The 10 Best Student Sections in College Basketball
November 7, 2019
Few things match the tradition and passion of college basketball. A lot of that has to do with the fans, who bring incredible energy to home games.
And who brings the most energy? The students, of course. These kids put almost as much heart and soul into cheering for the team as the players leave out on the court. And they do it with a level of creativity and style you just don’t see on the pro level.
So, with a new season upon us, let’s take a look at the best student sections in the nation.
10) Villanova Wildcats
You know I had to put Philly on this list, and ‘Nova’s fans know how to represent the city.
The student section is what makes the otherwise modest Finneran Pavilion such a formidable place to play. While the cozy on-campus fieldhouse seats only 6,500, a third of those seats are reserved for students. While the overall size of the Pavilion is smaller than many of the other home courts on this list, it is no less loud. That’s what makes it one of the best college basketball arenas in the country.
9) Gonzaga Bulldogs
Now entering its 35th season, The Kennel Club is a 2,500-student strong cheering section that makes Spokane one of the toughest places for the opposition to visit. Being one of these die-hards certainly has its perks. For a nominal fee, members receive local discounts, special promotional items, drawstring bags and shirts to wear throughout the season.
Some may call it swag, but the truth is, this isn’t Stuff We All Get. It’s reserved for those who want to wear their fandom on their sleeve, or more accurately, chest. You get the shirt, you’re one of them. That might just make you want to shred your vocal cords for the good of the team.
The traditions go beyond being loud in the stands. Club members give back through Kennel Cares, which uses sports initiatives to empower the community.
8) Syracuse Orange
The Carrier Dome is where Otto’s Army calls home. For the uninitiated, Otto is the name of Syracuse’s orange mascot, and his army is a cohort of SU students.
Besides having one of the best fan section names, SU’s crew is special for a few reasons. First and foremost, fans turn out in droves. Of the five highest-attended single games of the 2018 season, Syracuse had four of them. Of course, it helps that the Carrier Dome is the largest college basketball arena. But any school with the Orange’s basketball tradition can put fans in the stands. Fewer can rely on those fans to generate the same energy.
That’s because Otto’s Army delights in heckling the opposition. When the away team announces their starting lineup, students chant “Who’s he?”; “So what?!”; “Who cares?!”; “Big deal!”; and “Go home!” Then they stand and clap until the Orange scores the first basket of each half.
With a full arsenal of chants at their disposal, Otto’s Army is a well-conditioned battalion of boisterous undergrads. Oh yeah, and their shirts are fire, too:
7) Iowa State Cyclones
They camp outside before games in Iowan winters. Need I say more?
Okay, then. Consider a little thing called “Hilton Magic.” Through the 2018-2019 season, the men’s basketball team boasts an impressive 556-184 all-time record at Hilton Coliseum, their home court. That includes massive feats like a 21-point comeback against Oklahoma in 2015, as well as a number of upsets against ranked opponents.
What gives the Cyclones such a great home court advantage? Cyclone Alley, of course. A sea of students bedecked in cardinal and gold echo the “Cyclone Power” chant off the arena’s steel doors and concrete walls ahead of tip-off. The noise only continues from there. Whether it’s an up or down year, you can expect these kids to be LOUD.
6) Kansas Jayhawks
Almost 25% of the seats in Allen Fieldhouse are reserved for KU’s students, which makes for an electric atmosphere.
But the student section is most closely associated with Rock Chalk Jayhawk, which isn’t so much a chant as it is a basketball prayer. After singing the alma mater, students intone the words “rock, chalk, jayhawk, KU” in a way that can send shivers down the spine of any basketball fan.
And hurt some ears, too. Allen Fieldhouse is known as one of the loudest college basketball arenas– it even holds a Guinness World Record.
5) Wisconsin Badgers
Formerly known as Grateful Red, the Kohl Center’s student section holds 2,100 students. That may not be the biggest student in the Big Ten Conference (hey there, Indiana), but it is one of the most unique. That’s partially due to the layout of students-only seating, which runs from the court to the roof over three decks.
That’s intimidating enough. Throw in red-and-black tie-dye shirts and a penchant for chanting “old people, stand up!” and you have a cheering section that can power the Badgers on any given night.
4) Pittsburgh Panthers
The University of Pittsburgh doesn’t always have a stellar team, but the Panthers are always well-supported. That’s thanks in no small part to its student section called the Oakland Zoo, where 1,500 raucous student fans pack in to intimidate opponents.
This crowd knows how to get loud, and consistently ranks as one of the noisiest in all of college basketball. You’ll see many of the same chants and traditions here shared by other schools, but few deliver it with as much passion. The recent jersey redesign has brought about a new colorway for the Oakland Zoo, which means new shirts:
Make no mistake, the T-shirt is a crucial part of this student section’s identity. Just as the team wears a uniform to help them stick together and take pride in one another, so too does the Oakland Zoo. And when everyone wears them together, the results make for an ominous look.
A regulation basketball court is 94 feet by 50 feet. But against that sea of gold, it looks 12-by-6. The fans look like they’re within reaching distance of the court, which is sure to throw the away team for a loop. Talk about a home court advantage!
3) Duke Blue Devils
It’s not the biggest student section, but the 1,200 strong Cameron Crazies might be the most famous. Their coordinated clapping, chanting, and jumping makes for great television, which is sometimes enough to get Duke’s games on television, even against the weakest opponents.
Taking up a whole sideline, this student section feels like it’s right on top of the action. Fans will impose themselves on the opposition during inbounds, reaching out to the player like a zombie horde.
And before you claim some sort of Duke bias, note that yours truly is an avowed North Carolina Tar Heels fan. The Cameron Crazies always bring it (which makes every Blue Devil defeat just that bit sweeter for the rest of us).
2) San Diego State Aztecs
They don’t call it ‘The Show’ for nothing. The Aztecs’ student section is one of the most creative fan groups around. They’re credited with being the first ones to use giant cutouts of celebrities’ heads as a distraction tactic during free throws. It’s a national phenomenon in sports arenas now, but it originates with this group’s anything-goes attitude toward fandom.
One of the rules among participants of the show is as follows: “Thou shalt wear two types of attire to games, red and black, or whatever the heck you want.” It’s this free-spirited approach to team spirit that has encouraged fans to show up wearing all manner of wacky and wonderful costumes, and generated some excellent t-shirt designs.
The Show is all about subverting the conventions of college basketball fandom. They recognize there are so many ways to enjoy the game, and they’re all legitimate. It’s the idea of “we can all be different, together” that makes their shirts so cool, and makes their presence such a breath of fresh air.
1) Michigan State Spartans
Named after longtime coach Tom Izzo, The Izzone is perhaps the most fearsome student sections in all of college sports. It has roots in a fan group called the Spartan Spirits, which was identifiable through its themed T-shirts for each season.
Now it’s much more than a T-shirt. It’s a white out of the Breslin’s lower bowl. It’s ignoring the opposing team introductions with newspapers, then yelling each MSU player’s name when they’re announced. It’s popping brown paper bags upon the Spartans’ first basket.
It’s also the Izzone Campout– a massive, all-night outdoor event in October that enters students into the lottery for lower-bowl (read: white out section) tickets.
The Izzone is bigger than just the kids in the stands. For many of them, it’s a way of life.
Now, of course college fans are bound to disagree. It’s in their DNA. So tell me– who did I leave out unjustly? Which team’s fans are rowdier than all the rest? And how does your crew like to show its true colors?
About the Author
Kyle Greco is the resident writer at RushOrderTees, where he blends word nerdery with his love for T-shirts. A graduate of The College of New Jersey, he is interested in exploring the intersection of clothing and culture. In his spare time, he makes music, builds guitars, and cooks with his wife. He enjoys hot dogs, sports, and collecting too many hats.