Ranking the Best Game-Day Traditions in College Basketball

Jason Franchuk@@harkthefranchukCollege Basketball Featured ColumnistDecember 8, 2015

Ranking the Best Game-Day Traditions in College Basketball

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    It's the way winter goes. Some college basketball teams just turn out to be better than others.

    The same goes for game-day experiences. Yes, there are many arenas that fill up. But there are also some places that really stand out.

    That's what we're here to honor.

    Search all around the country, and there are plenty of schools that don't need Saturday afternoon to be the center of life.

    We'll check out a certain Durham, North Carolina, neighborhood, as you might have already figured out. One school has two spine-tingling reasons for its fans to stay from pregame introductions to the very (winning) end.

    We look at chants and fun-loving student sections and even one heck of a calorie-burning gig that draws all sorts of attention. And if you're hungry for more, we even talk tacos.

    It's even a time of year when toilet paper comes into play.

    So we're basically past tailgating season and football stadiums—heritage, history and school pride goes on.

    Follow along as we examine the top hoops-loving traditions of a couple hours spent at an arena hopefully near you.

10. Wake Forest Decorates the Quad

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    Yes, one school takes its toilet paper pretty seriously. Mind you, this doesn't happen every game—so it'll be our one exception.

    But it's worth it to mention Wake Forest, which is known to T.P. the campus-center Quad when big wins come in football or basketball.

    The last few years haven't exactly felt like two-ply for Demon Deacons fans. It's a group that resorted in March 2014 to decorating campus after the school fired Jeff Bzdelik, who went 51-76 in four years (including 2-32 in ACC road games).

    New coach Danny Manning would like to produce better results, and potty humor, for Rolling the Quad.

    This could be a team that challenges for an NCAA tournament bid (it's 6-2 so far) and re-establishes a tradition that dates to 1961.

    That would mean winning games against teams like Duke and North Carolinawhich sure seems feasible, at least at home.

9. UCLA's "Frisbee Cheer"

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    UCLA has a completely renovated arena, but this is hardly the first time the basketball blue blood has faced attendance issues.

    Go back to the 1970s, after John Wooden retired in 1975 and the Bruins were having trouble getting people to Pauley Pavilion.

    That's when a man named Lawrence H. "Frisbee" Davis created a solution that lives on to this day, getting UCLA fans into the action.

    The call-and-response cheer harkens a military-jogging chant. One student yells questions and the rest of the group replies.

    It always starts with "Is this a basketball?" It ends with "U-C-L-A, Fight! Fight! Fight!"

    That's something Wooden and Bill Walton could still get behind.

8. Pittsburgh's 'Oakland Zoo'

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    College football isn't the only game known for its headgear.

    Take a trip to Pittsburgh's "Oakland Zoo," which is the student cheering section for the Panthers' home games at Petersen Events Center. You might see lion masks, or zebra masks, or bear masks (oh my!).

    Jamie Dixon's rowdy friends have some of the best seats in the house, visible on TV and constantly in the game—and in opponents' heads. About 1,500 fans make up the section, which has received all sorts of praise for its value on the game-day experience—not to mention Pitt's success.

    The zoo is named after the neighborhood of Pittsburgh where the university sits.

    And the team has its back, too. In 2011, Pitt's new jerseys showcased the "Oakland Zoo" logo.

    There's not another school in the country that praises its students so effusively. It's come a long way since starting in 2001, after a couple of students thought the Pitt students were a little too mellow during a big game against Syracuse.

7. The Constant Arm-Flapping at St. Joseph's

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The head goes on and the arms go up. That's what it's like to be the mascot at St. Joseph's, one of the few places where being a mascot may be even tougher than actually playing the game.

    And one can even get a full scholarship, if he or she is willing to flap arms for the entire game.

    It never stops—not even during halftime. That is why the "Hawk Will Never Die," as the school says.

    In 2014, the NCAA named the Hawk the best tradition in college basketball.

    According to the school, Jim Brennan originated the idea for a hawk as mascot during the 1954-55 season. The ex-Marine and SJU cheerleader at first wanted to secure an actual hawk, but later switched to the costume idea. The student government raised the $120 and Brennan wore it for three years.

    The Hawk travels and serves as a team manager. ESPN a few years ago calculated that the mascot did about 3,500 arm flaps in a single game.

    Well, at least the person doesn't have to calorie count.

6. Utah State's "Believe" Cheer

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    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Here's a picture of Utah State players having some fun.

    But where it really gets cool is at home games, when more than 4,000 Aggies students chant "Believe that We Will Win."

    USU isn't the only team in the country to do this chant either at opening tipoff or as the game winds down. But it's hard to find a place it looks cooler than at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

    It's no wonder teams aren't so eager to go to Logan, Utah, which offers up one of the toughest home-court advantages in the West.

    The way USU fans get into the game, it's no wonder Stew Morrill was never in any hurry to leave for a "higher-profile" job.

    In 17 years at USU—he retired after last season—he went 248-32 at home. The only sad thing is that he didn't win the last one, against Colorado State.

    But there's little doubt he believed USU's students made a huge difference, night in and night out.

5. Syracuse Students Get Hungry

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    Syracuse, as you might imagine, has a lot of fun things going on during basketball games. Winter's are tough. This place loves its Jim Boeheim and its ball.

    College students being college students, it's particularly fun how the students—Otto's Army—plead for tacos.

    That's right—as Syracuse.com points out, "When the score creeps toward 70 points for the Orange, don't be surprised to hear fans chanting for tacos. Whenever the Orange men or women's basketball teams score 70 points in the Carrier Dome, ticket holders at those games can bring their stubs to participating Taco Bell restaurants for a free taco."

    In past seasons, it was 75 points. But with scoring generally being up this season, figure a few more 'Cuse fans will be full after games.

    Syracuse is one of the more fun places in the country to see a game, altogether. It's a unique environment at the football-first Carrier Dome.

    But it's a celebration all around town on game nights.

    You didn't think tacos when you think upstate New York? Well now you should.

4. Michigan State's "Izzone"

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    And you wonder why Tom Izzo hasn't left East Lansing for the Cleveland Cavaliers or anywhere else?

    Get a student section named after you, and you're a pretty big deal—and pretty well rooted to the campus.

    The Izzone is 16 years old. In 2013, amid some potential to reorganize how the Izzone operated, MLive.com's Brandon Howell pointed out:

    "The Breslin Center owns one of the best home-court advantages in all of college basketball. In Spartans' head coach Tom Izzo's 18 seasons at the helm, Michigan State boasts a 262-36 home record, including four undefeated home campaigns, four with just one home loss and another four with two home defeats. That mark is good for an .879 home winning percentage."
    Of course, last year's Final Four and this year's exciting start are only adding to the fire. We can only imagine how Breslin will be rockin' in the Izzone on Feb. 14, 2016, when the Spartans host Indiana.
    It's a big Big Ten game and also Valentine's Day—surely to be Denzel Valentine's day. Who wouldn't want to be in the Izzone that day?

3. Indiana Enjoys the Under-8 Timeout

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    While Indiana Hoosiers fans may be lamenting their team's defense these days, there's one timeout when no one can grouse.

    The under-8 media timeout in Bloomington has become legendary. Lots of flags, cheerleaders and chanting.

    Assembly Hall becomes the happiest place on earth.

    It might be the second favorite rite of being an Indiana basketball fan, behind "Hoosiers."

    If you're at the game, it's hardly a time to hit the restroom or get a hot dog.

    For more than thirty years, the first stoppage in play with less than eight minutes left has signaled a frenzy that includes the IU Band playing the “William Tell Overture." Also, cheerleaders race onto the court waving 18 flags, spelling out "INDIANA HOOSIERS."

    It ends with yelling "I-U!" as the teams take the floor again.

    Who says stoppages in play can't be the best part of a game?

2. The Beginning and End of a Game at Kansas

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    There's a reason why Kansas has won 11 straight Big 12 championships that has nothing to do (with all due respect) to Bill Self or a constant river of playing talent.

    It's the students, and the way the entire Allen Fieldhouse gets geeked up before games.

    Perhaps no video exemplifies that passion more than this clip from the 2012 game against Missouri (the last Border War rivalry, as Mizzou left for the SEC afterward).

    It's a spine-tingling homage from the past (Dean Smith and Wilt Chamberlain) through the Roy Williams years and encompassing all of the Self era's successes. This video happens for every home game.

    And, of course, make sure to stick around for the "Rock Chalk Chant." It's hummed in the closing minutes when the Jayhawks are about to win at home, which under Self is virtually always.

1. Duke's Krzyzewskiville

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    What started in 1986 has become a phenomenon that even has its own website.

    Maybe the only slight bummer about the Duke basketball experience is—like so many top programs—the best players don't stick around for three to four years. So the Blue Devils students are constantly having to re-learn names of their players.

    But Krzyzewskiville has taken on a life of its own, no matter if the players stay just one year. After all, students routinely soak up the experience for all four of their own.

    It includes about 100 tents and 1,200 students at any given game.

    Sure, there have been issues over the years. And at one point there were criticisms of declining attendance.

    But it still boils down to a lot of love between coach Mike Krzyzewski (known as Coach K, of course), who has often bought pizzas for the campers and made them feel especially valuable before playing rival North Carolina.

    No wonder they call them Cameron Crazies. In the dead of winter, space heaters are still illegal.

    But perhaps a few Jahlil Okafor dunk highlights will get kids through to the next game.