Big East Basketball: Ranking the Conference's Best Arenas

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2013

Big East Basketball: Ranking the Conference's Best Arenas

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    For all fans of college basketball, the adjustment period from the old Big East to the new realigned Big East will not be an easy one. 

    The traditional powers like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame are now gone from the conference, and so are the spectacular venues they call home. 

    Entering the conference to join the so-called "Catholic Seven" are three new basketball programs that are rich in tradition, but which of the 10 teams has the best arena in the Big East? 

    Based on fan turnout, atmosphere, capacity and a few intangibles, I gave it my best try to rank all the basketball arenas where Big East basketball will be played in this season. 

10. Prudential Center (Seton Hall)

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    Who at Seton Hall University would love to travel from the campus in South Orange, NJ to Newark for a basketball game at the Prudential Center? 

    The unfortunate answer to that question is not many people. 

    The good news for fans of the Pirates is that head coach Kevin Willard is trying to get fans of the team excited about basketball in Northern New Jersey once again. 

    One way to start having more than 8,000 fans come out to watch a game is to improve on the 3-15 conference record the Pirates had last season. 

    If the product on the floor improves, expect the Pirates to draw more than 10,000 fans on a consistent basis sooner rather than later. 

9. Allstate Arena (DePaul)

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    Not many positive things are said about the DePaul Blue Demons basketball team, at least that has been the trend in the last decade. 

    The Blue Demons play in the other arena in Chicago that hosts a plethora of sports teams including the AHL's Chicago Wolves and the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League. 

    Oliver Purnell's team play in the much-maligned Allstate Arena that far from rivals the United Center, where the NBA's Chicago Bulls reside. 

    The one positive, if there is such a thing when talking about Allstate Arena, about the space where the Blue Demons play is that if the house was packed, it would be an intimidating home court. 

    The one problem with that is DePaul has not put a good product on the court for fans to cheer about in about a decade. 

8. Madison Square Garden (St. John's)

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    Before all you basketball geeks get all hot and bothered about the famed Madison Square Garden being so low on a top arenas list, remember this is a list ranking Big East home courts. 

    Not many people in the very passionate New York City fanbase are able to get excited about the Johnnies just yet. 

    Steve Lavin's team drew over 10,000 fans just twice during the 2012-13 conference season, both of those games came on weekend afternoons against Georgetown and Marquette

    There is no doubt MSG is a great basketball venue for the New York Knicks and any major college basketball tournament, but for St. John's, it just does not create the same excitement level. 

    Hopefully for everyone who supports New York City basketball, Lavin can make the Red Storm a relevant team in college basketball very soon and pack MSG night after night. 

7. Dunkin' Donuts Center (Providence)

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    The arena formerly known as the Providence Civic Center is far from the worst venue in the Big East, but it does have a ways to go to become the best. 

    Credit the owners of the building for giving the now-sponsored Dunkin' Donuts Center a facelift in recent years to make the venue more eye-catching to the outside observer. 

    There is a slight bit of tradition at the building since the Providence Friars have played there since the venue's inception in 1972. 

    The host of plenty NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament games has also seen its fair share of legends walk through its doors including Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan. 

    The one main problem with the product sent out to the floor is that every time it gets good, the coach is recruited away to join a bigger program. Rick Pitino, Pete Gillen and Rick Barnes are the best examples of that. 

6. BMO Harris Bradley Center (Marquette)

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    Now we reach the part of the list where it becomes hard to rank the home courts of the remaining six teams. 

    The Bradley Center is one of three arenas that doubles as the main host for both an NBA and Big East team, and it does so in an admirable fashion.

    Marquette has a long, storied basketball tradition that dates back to the Al Maguire era and it has continued during the coaching reigns of Rick Majerus, Tom Crean and now Buzz Williams. 

    The Golden Eagles always put a good, and sometimes great, team out on the court and when the team is at its best, its crowd is right there with the best crowds in the nation. 

5. Cintas Center (Xavier)

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    The basketball tradition in the city of Cincinnati is no stranger to the fans of the Big East, but as the new season approaches, it is Xavier, not the University of Cincinnati, that will fly the flag for the Queen City in the Big East. 

    Xavier's Cintas Center, which sits on the university's campus, seats just 10,250 during basketball games and filling those seats is not a problem at all for the Musketeers. 

    When they were in the Atlantic 10, Xavier was always one of the best teams in the conference and its crowd was always out in full force, especially toward the end of the season. 

    Now that they are in the Big East, the level of competition will grow and for Chris Mack's team to make its presence known right away, it will have to continue to make the Cintas Center one of the more underrated arenas in the nation. 

4. The Pavilion (Villanova)

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    First of all, let's clear out any discussion that the Wells Fargo Center could be considered as the home of the Villanova Wildcats.

    The Wildcats play only a handful of big games in South Philadelphia, they play most of their home games at the rather small venue on the Main Line: The Pavilion. 

    The 6,500-seater is one of the many small, but treacherous, venues to visit in the city of Philadelphia, a town which also boasts The Palestra and four other major college basketball venues. 

    Not many teams nowadays are used to visiting such small venues, which is why Villanova has a big advantage when they host teams that are used to playing in 20,000-plus seat arenas. 

    With the Rutgers Athletic Center leaving the league, The Pavilion easily takes over the title of best small basketball venue in the Big East. 

3. CenturyLink Center (Creighton)

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    Creighton University has been a basketball power in the Midwest for decades now, and the Big East will now be able to see what great fans they have. 

    Ever since the Bluejays stepped foot inside the CenturyLink Center, their fans have had plenty of memorable moments to cheer. 

    From Nate Funk lighting up clutch shot after clutch shot to Doug McDermott's National Player of the Year-like play over the last two seasons, Creighton fans have seen plenty of fireworks while in the Missouri Valley Conference. 

    Now in the Big East, Creighton fans will get to show off their skills to a broader audience. 

    At home last season, the Bluejays packed their home court with over 15,000 fans for each of their home games.

    Expect that crowd to reach its capacity of 18,320 every time a conference foe steps foot in Omaha this season as the Bluejays look to make an early impact on their new conference. 

2. Verizon Center (Georgetown)

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    Not many NBA arenas can host a college basketball game quite like the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. can. 

    The storied winning tradition of the Hoyas dates back to the 1970s and during that lengthy span of success they have had their crowd behind them as well. 

    The fans of the Hoyas always pack the stands at the Verizon Center, and there is also plenty of room in the arena for visiting alumni and fans to enjoy a hard-fought Big East game.

    While the crowds may not turn out for the small non-conference games as much as they should, the crowd certainly steps their game up when the conference schedule starts. 

    And as we all know with conference play, the home crowd can absolutely turn a result in the home team's favor. 

1. Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler)

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    No other venue in the Big East conference rivals the atmosphere, history and overall environment Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse has. 

    To start with the history, Hinkle Fieldhouse was the site for the game that inspired the move Hoosiers. 

    The small-school atmosphere Butler fans bring to the Fieldhouse also trumps what the nine other fanbases in the conference bring to the table. 

    With a capacity of just 10,000, Hinkle Fieldhouse is a place no Big East team, or any team in general, wants to visit during the season. 

    As we all witnessed with Butler's game against Gonzaga in January 2013, Hinkle Fieldhouse is built for memorable moments, and expect the Bulldogs to create plenty of them during their time in the Big East. 

    Which arena do you think is the best in the Big East? 

    Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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