Ranking the 10 Most Daunting College Basketball Arenas for Visiting Teams
All college basketball arenas make life tougher for the visiting team, but some home-court advantages are more equal than others. Some gyms have put together such an impressive history that their names alone are enough to provoke a shudder in opposing players and fans.
Kansas’ iconic Allen Fieldhouse has given foes decades worth of reasons to beware of the Phog. The Jayhawks expect to win every game they play on that floor—and for 69 tries in a row starting in 2008, they did.
Read on for more reasons that Lawrence is always an unwelcome destination on the schedule, along with looks at nine more of the country’s most fearsome home courts. The arenas are ranked primarily according to how much of an edge they provide by themselves, but naturally, those that have consistently great players on the floor will also tend to be the ones visitors most hate to see.
10. Kohl Center (Wisconsin)
There aren't many basketball fans who appreciate Bo Ryan’s suffocating slowdown philosophy, but 17,000 of them show up at the Kohl Center on a regular basis.
A Badgers team that relies on taking the air out of opposing crowds with its defense is even more dangerous than most when it has the fans on its side.
Wisconsin’s arena grabs the last spot in these rankings partly because of its home team’s recent penchant for last-second heroics.
It’s bad enough to go into a road game knowing that the first team to 50 points will probably win. Now visitors have to worry about seeing their hard-earned points snuffed out by a half-court shot like Ben Brust’s 2013 game-saver (above).
9. Petersen Events Center (Pittsburgh)
Opened for the 2002-03 season, the Petersen Events Center hasn't had much time to build its reputation.
It has, however, already managed to host two winning streaks of over 30 games, a big part of the reason coach Jamie Dixon’s career winning percentage is .750 despite his awful postseason performance.
Foes who aren't used to the building’s blue-collar raucousness fare especially badly against the rough-and-tumble Panthers. In the gym’s history, Pitt holds a 110-3 record against nonconference visitors, including a 58-game winning streak from 2005-11.
8. McCarthey Athletic Center (Gonzaga)
Gonzaga’s tweener status as a national powerhouse in a mid-major league has an apt metaphor in the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The second building to earn the Bulldogs’ “Kennel” moniker is at once cavernous (the WCC's biggest until BYU arrived) and claustrophobic (at 6,000 seats, barely a third of what power-conference visitors are used to).
The gym just completed its 10th year in operation with a total of eight Zags losses lifetime.
That record includes most of a 50-game home winning streak that helped signal Gonzaga’s transition from plucky underdog to perennial winner—with a fanbase as vocal as that of any ACC or Big East blue blood.
7. Hilton Coliseum (Iowa State)
By definition, the favorite isn't supposed to be the team that’s scared of the underdog. Iowa State turns that dynamic around on a regular basis, thanks to its long history of scoring upset wins at Hilton Coliseum.
The much-ballyhooed “Hilton magic” is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, with every win over a high-ranking foe giving the Cyclones that much more confidence that they can get the next victory.
It doesn't hurt that they get extraordinarily consistent fan support for a team that, while frequently very good, has only won its conference’s regular-season crown twice in the last 60 years.
6. Carrier Dome (Syracuse)
Recent seasons have seen schools such as Baylor and Michigan State move “home” basketball games to football stadiums to max out the potential crowd size.
Syracuse figured that trick out decades ago, building a gargantuan on-campus home for both sports back when Jim Boeheim was still a relative newcomer to upstate New York.
The Carrier Dome’s capacity and acoustics combine to make it a miserable road trip. The unfamiliar shooting background offered by the high dome also makes it that much harder for opponents to score over Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.
Add in the occasional miracle—like the buzzer-beater, above, that cemented Pearl Washington’s legend—and the Orange have a building that can even contend with its new conference rivals on Tobacco Road.
5. The Pit (New Mexico)
Naturally enough, the Mountain West Conference has more than a few arenas noteworthy for their altitude. Albuquerque’s 5,312 feet are the first of the challenges at New Mexico’s University Arena, but they’re far from the last.
The Pit—so named because the building sits in a 37-foot-deep hole, though, visiting teams can probably think of other reasons—is the rare mid-major gym that has the noise and the cachet to rattle even a power-conference visitor.
Of course, it also has more history than plenty of bigger-name teams can boast for their homes, including the legendary 1983 national title game (above).
4. Dean E. Smith Center (North Carolina)
For 26 of its 27 full seasons of existence, the Dean E. Smith Center has ranked among the top five gyms in the country in attendance, via the Tar Heels' official website. The zeal of the Tar Heels fans is harder to measure, but no less impressive than their abundance.
Even by the standards of the ACC, where many of the nation’s bitterest rivalries stew, the Dean Dome crowd is an exceptionally passionate one.
No opponent feels UNC’s home-court edge more keenly than Clemson, which has spent a record 57 games (and 88 years) trying and failing to win even once in Chapel Hill.
3. Rupp Arena (Kentucky)
On the one hand, nobody is going to be intimidated by the mere fact that Ashley Judd—Kentucky’s most prominent fan and a common sight at Rupp Arena games—is rooting against them.
Still, a college team with enough clout to have its own celebrity fanbase stands out even in the SEC.
It doesn’t hurt that, like the Showtime Lakers (who more or less invented the “Who’s Who in the Crowd” game), Kentucky has the on-court talent to match its rabid audience’s expectations.
Baylor may have snapped Big Blue’s recent Rupp winning streak at 55 games, but one down year did little to damage the mystique of the country’s best-attended building.
2. Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas)
When your building is name for the coach who succeeded James Naismith, you know there’s a healthy supply of history on hand. Most of that history for Kansas involves winning the overwhelming majority of its Allen Fieldhouse contests.
Certified by ESPN (subscription required) as the loudest building in college hoops four years ago, Forrest "Phog" Allen has rewarded the ardor of its fans.
The Jayhawks posted the longest home winning streak of the current century by reeling off 69 straight victories before Texas finally took them down in 2011.
1. Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke)
Any arena on this list can provide terrific on-court action. None has developed a life of its own off the floor to beat Cameron Indoor Stadium's.
From Krzyzewskiville (the cardboard shantytown for would-be season ticket holders) to the Cameron Crazies (as its fans are called at least once per TV broadcast), the building has generated more nicknames than most teams can muster.
It doesn't hurt Cameron’s ranking any that the Blue Devils, Goliaths though they are, have managed some genuinely miraculous wins on their home floor.
Sean Dockery’s buzzer-beater (above) staved off what should have been an epic Virginia Tech upset, just one of many implausible finishes that have gone Duke’s way at Cameron.