Conference play is finally here. What school has the most decisive home-court advantage in college hoops?
Fred Katz (@FredKatz): On a great night, I think it has to be Syracuse. When the Carrier Dome gets 30,000 people, there just isn’t another place like it. It’s loud, rowdy, disruptive, everything. And when playing in front of that many people, the crowd just consumes you.
Joey Whelan (@JoeyWhelan): Call it my ACC bias (Maryland alum), but having been there to see it in its controlled chaotic state, Cameron Indoor Stadium is a beast unlike any other. What makes it so good is that there’s almost no explanation needed – just the words Cameron Indoor paint a vivid image no other place can match.
Dave Ryan (@DRyanBBall): Based solely on how much better the crowd/environment makes the home team play on the court, I think Michigan State’s Breslin Center is the most decisive in America. Even when Tom Izzo’s team is having a down year, they still play over and above their current level at the Bres. Sorry, Cameron.
Collin Murphy (Caltech guard): Due to the combination of noise, history, and talent, Allen Fieldhouse is the toughest place to get a road win in college basketball. Even when the Jayhawks seem to be low on talent, by their standards, they still are able to hold serve at home.
James Liu (@liuj1128): Cameron Indoor Stadium is the toughest place to play in college basketball. Home of the Duke Blue Devils, the stadium only holds a maximum capacity of 9,314, but The Cameron Crazies create an unbelievable amount of noise. The stands are so close to the court that untested opponents often times get rattled in high-pressure situations.
Small-time gyms can often provide some of the best memories. What is the most underrated venue in the sport?
JW: The Palestra, hands down. It may be revered by college hoops history buffs, but the famed Philadelphia landmark no longer gets the kind of due it deserves. If I had things my way, there would be a major preseason tournament held here every season.
DR: It isn’t exactly small (10K+), but I simply can’t get enough of Utah State’s Spectrum. Aside from the always-lovable Wild Bill, the entire crowd just has an energy every single night that makes the place flat-out intimidating. It’s hardly surprising that the Aggies have won 201 out of 215 home games here under coach Stew Morrill.
CM: I haven’t been to a whole lot of gyms, but I have heard the “New Kennel” at Gonzaga is an amazing atmosphere. It is one of the smaller venues (6,000 people), but the fans are close to the floor, and the team is winning so the place is going absolutely nuts.
JL: I’m probably being biased here being a San Diego State Alumni, but I’m going with the Viejas Arena. Being known as a party school, the Aztecs student section is always intoxicated, and always loud. 12,414 packed the stadium almost every game last season. Although the Viejas Arena isn’t really a small-time gym, it is still relatively unknown and very underrated.
FK: It’s hardly small-time, but still people don’t talk enough about the Marriott Center in Provo. BYU has only lost six home games in the last seven seasons and that place gets as loud as anywhere else.
Imagine yourself as a highly-touted H.S. prospect on signing day. Disregarding all other factors, what coach do you want to play for?
DR: Brad Stevens. The guy is so cerebral, so calculated, that you are forced to assume he’s the smartest guy in the room every time he walks in. And then you realize that he is. He relates to players better than most, and is a master tactician on the sideline, but above all, Stevens feels like a guy you can legitimately trust with your future.
CM: Frank Martin at Kansas State. His intensity is unmatched by any other coach in D-1 basketball. His players play hard, and he’s not afraid to bench stars (Curtis Kelly last year) if they are not giving the effort needed. You know hard work will be rewarded with a coach like that.
JL: John Calipari. If I were a highly-touted H.S. prospect, I would choose to go one and done, and what coach has a better track record with developing diaper dandies than Coach Cal? He’s successfully coached John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Derrick Rose, DeMarcus Cousins (semi-successfully), and Tyreke Evans. The list goes on and on.
FK: If I’m a big, I’d go play for Jim Calhoun. He just churns out successful centers. If I’m a guard, I’m going to Kentucky. Under John Calipari, any guard has the best chance of being a first round pick.
JW: Brad Stevens. He’s already proven his coaching brilliance but is young enough to still be in touch with his players to a greater degree than more seasoned legends. His embracing of advanced statistics also proves he’s willing to adapt to the times and incorporate new ways of looking at the game.
In the exact same situation, what one coach would you absolutely not want to play for?
CM: Jim Boeheim. This is primarily due to his running of the zone. Learning how to run the 2-3 wouldn’t help me become a better defender for the pros (assuming that was my goal). Since almost every team runs man in the pros, this would increase my learning curve.
JL: Ben Howland. Coach Howland has been caught in a downward spiral and is now in the hot seat. He seems to have lost the attention of his players losing Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson early on in the year. The defense that he was once known for has completely dismantled in recent years as well. If I were a top H.S. recruit, I would stay far away from Howland.
FK: Brad Stevens. He’s probably the most likely coach to pick up and leave while I’m still in school.
JW: Don’t get me wrong, Frank Martin is a solid coach, but he looks like the kind of guy who would never be fun to be around. Coaches need to lead, teach and motivate yes – but it doesn’t hurt to loosen up now and then either.
DR: Most of his peers all agree that Frank Martin is a great man. That’s wonderful. But verbally assaulting players during games? I’ll pass on that. Give me a coach who wants me on the floor, not one who will gladly toss me under the bus after one errant shot or turnover.
Give us your prediction, along with the leading scorer, for tonight’s Kansas State/Kansas game.
JL: I’m going with a Kansas win at home. Kansas has been battle tested this season already playing Kentucky, Georgetown, Duke and Ohio State, so playing Kansas State shouldn’t rattle them at all. The leading scorer will be Thomas Robinson. I just can’t ignore the 30 points and 21 rebounds he posted on New Years Eve.
FK: Kansas and Thomas Robinson. The Jayhawks might have that loss to Davidson but they’re still very good and Allen Fieldhouse could’ve easily been my answer to the first question. I don’t ever bet against Kansas at home. And as for Thomas Robinson, he’s been on fire lately. I don’t see that ending.
JW: The Jayhawks will pick up their eleventh win of the season, but with a rugged Kansas State frontcourt beating on Thomas Robinson, I expect Tyshawn Taylor to have a big game against a young Wildcats guard rotation. Look for a big game from the Kansas senior in front of the home crowd.
DR: These are always entertaining games, so hopefully it will come down to the final possession. Like most, I like Kansas on the back of Thomas Robinson, who is my current leader for Player of the Year. Robinson will get K-State’s bigs into early foul trouble and open the lane, which will clear up driving opportunities for Tyshawn Taylor to lead the way in scoring.
CM: K-State needs its defense to force Taylor to make bad decisions pull the upset. Most likely Kansas will be too strong inside and will come out on top 76-68. Thomas Robinson will continue his great season with another double-double and lead all scorers with 24 points.