans can see it, the lines are easily visible—but don’t go beyond them.

    What many designers seem to be missing these days is that if a new-look court is actually worse than this basic approach, it’s time to rethink the new one.

19. UAB

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    For the most part, this straightforward green design is of a piece with a dozen other courts. What elevates the Blazers, just a little, is one of the best logos in college sports, played for maximum effect.

    This floor is also a great argument against the minimized center-court logos that some teams have been moving toward, considering that the logo is always going to be the most interesting visual available.

18. UCLA

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    Plenty of basketball courts are named for iconic coaches of yore, and Pauley Pavilion has the championship market cornered with John Wooden.

    However, what really makes this court-naming logo stand out is that the incomparable coach refused to take top billing even in his own building, deferring instead to wife Nell on the "Nell and John R. Wooden Court".

    That bit of gallantry aside, the Bruins keep things very basic, as befits their no-frills former coach.

17. Kansas State

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    A lot of teams are trying two-toned wood to add variety to their floors, and it doesn’t always have enough contrast to do any good.

    Kansas State’s version gets the job done, not only by being visible but by serving a defined purpose: marking the area inside the three-point arc but outside the lane.

    It’d be nice to see the Wildcats come up with a way to use the silver part of their color scheme here, but at least the purple is bright and visible.

16. Iowa

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    If there’s one thing Iowa’s black-and-gold color scheme excels at, it’s contrast.

    The Hawkeyes play that virtue to the hilt with a two-color lane that stands out from the rest of the floor but also adds some visual interest (and one of the most easily-seen charge circles in the country).

    Iowa’s classic logo at center court is also a plus here, sticking with the minimalist aesthetic.

15. New Mexico

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    The Lobos really need to go back to the red-painted lanes this floor used to feature, but the current design keeps the only part that really matters.

    Playing at New Mexico is half about playing the Lobos and half about surviving The Pit, one of the game’s toughest arenas and one that more than deserves its nickname along the baselines in place of the school’s name.

    The center-court logo here is a winner, too, which is a strength previous UNM floors have lacked.

14. SMU

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    Due to reopen in December, SMU’s renovated Moody Coliseum will have a new-look floor design.

    The red-white-and-blue school colors provide plenty of contrast, and the smaller Mustang logos on the wings keep the big center-court design from being the only interesting visual.

    This look is still a bit sparse, though, so the addition of the new AAC logo should help.

13. Vanderbilt

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    The Commodores mostly stick with the basics here, and with the help of a strong black-and-gold color palette, they do it pretty well.

    Where Vandy changes things up is along the baselines, replacing the school name that most programs use with a row of stars.

    Of course, there’s a question to be asked about why there’s so much space between the court and the seats, but as far as the design of the court itself, Vanderbilt comes through.

12. UIC

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    The Flames get the most out of their striking logo at midcourt, but it’s the color scheme that really makes the difference.

    By including both school and building logos in blue and red, the design adds lots of color in areas of the court that won’t interfere with the game action.

    The two-tone lane, with a second color above the free-throw line, is an option more schools should embrace, provided they (like UIC) have the color scheme for it.

11. UC Santa Barbara

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    The boldest approach to a stadium nickname is on the Gauchos’ floor, where the Thunderdome moniker gets top billing over the school's name.

    It's especially striking given the absence of any text from the center-court logo, with "UCSB" appearing only along the baselines.

    This floor would place a few spots higher if its overly monotonous color scheme had a bit more variety.

10. Towson

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    Towson’s approach to background detailing is almost too subtle. The tiger stripes across the length of the court aren’t always easy to see, but they’re an inventive take on turning a common mascot into a distinctive design.

    Sadly, when the Tigers added the stripes they also removed the easy-to-see black-painted lanes that the previous court had featured.

9. Gonzaga

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    Gonzaga’s Kennel has earned its reputation as a brutal road trip, and the Zags’ floor plays to that mystique. By using Kennel logos along with the center-court bulldog, this floor adds color in areas where it won't hurt anything.

    Finding a way to get some red into the monochrome lanes would also be a good move here.

8. DePaul

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    The Blue Demons have a lot going on with this floor, but none of it makes the three-point arc or three-second lane any harder to see.

    The tricolor lanes and center-court logo look great, the extra DePaul logos inside the arc add some more color, and there’s even a signature (always a nice touch) from court namesake Ray Meyer.

    This floor is a great example of how a design can keep things interesting even if it doesn’t break any new ground.

7. Colorado State

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    If the Rams only had the sense to paint the 3-second lane, this could be the No. 1 court in the country.

    Even with that misstep, Colorado State has a winner with the ram’s-horn background, which doesn’t interfere with the court markings but still gives the floor a signature look.

    The real shame of it is that CSU’s green-and-gold color scheme would let them paint the lanes (in either color) without hurting this design in any way.

6. Notre Dame

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    Another team that gets the best out of two-colored wood, the Irish double down with a second center-court logo.

    ND isn’t the only program to use this approach, but it’s a lot more effective with a shamrock than with the state outlines that so many other schools go with.

    The gold lettering on the baselines is a start, but adding more color would boost this look even higher.

5. Cal State-Bakersfield

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    Yes, it’s very, very blue. However, the all-or-nothing design the Roadrunners chose makes all the court lines crystal clear while still providing a distinctive (and memorable) visual.

    It’s a shame they are the Roadrunners, though, because the ugly center-court logo isn’t doing this floor any favors.

4. Memphis

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    The Tigers’ new court is only a concept drawing at this stage, having just been selected in a fan vote last week. However, the bridge-and-skyline backdrop (busy though it is) gives the floor a unique feel without interfering with the sidelines or three-point line.

    The key caveat here is that if they add too much color to the background drawings in the final version, this look could very easily cross the line into being overwhelming.

3. Idaho State

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    Obviously, only teams with a select few team names can pull off the kind of trick the Bengals do here, but when it works, it really works. The tiger-striped lane is eye-catching but doesn’t make life any harder on the refs or fans.

    The two-toned wood is a good call here, because any more orange paint would definitely be overkill.

2. Cal State-Northridge

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    The logo-within-a-logo at center court isn’t a look that would work for every program, but Northridge’s giant N does nicely here. The court overall has a clean look that makes good use of CS-Northridge’s black-and-red color scheme.

    What lifts this one into top-20 territory, though, is the extra Matador graphic on each baseline. He may look more “Carmen Sandiego henchman” than Matador, but he’s a nice addition that’s also thoroughly unique.

1. Long Beach State

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    Surprisingly, the 49ers managed to find a way to take Oregon’s disastrous concept and make it viable.

    By cutting down to four trees and a couple of dunes, Long Beach State got the same effect the Ducks were going for and still made it possible to see the basketball court amongst the artwork.

    The yellow lanes—hard to see under any circumstances and an overload of yellow here—are the only real downside, but they can't overshadow the strength of this design