Posted by sawdog on January 31, 2010
I proposed this question to two friends this past week. The caveat, of course, being that it must be a venue you’ve never seen. Thus, for one friend at least, Rupp Arena was removed for any consideration (which he did say would have been his choice). With this rule established he chose Memorial Gym in Nashville, home of the Vanderbilt Commodores. I can’t blame him. My friend cited the unusual location of the benches, which are behind the baskets, as the primary reason for his choice. Here is a brilliant article outlining the history and aura of Memorial Gymnasium, including quotes from opponents discussing their disdain for the bench setup. Did you know that Vandy has won four straight games in Memorial when facing the #1 team in the nation?
The other friend had a much more difficult time choosing just one, but when pressed he eventually chose Allen Fieldhouse (he too has seen Rupp Arena, but it wasn’t clear where Rupp would rank in the big picture). The home of the Kansas Jayhawks has it all. I’d be a rich man if I took Allen Fieldhouse and gave you the field, then asked the nation this same question with some betting on the side. Odds are Allen Fieldhouse, in my opinion, would win that poll. If college basketball were a family tree there is little debating (in fact, no debating–James Naismith anybody?) the seed from whence it all came to be was planted in Lawrence, Kansas. This article captures the unique experience of gameday in Allen Fieldhouse, a venue that is “part hoops mecca, part Smithsonian.”
Me? I have gone back and forth with this one and I am jumping on the Kansas State bandwagon. I want noise. Lots of it. The more noise, jumping and unusual celebrating the better. Duke cornered the market on the up-and-down jump years ago, but Kansas State fans extend this vertical party beyond the first several rows. When the cameras pan out it’s almost like the entire side of Bramlage Coliseum is swaying back and forth or jumping up and down–whatever moment the current jubilation created. I wrote this when Kansas State beat #1 Texas two weeks ago and the crowd was every bit as exciting during KSU’s overtime loss to Kansas last night. As the sport has popularized universities have increased seating capacity and accommodated the masses, which has largely removed the students from impacting the decibel level of the game. Not so at Bramlage. I feel like I’m watching the entire KSU undergraduate enrollment when I’m watching their home games. There are over a hundred tremendous venues in college basketball, but if I have one more game to see in my lifetime give me a ticket for a big game in “The Octagon of Doom.”
Posted in Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Vanderbilt Commodores | Tagged: Allen Fieldhouse, Bramlage Coliseum, Memorial Gymnasium, Octagon of Doom | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sawdog on January 19, 2010
Watching the Alabama/Tennessee game tonight I am reminded that not all crowds are created the same. I am seeing lots of empties in the lower level, so I hesitate to wonder what the upper level may look like. 49ways is texting me from the Georgia Tech/Clemson game and he reports a similar scene of empty seats with the game already underway. It’s a reminder that we should be thankful for those nights when you finish watching a game and say “damn, does it get any better than that?!” Last night’s high octane Kansas State crowd inspired me to blog about the best crowds I’ve seen so far this year.
Texas @ Kansas State–I think anybody who watched this with me knows exactly what I’m talking about. The only thing missing from the student section were semi-enclosing rails and cell blocks, like the ones used to subdue AC/DC’s fans in the music video for Thunderstruck. Nothing makes people go completely nuts like the chance to knock off number 1, and I had the distinct feeling from the opening tip that this was the night number one was going down. There are games where the fans help you win. And then there are games where the fans won’t let you lose. Last night the latter crowd showed up. The “We Own Tex-as!” chant in unison was the icing on the cake!
North Carolina @ Kentucky–There was an understandably nervous, one-foot-in-the-water, how-good-are-these-freshman UK crowd packed in Rupp against the defending champs for what could have been a season-altering win or a another disappointing loss for a fanbase desperately seeking the national spotlight once again. When John Wall sped up court on a Secretariat-like blitz–and dunked the ball two handed while breaking Larry Drew’s ankles–it was like an entire decade of forgettable tournament basketball was lifted off the foundation of the building. From that point forward Rupp Arena was the venue it has become renowned for, and the crowd carried the home team on a 28-2 knockout run that the visiting Tarheels would never overcome. Nothing spells doom for an opponent like 24,500 rabid fans united by a breathtaking display of athleticism.
Kansas @ Tennessee–You can virtually cut and paste my paragraph from the Kansas State/Texas game in this slot. Again, NOTHING brings out an opposing fanbase like the opportunity to defeat the number one ranked team in the country. Tennessee fans may have been feeling even more optimistic considering Kansas had struggled to beat Cornell in Lawrence just a few days before. The real story to this crowd, however, was the belief that gradually mounted through the course of the game when the fans were attune to the fact that their 6 scholarship players and three walk-ons were battling toe-to-toe with the loaded Jayhawks. Think about that from the Tennessee fan’s perspective. Not only are you amped up b/c #1 is in town, but now it’s late in the second half and you’re in disbelief that some kid named Skylar McBee is hitting HORSE shots as the shotclock nears zero. Bedlam is the word to describe these moments.
Kentucky vs Connecticut–If the other games had the feel of the underdog trying to scream their team to victory, this one was more like the buzz you hear during a meaningful heavyweight title fight. UConn fans consider Madison Square Garden a home away from home. But because UConn and Kentucky NEVER play each other Connecticut fans could not have known that Kentucky fans consider every neutral venue a home away from home! One UConn fan said he could not believe the number of Kentucky fans in New York for this game. With a split crowd the scene was set for one fanbase to upstage the other. UConn got it started with a Let’s Go U-Conn chant, in which Kentucky replied with an emphatic GO BIG BLUE! All of this was during the Georgia/St. John’s contest that was taking place prior to the main event. In typical MSG fashion the game did not disappoint with Kentucky’s star freshman John Wall saving his best for last–an and-1 to seal the victory with seconds remaining. Every year, early in the season, college basketball fans are treated to a game that makes you say “that was an NCAA tournament game.” That was this game.
Posted in Connecticut Huskies, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kentucky Wildcats, North Carolina Tar Heels, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas Longhorns | Tagged: great college basketball crowds, John Wall, Kansas State beats #1, Kentucky vs Connecticut, Tennessee upsets Kansas | 5 Comments »