Print and Go Back Men's College Basketball [Print without images]

Monday, January 15, 2007
Updated: January 17, 2:44 PM ET
Student Spirit Week: Favorite arena atmospheres

By experts

In conjunction with college basketball's Student Spirit Week (Jan. 15-21) across the ESPN networks, we asked our experts to pick their five arenas based on the best game atmospheres. Do you have an opinion? Vote on your favorites.

Jay Bilas | Pat Forde | Fran Fraschilla | Doug Gottlieb |
Andy Katz | Mark Schlabach | Kyle Whelliston

Bilas' favorite atmospheres
It is a no-brainer to include Cameron Indoor Stadium among the best venues in college basketball. I played for four years in that venerable, gothic pit and was an assistant coach there for three more years. I have never been in a place quite like it. Does it make me biased to include Cameron in this listing? Or does it simply give me specialized knowledge? To avoid any hint of bias and to get another venue some deserved credit, let's take it as a given that Cameron would be on my list. For this, we are going old school -- there will be only one venue per conference on this list.

Kansas: The Phog is the St. Andrews of college basketball, and it goes back to the very roots of the game. From Naismith to Allen to Rupp to Smith, the giants of the game have been cradled at Kansas. From Wilt to Lovellette to Manning, some of the greatest players in college basketball history have graced the Phog floor. That building has character, and you can really hear echoes and whispers when you are alone in the stands. When you have company, bring earplugs.

Kentucky: I love Rupp Arena. It oozes history and tradition, and while it may lack the on-campus feel of some of the others outside of the building, on the inside, it has the feel of a basketball cathedral. Rupp is big, it is loud, and it is intimidating. Kentucky wins at Rupp because the Wildcats are really good, but also because of Rupp.

Indiana: When you see the red and white on the floor at Assembly Hall, and then look up in the stands that seem to go straight up on either side, you feel like you are in a special place. The fight songs and the candy-stripe warm-up pants are evocative of tradition and winning. McCracken and Knight won championships on that floor, and for two straight years in the '70s, nobody but the Hoosiers could even sniff a victory. Assembly Hall rocks when the Hoosiers roll, and the atmosphere is pure college basketball.

Big 5: There is no place like the Palestra, and I would crawl on my hands and knees to get in there and play a game. I played there in college, and it was dingy, smoky in places, and the locker rooms were suitable for brooms and mops. We loved it. That is how you know the importance of tradition and history, when you pine to be in a place most would find uncomfortable. We were honored to play at the Palestra. If Cameron is the Wrigley Field of college basketball, the Palestra is its Fenway Park.

Butler: They filmed the movie "Hoosiers" at Hinkle Fieldhouse, for crying out loud. Coaches all over the country should schedule a road game at Butler -- not to give a break to a really good mid-major, but to give their players the experience of playing at Hinkle. That is the way basketball should be.