Wednesday, September 7, 2011
ESPN.com college basketball bucket list
When you combine them, our panel of writers and contributors have been to just about all of the famous arenas and gyms and field houses that make up the tapestry of college basketball. On an individual basis, though, all of them have places they are just dying to see for themselves.
We asked each of our panelists to select the one college basketball palace that's at the top of their bucket list. Here's what they had to say:
Stephen Bardo: Rupp Arena tops my wish list. I was born in Kentucky and raised in nearby southern Illinois, so Wildcats basketball was by far the most popular college team of my childhood. Growing up watching the Jack "Goose" Givens era and now the way coach John Calipari has it rockin' again, a visit to Rupp would bring it full circle for me. Hearing 24,000 fans live and die on every play would be special.
Jay Bilas: I have yet to visit Koch Arena at Wichita State for a Missouri Valley Conference game, and I'd really like to do so. That program has such great history, and I still remember guys like Xavier McDaniel, Cliff Levingston and Aubrey Sherrod when the Shockers were a national contender in the '80s. Koch holds around 10,000 fans, and everyone I speak with talks about what a tough place it is to play in. I am really lucky to have been to some great places for games, but it doesn't seem complete until I go to a game in Wichita.
For many in the sport of college basketball, the atmosphere at Phog Allen Fieldhouse is unmatched.
Eamonn Brennan: Allen Fieldhouse. If you're one of KU's Big 12 rivals, the eerie hum of "Roccckkk Chaalllk Jaaayyy-haaawwwk" might be the most annoying sound on the planet. For a regular old hoops fan, though, it never fails to raise the goose bumps. The only problem: I've never heard it live. Combine that atmosphere with Allen Fieldhouse's reputation as a storied basketball mecca, and it tops my list of arenas I need to experience before I finally shake off this mortal coil.
Hubert Davis: The place where I am dying to see a game is the McKale Center at the University of Arizona. I've never even been on campus. On TV it always looks as though it has a great atmosphere whether it's a nonconference game or a fierce rival is in town. When the "College GameDay" schedule came out recently and I was told we would visit Tucson in January, I was thrilled. Can't wait to get out there.
Pat Forde: The Palestra. I'm ashamed to admit that after more than 20 years of covering college basketball, I still haven't been to the old cathedral in Philadelphia. I'd love to see a Big 5 game played in its ideal and intended environment. Give me cramped quarters, soft pretzels, Villanova-Saint Joseph's and rollouts, please.
Fran Fraschilla: Like many of my ESPN colleagues, I have been fortunate to watch, broadcast or coach in most of the great arenas in college basketball, so I have been spoiled. With that said, I'd love to watch an Army-Navy game at West Point or Annapolis. These are true student-athletes giving everything they have on the court against a bitter rival, knowing that instead of going to the NBA, they will head off to defend our country on the same team. For me, competition doesn't get any better than that.
Doug Gottlieb: I'm not sure how it's possible, but I've never been to a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. All you have to do is see one game from there on TV, and even the most fervent Duke haters will admit it's pretty cool. So that obviously tops my list. But I'm greedy, so I'm going to round out a top five with the Breslin Center (Michigan State), Bud Walton Arena (Arkansas), Memorial Gym (Vanderbilt) and Matthew Knight Arena (Oregon). Memorial is so unique and loud, and I wish I could've played there so my coach was at the other end of the floor. And per every coach I have spoken to about MKA, it very well might be the best arena built. I'm really looking forward to checking it out.
Andy Katz: When Nolan Richardson was in the heyday at Arkansas in the early-to-mid '90s, I was a reporter in Albuquerque and Fresno, Calif., and wasn't headed to national locales. So I never got a chance to see Bud Walton Arena in its prime, and the Razorbacks haven't been a national player since Richardson left. I've covered the sport for more than 20 years, and Bud Walton is actually the only noteworthy spot I have somehow missed. Bud Walton rocking must have been a sight during the 40 Minutes of Hell. If former assistant Mike Anderson can get things turned around there, count me in for a trip to Fayetteville.
Diamond Leung: Allen Fieldhouse. What's it like when the "Rock Chalk" chant echoes in this historical setting? What's it like to sit beneath the national championship banners and the one that hauntingly warns "Beware of The Phog"? Someday I'd like to find out, so save me a seat in the red and blue bleachers. The visiting team will be in for a long day, and I'll be on the lookout for ghosts.
Joe Lunardi: Hinkle Fieldhouse. It's not just a "Hoosiers" thing. I have been to most of the hallowed halls of the sport -- The Palestra, The Pit, Pauley Pavilion, Cameron Indoor, Phog Allen, old Cole Field House and the very underrated Mac Court at Oregon. Hinkle is a glaring omission from that list. Butler never seems to have a home game when I pass through Indy, so that's something I absolutely have to fix. Runner-up: Rupp Arena.
Dana O'Neil: As a fan of all arenas old and quirky, I'd love to see a game in The Pit at New Mexico. Even in its renovated state, the officially named University Arena intrigues me. Just the concept of seeing a game played in something that is quite literally a pit -- an arena 37 feet underground -- is enough to make me curious. Throw in an atmosphere that I've heard is both unparalleled and almost unbearably loud, and I'm all-in.