Athlon Sports recently released its poll of a dozen college basketball media members around the nation that asked them to rate their 10 favorite venues in terms of atmosphere, experience and amenities.
“In short,” Athlon wrote, “where they would recommend fans go see a game.”
Here’s how it went
To sum up, with 115 points and nine first-place votes, Allen Fieldhouse at Kansas was the winner, followed by Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium with 105. Those two were well-separated from the runners-up: Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse (58 points/one first), Kentucky’s Rupp Arena (50) and Indiana’s Assembly Hall (49).
That got us thinking about our own list.
For context on this, in about 25 years in this business, I’ve been fortunate to make many circuits around the Big 12 and a few around the Big Ten. I’ve seen what I believe to be the best arenas in the SEC (Kentucky and Florida, a cool surprise), about half of the ACC (Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Wake Forest) and much of the Missouri Valley (though not yet Wichita State).
I’ve also experienced those and many other venues, such as Madison Square Garden, in nonconference or NCAA Tournament play.
And out of all that, Allen Fieldhouse is my top site, too, largely because of its intimate seating and acoustics and the unique tradition oozing all over. I see the argument for Cameron at Duke, but to me KU trumps all with its tangible connection to James Naismith and the origin of the game itself.
If you haven’t been to Allen, it’s bucket-list material. If you have, it never gets old.
The rest of my personal top 10 is below, based less on amenities than on the distinctness of the overall experience and just maybe skewed by the perspective of where the media seating is and the fog of some years between stops.
Yes, there is a bias toward old school. And another caveat: I’ve never been to the Carrier Dome at Syracuse or Pauley Pavilion at UCLA or The Pit at New Mexico or the McCarthy Athletic Center at Gonzaga, making them ineligible for my list.
• Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke)
• Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler)
• Gallagher-Iba Arena (Oklahoma State)
• The Palestra (Pennsylvania)
• O’Connell Center (Florida)
• Rupp Arena (Kentucky)
• Williams Arena (Minnesota)
• Assembly Hall (Indiana)
• Breslin Center (Michigan State)
Honorable mention: Hilton Coliseum (Iowa State); Joyce Center (Notre Dame); Madison Square Garden (New York); Memorial Gym (Vanderbilt); Dean E. Smith Center (North Carolina); UD Arena (Dayton).