The 10 Hardest Places to Play College Basketball
College basketball is littered with historically great programs. These clubs — many are the “blue bloods” of college basketball — tend to have a lot in common. They usually have fantastic coaches, recruit extremely well, and dominate on their home floor. These things, among others, are the keys to success in this particularly competitive world. Unfortunately, sometimes, they don’t always work.
On January 18, back in the 2014 regular season, the Duke Blue Devils had just lost their second consecutive game. While that was disturbing news for the talented — albeit young — team, the more pressing matter was that the Miami Hurricanes defeated them at Cameron Indoor Stadium. And Duke does not lose at home often.
At the time, the Duke Blue Devils had won 41 straight contests on their home floor. Usually the “Cameron Crazies” provide the ultimate home-court advantage. However, on that particular night, a rowdy and supportive crowd wasn’t enough help their squad overcome unusually sloppy play.
In college basketball, home-court advantage is prevalent throughout the country. Of course, some teams benefit more than others. Using numbers running through the 2015–16 season, here’s a look at 10 of the most difficult places to play college basketball.
1. WisePies Arena (“The Pit”), New Mexico
Winning percentage: .8144
It may not be known outside of college basketball communities, but the court at the University of New Mexico is one of the most intimidating in the country to play at. The venue, properly named “WisePies Arena” is and always will be known as “The Pit” to the Lobos faithful. With over 18,000 rowdy fans packed into this place, the Pit can be an opponent’s worst nightmare.
2. Assembly Hall, Indiana
Winning percentage: .8368
The state of Indiana is synonymous with basketball. Kids are pretty much born with a Spalding in their hands. And the school that these kids grow up idolizing is Indiana University. The dream? To become a Hoosier. That’s why Assembly Hall is a scary place. Packed with extremely devoted fans in their red and whites, it doesn’t matter if the Hoosiers are competing for a national championship or not — when they’re in this building, they always have a chance to win.
3. Breslin Center, Michigan State
Winning percentage: .8714
Tom Izzo is an intense head coach. His toughness is displayed through the Spartans of Michigan State. They dive for loose balls, body you the whole game, and play hard-nosed ball. When you step into the Breslin Center, you can bet the fans will feed off this style. Often dressed in all white, the student body will spend the majority of the game on their feet, and they’ll make their presence felt. The harder the Spartans play, the more you’ll hear the support of their fans. In East Lansing, hard play is expected. Frankly, this is the only way they know how to do it.
4. Carrier Dome, Syracuse
Winning percentage: .8360
Carrier Dome is a massive arena. At Syracuse University, athletes play both football and basketball here. But when push comes to shove, the Orange supporters love their basketball. To enter into Carrier Dome is to step into a sea of orange, and it is very threatening.
The arena may be big in size, but it somehow feels as if the fans are hovering just over your heads. It is a smothering environment and provides an enormous advantage for the home team. The ACC has always been one of the premier conferences in college basketball. Syracuse’s inclusion has not made things any easier.
5. Kohl Center, Wisconsin
Winning percentage: .8821
The Wisconsin Badgers are a good basketball program, known for being one of the most efficient and fundamentally sound squads in the country. But in the Kohl Center, surrounded by a red wave of supporters, Wisconsin is nearly impossible to take down. Let’s just say that the two overhanging balconies in the Kohl Center present the type of home-court advantage that is just as effective as the Badgers brand of basketball.
6. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
Winning percentage: .8893
The Kentucky Wildcats are college basketball royalty. And while there was a moment when the team was not a contender, John Calipari has since righted the ship. Recruits flock to Lexington in order to win titles, gain exposure, and prepare themselves to make the leap to the NBA. Oh, and they get to play in front of some of the most outrageously devoted fans in the country.
When Rupp Arena is packed — and believe us, it tends to be that way often — not only do opposing teams need to deal with the pressure and tenacity of a top-tier Kentucky team, but they need to overcome the noise of the home crowd as well. How are you supposed to beat one of the best teams in the country in front of arguably the best fans on the planet? Simple: You’re not.
7. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
Winning percentage: .8627
The inventor of basketball, James Naismith, coached in Lawrence, Kan. If you knew nothing else, that would be enough to understand what basketball means to the Kansas Jayhawks and their fans. The Jayhawks are one of the blue bloods of the sport, and when the faithful pack into Allen Fieldhouse, there is rarely a better place to watch a game than in Kansas.
The home team is afforded the benefits of the unwavering support of the crowd, who have sold out the Allen Fieldhouse in more than 200 consecutive contests. That’s good news for the Jayhawks, and bad news for everyone else.
8. Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh
Winning percentage: .8962
Pittsburgh doesn’t always receive enough praise for its basketball program, but the same cannot be said for the home-court advantage at Petersen Events Center. At this venue, opponents are forced to endure the wrath of a relentless student section, dubbed the “Oakland Zoo.” With that kind of support behind them, the Panthers know that, at Petersen Events center, they are never out of the fight.
9. Cintas Center, Xavier
Winning percentage: .8852
Year after year, Xavier puts a quality product out on the floor. While the Musketeers battle — and often defeat — many of the country’s other top programs, they know their fans at the Cintas Center are always in their corner. After all, when you’re blessed to have over 10,000 supporters jumping up and down, painting their faces, and going absolutely wild, it’s almost impossible not to get amped up playing at home.
10. McCarthey Athletic Center, Gonzaga
Winning percentage: .9304
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are one of the best programs in the country. Under head coach Mark Few, the Zags constantly win conference titles, make the tournament on the regular, and rank among the top 10 teams in college basketball on a consistent basis.
When they play at home, in front of the 6,000 strong — that’s all they need for an advantage — at McCarthey Athletic Center, losing is pretty much the last thing on anyone’s mind. If a team hopes to beat the Bulldogs on their home floor, then they better play a perfect game. Otherwise, they’re simply wasting their time.
Statistics are courtesy of RPIRatingscom.