Duke, Kansas among toughest college basketball venues to play

Familiar arenas and friendly fans can be significant factors in college basketball. We’ve all seen the power of home-court advantage turn potential blowouts into upsets or propel squads to victory in the waning seconds of close games.

For some teams, it manifests in loud and passionate student sections that energize them and intimidate their foes. For others, the mere reputation of the venue itself can be daunting to visiting teams. Regardless, home-court advantage is real and powerful.

Here are some of the most intimidating venues in college basketball:

The Jayhawks have gone 841-117 in their historic household since 1955. Hearing the “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU” chant from students, fans and alumni lets opponents know it’s about to be a long night in Lawrence.

Allen Fieldhouse, which seats 16,300 fans, once held a Guinness World Record for the loudest crowd roar at an indoor sports event when the Jayhawks faced the West Virginia Mountaineers in a conference rivalry matchup in 2017. Before tipoff, the noise from the crowd peaked at 130.4 decibels, which helped lift the Jayhawks to an 84-80 overtime win.

Coach John Calipari has a way of bringing the nation’s best players to Lexington, with top recruits D.J. Wagner, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw and Rob Dillingham joining the program this year. However, that isn’t all visiting teams will face.

An average of 19,873 loyal fans per game came to cheer on the Wildcats during the 2022-23 campaign. Since opening in the 1976-77 season, Big Blue Nation has a 647-81 record in the legendary hoops site.

Within the 6,000-seat arena situated in Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga’s student section calls itself the Kennel Club. The Kennel Club enjoys one of the most exciting pregame traditions in college basketball when its theme song — “The Hum/Zombie Nation” — plays on the public address system.

This is pretty self-explanatory — it’s Duke. Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, is one of the top basketball landmarks for chaos, distraction and shattering hoop dreams for those who’ve desired to go against the Blue Devils.

For the Cameron Crazies — the nickname for Duke’s student section — their staple of preparing to rouse the house is their “Countdown to Craziness,” in which they get pumped up to Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch” before tipoff.

The Grand Canyon student sections at the Phoenix facility are on a different level of intimidation. This helped earn their nickname as the “GCU Havocs.”

The GCU Havocs have two pregame rituals:

The Purge

If you haven’t seen the movie series, “The Purge” starts with a siren that signals the beginning of a night when all crime is legal. The Havocs’ Purge siren is followed by a massive roar from the crowd that might make opponents’ hearts race.

The Point

As the visiting team huddles before the opening tip, 7,000 fingers from around the arena point at the team bench and follow the starting five as they take the floor.

The Lopes players embrace their home fans’ spirit and transfer their energy to their playing style. For GCU guard Tyon Grant-Foster, who hasn’t played a game of basketball in two years until Wednesday due to a heart issue, the GCU Havoc environment has guided him to two career nights in the new Lopes threads.

Although this arena in Grambling, Louisiana, only seats 7,600, the section directly behind the visiting team bench makes it rough. As players get a break from the game, the Tigers student section has heated conversations with the visitors in an attempt to get in their heads and throw off their game.

Along with the students comes their “World Famed Tiger Marching Band,” which sits perpendicular to the visitors, striking up their rendition of Cameo’s “Talkin’ out the Side of your Neck” and leaving the opponents’ ears ringing.

The same uproar helped the Tigers to upset the Colorado Buffaloes last season.

The Dunn-Oliver Acadome in Montgomery is shaped like a bowl and seats fans directly over the teams. The student/alum section that taunted then-Jackson State Tigers coach Deion Sanders during football season brings the same energy to the Acadome during basketball season — but home fans make it more personal.

The students dive deep into their research — a specific player’s parents’ names, what they ate for dinner the night before, where they’re from — and will hold it over their head the entire game, literally. On top of that, their “Mighty Marching Hornets” pep band will have opponents covering their ears from the loud flams of their bass drums.

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