College basketball season in nigh. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being in a packed arena with the crowd going wild—unless your team is on the road and the fans are cheering for you opponent. Sure, football stadiums get loud, but they’re wide open and expansive. The sound can travel into the starry night and most fans aren’t that close to the action. But in college hoops, home team fans practically sit atop the court. The noise echoes, the sheer mass of screaming humanity ticks off an unrelenting heat and the clear backboards don’t offer visiting player the slightest reprieve from the chaos. In states like Kansas, Kentucky and Indiana, the faithful congregate, raise their hands and exercise every ounce of their being to help their teams pull out a victory. Fittingly, the following home teams rarely lose. Here are seven of the toughest environments in NCAA basketball.
Arena: McKale Center
The Wildcats have led the Pac-10 and Pac-12 conferences in attendance since 1984, and the large majority of the fans are collegians. The student fan section is called the Zona Zoo. It can, and usually does, hold 10,000 people. That means that more than two-thirds of the spectators are cheering at the top of their lungs. And they have the full blessing and backing of head coach Sean Miller, who calls them the “heartbeat of the arena.”
Don’t miss a second of high-flying Pac-12 basketball this season with the Pac-12 Network.
Arena: Kohl Center
Bo Ryan seems like one of the nicest fellas around. Like he could be your grandpa, right? Well, on the basketball court he’s a killer. He has a better home court record in Madison than coach Mike Krzyzewski does in Durham. To put it in perspective, Ryan has been coaching the Badgers since 2001 and his team has only lost 22 times at home, or less than twice a year on average. Oh, and bad news for the rest of the Big 10. Ryan is reconsidering his decision to retire following this season.
Follow Wisconsin on the Big Ten Network as it embarks on a tough conference schedule this year.
Arena: Allen Fieldhouse
The Jayhawk faithful set the tone for their hospitality during the visiting team’s player introductions—they pull out the newspaper and pretend to be more interested in the printed word than the opposing squad. Then there is the home record. Since becoming Kansas’s coach, Bill Self has compiled a 186-9 record, including one 69-game home win streak.
Arena: Rupp Arena
You know what’s the most intimidating thing about playing in Rupp Arena? Playing the Wildcats. Whether the Wildcats are on the road or at home, the team always features some of the best athletes in the NCAA. Kentucky didn’t lose a single regular season game anywhere last year, so the chances of winning in Lexington are generally slim and none.
The SEC’s basketball reputation is quickly catching up to its football counterparts. Watch the South’s finest battle it out on the SEC Network.
Arena: Cameron Indoor Stadium
Google “Duke fans” and the first search result will auto-fill itself in with the words “are the worst.” Just ask opposing teams. Nicknamed the “Cameron Crazies,” the rowdy students camp out in Krzyzewskiville, the temporary campground outside the gym, for days (days!) prior to a big game. Legend has it that the Crazies are responsible for dreaming up the “air ball” chant—along with a handful of others that can’t be printed here.
Arena: Assembly Hall
Never mind that when Bob Knight once coached the Hoosiers, no one was safe—who can forget that chair-throwing incident across the court. Even with Knight long gone, the Hoosiers are steeped in hoops lore. Plus, Indiana is a state that isn’t divided by college loyalty. Everyone cheers for one team and one team only.
Basketball is a religion in Indiana. If it’s also yours, you can catch every Big 10 matchup on the Big Ten Network.
New Mexico Lobos
Arena: University Arena
Known as “the Pit,” the arena’s court floor is set 37 feet below ground level, despite the arena being located above 5,300 feet. According to the NCAA, the venue is one of the five loudest venues in college basketball because the decreased air density leads to an increase in volume. (Physics majors, please fact check that.) To remind visiting players where they are, the announcer opens every game with the following words: “You are now 5,312 feet above sea level. At this elevation you can experience fatigue or weakness, pins or needles, dizziness, shortness of breath upon exertion, drowsiness and persistent rapid pulse. Welcome to the Pit.”