Grading Every New College Basketball Court Design for 2013-14 Season
While college football purists keep the gridiron surface sacred—even banning that 21st-century requirement, the Twitter hashtag—college basketball is doing whatever it can to capture channel-surfing eyes.
If that includes wild appropriations of school logos in large, garish spots all over the court, so be it.
What started as Oregon trying to be different in 2010 has now spread throughout the nation. Schools in all areas of the country have unveiled re-designed courts for the 2013-14 season.
Which ones work? Which ones don't? Read on for one columnist's grades on each of the bright, shiny new courts that will welcome college ballers this fall. Then leave your own in the comments, always keeping in mind the old saw about the eye of the beholder.
Binghamton's athletic department provided all of us with a time-lapse video of the new court design, and the differences are subtle if one doesn't pay close attention over the whole two-plus minutes.
BU has tweaked its logo, emphasizing school name over nickname, although the Bearcat mascot still looks like the Hulk's house pet.
Likewise, the America East has made a change to its logo, designing one to be displayed in the mid-range area rather than inside the free-throw line. While the new insignia itself is not a tremendous improvement, conference logos moving outside the lane are perfectly fine.
The previously monotone court will now sport a shaded two-point area, another improvement that will make judging the three-point line a little easier for players and officials.
The biggest plus in the new Event Center design is what was kept. The sideline still gracefully fades from green to black, with the baselines being opposite colors. This is a minor touch that more small schools should investigate.
Boise State's basketball court used to be a little busy, to put it mildly. It featured a pair of horses staring each other down, basketballs in the corners—as if the fans needed a reminder of what they had come to watch—and an orange stripe along both sidelines for no discernible reason.
For the 2013 redesign, BSU has decided that less is more.
The sideline is blue all the way around, which makes for a refreshing change. The lane is now one color, that very same blue. Only one horse's head is to be found, and it's right there at center court, where animal heads belong on a basketball court. (Hang on, James Madison, we'll get to you in a bit.)
While the design takes a demerit for selling space to a sponsor other than the one who bought naming rights to the building—Taco Bell keeps its place along the sideline—respect must be paid for the team-specific Mountain West logo. More conferences need to allow their members to apply league marks in school colors.
Even if you're not a fan of the relatively minimal approach Boise took, just ask yourself: Would an all-blue court have been better?
Over the past decade, Boston University has experimented liberally with the court design at Case Gymnasium.
As shown in the announcement of this season's renovation, in 2002, BU went with the painted-wings-and-bare-lanes look. When that was discarded, the more conventional painted lanes came into use along with a prominent display of the building's nickname, "The Roof."
While the moniker is no longer part of the court, BU has stayed with the painted foul lanes and merely changed conference logos from the America East to the Patriot League. The outer perimeter along the sidelines has gone red, a returning element that was scrapped in the last new design.
The BU logo at center court is the eye-catcher, because it's now absolutely enormous. The terrier may look like a scrappy, yappy little dog, but its picture is the approximate size of a Newfoundland.
Overall, aside from the man-eating mutt at midcourt, the look is classic. Some will go so far as to call it dull.
The school's full name is the State University of New York at Buffalo. And the Alumni Arena court now spells that out in no uncertain terms.
For all of Syracuse's posturing about being "New York's college team," Buffalo is taking square aim at that notion with its new court design. "New York" overpowers all the other text—and there's a lot of it—over the center-court outline of the state.
The rest of the design is simple, with two-tone stain doing most of the work, aside from a pair of UB logos. The MAC logo in the lane and the wing areas inside the three-point arc appear even a shade darker than the New York silhouette.
Speaking of which, that silhouette is great for the announcers, since one can literally say that a Buffalo shooter standing in the right spot "launched that one from Levittown." Or Syosset, depending on where you're from.
While the design isn't earth-shaking in its creativity, it is admirable for the audacity of taking a poke at Syracuse.
Once a court that used to feature little visual appeal aside from the script Cal logo at mid court, the playing surface at Berkeley's Haas Pavilion is now downright saturated.
The eye immediately goes to the gargantuan bear at center court, a beast designed to intimidate and devour. Unfortunately, what the bear actually does, based on current views, is obscure the half-court line. All but invisible in this view, it's not much clearer on other shots, like the one on our intro page.
The Cal script has migrated to each end's right wing, with the Pac-12 crest on the left. Haas Pavilion's logo stays, and there's also a bigger, clearer nod to the court's namesake, legendary former coach Pete Newell.
There's a lot happening on this court, and I don't necessarily mark off for that. The bear eating the center-court stripe, though, is a problem. A thicker, darker line will benefit the players, but being bisected might undermine the coolness of the bear.
And really, isn't the coolness of the bear the entire point?
Central Florida's teams were once nicknamed the Golden Knights, but black is the school's other primary hue. With its new "blacktop" design, the court at CFE Arena immediately stands out without having to resort to overly distracting silhouettes.
The playing area will have no other logos aside from the large "UCF" at center court and American Athletic Conference logos on each end's left wing.
The sideline puts the university's athletics Twitter handle and primary hashtag in clear view, and the "Knights" nickname is large and bold at either baseline.
When you land on a UCF game, the court will be instantly distinctive without being over-the-top. Considering that we all start out playing on blacktopped playgrounds at some point in our childhoods, the design's nickname strikes a recognizable chord, as well.
This design may be Best in Show.
College of Charleston
While photos of the new court at College of Charleston's TD Arena are thin on the ground right now, the school did thoughtfully provide a nice time-lapse video of the staining and painting process coming together.
The design is supremely simple, down to out-of-bounds areas marked by little more than a darker shade of stain.
A typical array of logos dot the court: Colonial Athletic Association in the lane, school logo at center court, school and arena name outside the three-point line. Where most courts only have one painting of the surface's namesake, however, C of C went with two tips of the hat to iconic former coach John Kresse. Bonus points for that.
One baseline reads "Charleston," while the other says "Cougars," a small bit of visual variety on a court that could actually use a little more.
The court where coach Larry Eustachy's Colorado State Rams will put in work this season has implemented minor cosmetic changes rather than a complete face lift.
Instead of merely "Rams" along the baselines, the school's proper name takes over and shoves the nickname to center court. The white areas on the center-court logo are now filled in with white rather than simply being cutouts through which the hardwood shows.
The primary visual focus, however, remains. The gigantic ram horns curl from center court to a graceful stop at the free-throw circle. While I'm not usually indignant about shaded elements on a court—Long Beach's palm trees are a personal favorite—these horns are borderline hypnotic and just short of hideous.
Any goodwill that could have been accrued by making these other minor tweaks is undone by keeping the horns in place.
Did you know that the UConn Husky logo was named Jonathan? Well, you do now.
Either way, Jonathan got an attitude adjustment back in April. He's now a little less fluffy and a little more vicious. A new logo and a new conference must be reflected on the court, and Connecticut's Gampel Pavilion succeeds in both regards.
Some renderings have "Alumni Court" in fine print under both baskets, but otherwise, the final product should resemble what is shown here.
The UConn Huskies' name appears three times around the court, including two corner text wraps that provide a welcome change from the typical baseline lettering.
Sponsor New York Life gets some on-court real estate, as does the Huskies' new conference, the AAC. Overall, however, the strength of this design is in the dangerous new beast lurking at center court.
FIU was the first school this season to really follow Oregon's lead and get outlandish with its court's new look. The Miami school tops Oregon, however, by ditching the silhouettes and going full color.
From the green palm fronds in the near corners to the deep blue ocean lapping at the opposite side, the Golden Panthers' court will remind recruits of a major reason to pick FIU. The only way the school could have been less subtle would be to cover the "beach" with bikini-clad hotties or a dude in a beach chair clutching a Corona.
The school's web presence is prominent, with the athletics department's address and Twitter handle along each sideline.
Not pictured here are sponsor logos for Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. The Tennessee-based restaurant chain's Miami-area locations secured naming and logo rights for the court in August.
That aside, the "beach towel" design works to perfection with Miami's more-is-more image. While we still haven't seen the rumored cabana baseline seating in person yet, would it surprise anyone if they were real, too?
Meet George Mason's new design, essentially the same as the old design.
GMU stayed with a very basic approach. The primary change is in the lighter color of stain that adorns most of the court.
Where most schools are adding visual flair to the hardwood, Mason actually took some logos off, most prominently the "Mason Nation" markings that were inside the three-point lines and "Patriot Center" text that was outside.
And, of course, like so many other schools that renovated their courts this summer, GMU also had to change conference logos, trading in the CAA for the Atlantic 10.
Mason's changes are barely enough to qualify as a re-design, but the purists will give the school some love for not tinkering with a simple, effective look.
I'm not a complete purist, however.
When talking about the state of Oregon, what interesting visuals come to mind aside from acres of trees? That was what the U of O was working with when it decided to refurbish its court.
In Washington, D.C., however, there are multiple iconic sites close at hand, and George Washington University is taking full advantage.
The incorporation of the Capitol building, White House and Washington Monument make full use of the city's striking visual elements to create one for the local basketball program. The designs catch the eye without overpowering the entire court. At no point do the buildings break across the three-point line.
Twin signatures from primary donor Tex Silverman are the only other unusual markings, and they're an unobtrusive presence inside both three-point lines.
The entire design is interesting without being obnoxious, and GW has jumped Georgetown in an effort to create a powerful association with the nation's capital.
The major downside of using national landmarks on a basketball court is a linguistic one. Is it really appropriate to call a shooter a "bomber" when he's launching them while standing on the U.S. Capitol?
Remember what we said about George Washington being distinctive, but not obnoxious?
James Madison got half of that equation right.
The school's secondary logo, featuring a crowned bulldog named Duke, dominates this court on either end. The lane has five different colors in it.
The two-thirds of the baseline that aren't part of Duke are painted in a color bordering on tapioca and advertise the school's athletic website. The wood on the rest of the court is stained to multiple shades, making the whole thing look a bit weathered and worn. It's a good look for your deck, but for your basketball court?
JMU's athletic website credits the bulk of the design to fan and ex-employee Becky Taylor. If not for the "ex-employee" part, one might be forgiven for thinking Becky Taylor was a four-year-old with a sticker fetish.
One of the only courts in America with a president's signature on it, the Convocation Center's new playing surface is likely making James Madison himself roll over as you read this.
LSU and Cal were reading from the same design book when they redrew their courts this summer.
While Cal's giant bear spreads nearly from sideline to sideline, LSU went a bit more subtle with its new tiger head at center court. The closeup of a snarling Mike the tiger extends only slightly farther than the "Tigers" text along each baseline. It doesn't overpower everything else in the building, but still adds some excitement to the standard midcourt logo.
Aside from that, the design is minimal. Conference and sponsor logos in the usual locations and a sideline nod to the legendary Pistol Pete Maravich are the only other markings in sight.
LSU could have gone crazy, but in only so many directions. After all, Towson already beat them to tiger stripes on the court.
Loyola of Maryland's move to the Patriot League is one that has flown under the national radar. The new design of their basketball court has done the same.
While the Greyhounds may make some noise in their new conference, the revamped court is a development where the national media didn't miss much.
Instead of just the "L" logo at center court and "Loyola" on the baselines, the new court sends the school name to midcourt, stretching nearly from arc to arc. The team nickname is now prominent on both baselines.
While many schools will promote their athletic websites, not many actually put the university's official ".edu" address in a corner.
Loyola did just that. It's an element that few will actually pay attention to, but it makes sense for a team that has joined the Patriot League, the setting of John Feinstein's book "The Last Amateurs."
While Memphis doesn't have the iconic structures that GW could draw from for a skyline design, the new design at FedEx Forum is still a very effective look for a program that wants to generate local pride.
The city turns out some talented recruits, and the Tiger program's new court will serve as a reminder of what those players will leave behind if they wander off to other schools.
A gigantic Tiger logo is also prominent, with the cat looking like he's ready to dine on one of Memphis' largest buildings. Or perhaps he's ready to leap down and devour the American logo, for those Tiger fans who are into such metaphors.
UM was sure to put its Twitter handle and hashtag on the sidelines in the prominent midcourt spots. FedEx got its name at center court, but it's rather unobtrusive compared to the massive feline.
Like GW, Memphis kept the silhouettes to one side of the court, and the look of the court is better for it.
Nebraska went back to the future for the motif of its new Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Similar to the salad days of 1986-96, when the Huskers made four NCAA tournament appearances, the design is focused around an outline of the state at center court, complete with a star to highlight Lincoln. The state is shaded in the same darker tone as the two-point area outside the lane and the other logos in their usual places.
First National Bank gets two logos on the court as part of its sponsorship agreement, and if you're not one that likes seeing company indicia on your basketball surfaces, tough. FNB threw the coin down to pay for that advertising.
Nebraska's design is simple and almost a bit too plain. An outline around the state might have helped, or even some color on the Lincoln star. One might have expected something a bit more elaborate for the debut of a new arena.
Raise your hand if you don't even know what state houses Old Dominion University. It's okay, we won't judge.
ODU is out to raise its profile, and that includes answering the age-old question, "Where are you guys?" The lion at the center of the Monarchs' court—appropriate since it's the king of the jungle, after all—is embedded in an outline of the commonwealth of Virginia. So that answers that question.
Other than the Virginia beast, however, the court is downright bare. Aside from the school name on either baseline and new Conference USA logos at the charity stripes, there's nothing else going on here. No athletic websites or Twitter handles, no sponsors, nothing. The simplicity is actually sort of refreshing.
At least the blue-and-gray lion adds a splash of color to center court, unlike all the schools that went for a simple silhouette.
For all of Old Dominion's simplicity and avoidance of logos all over its court, Rhode Island went the opposite direction.
The building's name is there. The URI web address and Twitter handle are there. Sponsor Alex and Ani—a jewelry company that touts the "positive energy" of its products—is present.
The Rams' surface has everything a modern court seems to need, and it's all packed into a space that isn't overloaded with other visual distractions. Even with all the logos in place, the playing surface looks clean, with only a slightly darkened two-point area.
It's not the austere approach that ODU provided, but Rhode Island's court didn't go totally off the deep end, either. It's a nice happy medium.
Richmond's Spiders used to invite visiting foes into their web, literally.
The Robins Center's previous design was highlighted by a large web in which the center-court spider lounged. Now, the web is gone and the spider appears to be on the move.
And he's turned red, which is likely a bad sign when a spider is charging at you.
The team and building names, as well as the A10 logo, are cutouts in the sea of blue around the perimeter and in the lanes. The whole court is more colorful than the prior design, which had colored text and logos, but no background coloring.
Kudos to Richmond for reminding their audience that it has a color scheme. The whole thing is an improvement, but the last design was pretty bland to begin with.
In the last year and change, SMU has hired a Hall of Fame coach, recruited a 2013 McDonald's All-American and secured a verbal commitment from arguably the top point guard in the 2014 class.
With the program getting a figurative new look, why not make it literal with a new court? Moody Coliseum will sport a heavily blue design intended to offset the red that dominates the courtside seats and goal standards.
The large red pony logo instantly draws the focus amid all the blue. It has to, because aside from the stars in the American logos, the horse rides alone to provide a splash of color.
SMU even skipped the now-standard two-tone wood stain that schools use to make their foul lanes or two-point wing areas pop. It's all uniform, clean and simple. The design is the kind that a school wants to use when it intends for the players to be the stars, not the court they perform on.
Now this is what we call a Miner adjustment (Insert rimshot here).
Not content for the Haskins Center court to sport a pickaxe in the midcourt logo, UTEP went ahead and slapped one on either end of the floor. The gigantic mining implements span from baseline to baseline, meaning there's not a television shot that will miss them.
The Miners' primary color is orange, and if you don't like that particular hue, this court will burn your retinas. A hardwood court can already appear slightly orange, depending on the wood that's used, and the same color ringing the court can feel excessive. That's the largest flaw in this design.
Had the sideline areas been done in blue, it would have made the pickaxes stand out even more. The design itself isn't too far over the top, but the color hurts the overall appeal.
Unfortunately, as every miner knows, you can't strike gold every time out.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron.