Table of Contents
BREAKING DOWN THE MADNESS OF FANS
As we head into the most wonderful time of year for college basketball fans, it’s important to take stock of the season that was, but also remember that it was entirely the efforts of the rowdiest students in the game that got the teams here. To the face-painted loonies that camp out for hours or days or weeks to take in 40 minutes of ACC basketball – you are the real MVPs of this 2022-2023 campaign. Your team couldn’t have gotten here without you. I’m not far enough removed to remember how vital the student section can be – win or lose it creates a feverous, chaotic atmosphere that can mess with ANY opponent enough to be a factor.
There’s also some subtlety and surprise to the best student sections in the nation that will have you down a Youtube wormhole in seconds. As an example, did you know the LOUDEST party in college basketball could be in Phoenix, Arizona…and it has nothing to do with Arizona State University? Or that an underground stadium in New Mexico delivers ear-scratching volume that will rival the best crowds in the game? Let’s dive into everything that makes the college hoops student section a different animal:
GOLD STANDARD: THE CAMERON CRAZIES
The topic of student sections in college oops cannot be started or ended without mention of the level of commitment displayed by Duke’s Cameron Crazies year in and year out. I’m no Duke fan so I’ll save you the slobbering, but what can’t be denied is the unmatched level of the “crazy” that runs through these fans. They camp in tents for DAYS if not WEEKS before tickets go on sale to the biggest games of the season, and you never find an empty spot in the student section that looms directly over the court. Whether it’s UNC, a directional school, or a DII punching bag scrimmage game in October, the crazies are always out at Cameron Indoor in full force.
THE ANTICIPATION OF THE IZZONE
The student section at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI for the Michigan State Spartans has maybe the best nickname – “The Izzone” after longtime coach Tom Izzo. Beyond the name itself, the anticipation is what sets The Izzone apart and makes it so loud. MSU students have to wait THREE years before they are a senior and can make it into the lower bowl of the student section that wreaks the most havoc on opponents night in and night out. After three years of anticipation waiting to crash the mosh pit, Seniors take their game nights very seriously as their moment in the teeth of The Izzone is fleeting.
HAVE A LAUGH AT THE SHOW
The fans at San Diego State’s gym really are “the show” as they are affectionately referred to, and it’s mostly a comedy show bordering on a South Park episode. The student section is known for a plethora of signs, masks, distractions, and lewd jokes displayed directly behind the basket, making for some entertaining free-throw shots for opposing players. Grandmas hold signs of Gen Z they have no understanding of, and there are routinely random SDSU faculty members’ faces blown up to extraordinary sizes, and it makes for a night full of laughs in San Diego.
UNDERGROUND ENCHANTMENT IN NEW MEXICO
In the Land of Enchantment, the University of New Mexico has carved out its own home-field advantage – literally. The Lobo’s stadium, affectionately known as “The Pit” was dug into and underground. The cavern-like architecture of The Pit allows for unusually loud acoustics that make it a must-see for college hoops fans. Though UNM hasn’t been a tournament presence with regularity, they’re highly attended, so people + noise underground equals a raucous environment in the desert.
GCU: THE PROJECT X OF STUDENT SECTIONS
I slow-played you and saved the best for last. From the moment I saw Grand Canyon University’s student section of “The Havocs” in Phoenix, Arizona, I was transfixed, obsessed, and crying tears of joy for my love of the vibe. I’ve had a visit to GCU on my bucket list of sports venues for years, and if you’ve seen the pregame experience you have the same chills on your arms as I do. In terms of noise made per person in an enclosed space, no school’s volume meter is higher. The hype-up is real for GCU fans and the amplifying lights show to conclude warmups can only be described as a Vegas nightclub at 1 am mixed with a college frat party. While their play on the court is something to be desired, there’s no denying that this is the student section vibe of the present and future.
Honorable Mentions: Rock Chalk Jayhawk at Kansas, The Orange at Syracuse, and the Gonzaga fans that wake up for 6 am PT college gameday shows.