Ranking the 12 Loudest Venues in College Basketball
Home court matters. It especially matters when you have a bunch of emotionally charged, chemically enhanced co-eds painted every color of the rainbow yelling invectives at an equally young man shooting a free throw.
Maybe baseball’s sabermetricians should analyze how many wins certain home courts are worth. A loud court makes it impossible to communicate. It’s like playing basketball at Boeing’s jet-engine testing facility.
The following courts are the loudest, biggest, baddest, meanest venues to visit.
Bring your ear plugs.
Maryland's Xfinity Center
When looking at the east coast venues, Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium stands above as the loudest and most turbulent environment to play. But for the most part the students are civil and often downright clever with their chants.
Not so on the Beltway, when the Maryland Terrapins play host. Not only is it loud, but the violence of the vocals makes it about as inviting as a swim among piranhas.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Eisenberg, former Wake Forest star Ish Smith said:
I know people will automatically say Cameron and we never won in Cameron, but Cameron was fun to play in. So I'd have to say Maryland. Their fans are great, but they have no filter. That's what makes it special and that's why players hate playing there. Duke fans come up with different things and they're really, really clever. But at Maryland, they do whatever it takes to get you off your game.
Many sell-out arenas will average about the same noise level, but vitriol adds an extra slice to the tympanic membrane, and now they take that venom from the ACC to the Big 10.
UNC's Dean Smith Center
Though no numbers could be found on the decibel level of screaming fans at the Dean Smith Center, testimonial of one 2005 game says all you need to hear.
It was the final conference game between the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels. That team, led by Sean May, erased a nine-point deficit in the final three minutes.
ESPN’s Anne Catherine Clemmons writes, “But to feel a record crowd of 22,125 shaking the much larger dome that is the Smith Center (which soaks in enough sunlight for the Tar Heels to practice without electric lighting when open in the early afternoon) is something else entirely."
Roy Williams, UNC’s head coach, also added, "That was the loudest I have ever heard the Smith Center.”
When enough people can make a 22,000-seat arena shake, that’s loud, intimidating and cause for exodus.
Let’s go to the decibel meter. Former Kentucky guard John Wall elicited a 110.1 when he returned in 2011. That’s about as loud as Rupp Arena gets, which is still pretty darn loud. That’s Metallica-concert loud, or just a shade below.
Kentucky isn’t just a passionate fan base, it’s kind of rabid, and that’s no insult. They put the "wild" in Wildcats.
As if playing a possible two-platoon Wildcat team isn’t intimidating enough, the fans in Lexington bring the noise.
Indiana's Assembly Hall
The Detroit Redwings throw octopi on the ice, so why don’t Hoosier fans throw chairs onto the court? Amusing, possibly, but since that’s patently foolish, they can scream for Tom Crean.
Purdue’s Terone Johnson said in The Gazette, “It gets ridiculous. The atmosphere is crazy, whether they’re on a three-game losing streak or a three-game winning streak.”
Hoosier fans can dial it up. When Cody Zeller made a key steal against Michigan State, Assembly Hall earned a 115.3 dB reading.
That’s Opeth, Lamb of God and Metallica territory.
Michigan State's Breslin Student Events Center
Back in 2012, Nebraska’s Brandon Ubel made specific mention of Michigan State’s Breslin Student Events Center. On its surface it sounds more like a U Mass’s Blue Wall Cafe, just a benign hangout to get a morning bagel.
Nope, the Blue Wall doesn’t have the “Izzone.” For those in journalism (ahem) who know that newspapers are dead, the Izzone is a refreshing bout of paper-in-hand newsprint, even if it is simply to mock. At least it gets those dag nab bit iGoogle Crapple Twitterbooks out of their hands.
Ubel said in The Gazette, “(Michigan State’s) atmosphere, their students, the way it’s set up ... the students are completely surrounding the court. It’s a cool setup, good atmosphere and the fans are involved constantly.”
Utah State's Smith Spectrum
Utah State may not be a headliner on the basketball court, but don't tell its student section that. The HURD elicit fear into the psyches of its opponents. Take the late Rick Majerus, who coached all over the country, lastly at St. Louis.
It's the toughest place to play. I've been to Duke. I've been to the Pit. I've been to Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue, Arizona and around the country. I know the dynamic may change since it's Utah-Utah State.
It's not mean-spirited, it's not like you're going to get hit with a hot dog or anything. I went to Oakland Raider games. Utah State has an Oakland Raider mentality without the knives and guns.
The Aggies finished 13-5 at home a year ago and much of that can be credited to this loud and verbally abusive venue.
New Mexico's Pit
No, not Bane’s pit prison from The Dark Knight Rises. This is The Pit of the New Mexico Lobos. Hailing from the ABQ, where the fictitious Walter White cooked his famous blue crystal meth, the Lobos’ home court is burrowed in the earth.
Bruce Wayne’s not climbing out of this pit. It is loud, so much so that it agitates the marrow buried deep within.
“So loud," Mike Roberts, radio voice of the Lobos from 1966 to 2008, said in an ESPN story, "you can feel it in your bones."
The Pit is 37 feet down into the crust, funneling the vocals and screams from the red and white down onto the court.
Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum
People in the midwest know a thing or two about tornadoes and the noise of natural distasters. They know how loud those can be. Enter the Iowa State Cyclones.
You know a team of this sort is loud when a noted college basketball announcer says it's every bit as loud as an ACC arena. That announcer was ESPN's Dave O'Brien, and he said the Hilton Coliseum was "louder than anything in the ACC."
In a more formal test of how loud Cyclones fans can get, they measured a 109 reading. So yes, the midwest knows its noise.
Oklahoma State's Gallagher-IBA Arena
It’s been a long time since this allegedly happened—36 years to be exact—but if it did happen then Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-IBA Arena is boss. It got so loud that some of the lights broke.
During the Big 8 Conference finals, former OKU wrestling coach Myron Roderick said, "It got sо loud, а lot оf the lights busted іn Gallagher. Аnd thаt ís the loudest I've ever heard it. Іt wаs unbelievable."
Gallagher is called the Madison Square Garden of the Plains, and though the fans probably won’t break any lights in the 13,000-plus capacity arena, the fact that it once did keeps fans screaming louder and louder.
Syracuse's Carrier Dome
Not many venues can claim they play in a dome, but that’s what the Syracuse Orange do. On top of that, there are no air conditioning units in the building, no white-noise humming in the background.
What does that mean? It means every orange-clad, snow-loving student gets every chance to optimize the strength of his or her vocal cords.
Jerry Walker, a former Seton Hall player, said in The Star Ledger:
They have you go through these doors where if one door is open and you open the other door, it’ll crush your bones or something. The airlock doors ... That’s how they get you first. Then you come into the arena, and the depth of it is so magnified because it’s such an open space — you’re not used to playing in something like that — and that’s when they get you.
It has been called “The Loud House” and once registered a decibel level of 120. Pain begins at 125 dBs and a jet engine at 100 feet is 140 dBs, so consider that the next time you’re in western Upstate New York.
Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium
Up high are the season ticket holders, down low are the Smurfs, better knows as the Cameron Crazies. They put spells on opponents. Good luck inbounding the ball with dozens of blue extended wiggling fingers casting a hex on you.
Over the past two seasons, Duke is 33-0 at home the past two seasons and hasn’t lost an out-of-conference game at home since Feb. 26, 2000. But is it a tough section to play in front of? David Aldridge writes on Duke Report.com:
The Crazies have become known as one of the most clever student sections in sports, but I think many guys come into the arena looking forward to hearing what they’ll come up with. It’s an intense environment, but Duke has moved past the mindset of doing things that would be hurtful or cross a line that’s too personal.
The Crazies were issued a gag order of sorts as they were told from the powers that be to clean up the chants.
That makes Duke tough and loud, but not the toughest and loudest (though one man likened the crowd to that of a jet engine).
Kansas' Allen Fieldhouse
Sure, they lull you to sleep with the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant, but don’t let that fool you. There’s close to 6,000 students at Allen Fieldhouse—three times more than Duke—and they’ve earned the title of loudest college arena.
In a video released by NCAA.com, it says,
It’s twice the size as Cameron [Indoor Stadium] with three times the students sitting courtside. There’s a reason they say, ‘Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware of the Phog’, because Allen Fieldhouse is loud. The Rock, Chalk, chant provides an eerie calm before the deafening storm. And once the ball is tipped, there’s not a louder college basketball arena in the country.
That has got to have Bill Self, Kansas’ head coach, screaming for joy. Screaming, because Kansas fans once hit 122 on the decibel thingamajig.