Student Sections: Who's No. 2?
By Adam Duerson
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While Duke's Cameron Crazies are in no danger of being unseated as the nation's best hoops student section, SIOC has identified a sextet that someday could challenge the Blue Devils' supremacy. And size does not matter: With all due respect to the famously large crowds at Kentucky (Ashley Judd or not) and North Carolina (former Florida State guard Sam Cassell once called the Dean Dome's denizens "a wine-and-cheese crowd"), this list is based solely on undergraduate rabidness.
Allen Fieldhouse boasts one of the greatest home court advantages in the nation, and the students also win points for good behavior -- sort of. Known as some of the classiest kids out there, Jayhawks fans once chided former Oklahoma State center Bryant Reeves, who was scoreless at the time, with chants of "Reeves has ze-ro." But the kids stopped on a dime when ex-coach Roy Williams waved a hushing hand. Whether new boss Bill Self can maintain such control is yet to be seen.
The Izzone (lovingly named after MSU coach-god Tom Izzo) uniquely encompasses half of the Breslin Center's lower bowl, but its members cheer as if they own the whole place. A small criticism: One would think that hours-long cheer "conditioning" practices and individual-game cheer leaders might yield something slightly more clever than, say, "Tar-ver's ug-ly" and "Tar-ver's stu-pid" (favorites for former Minnesota forward Miles Tarver).
The Pit long has been considered among the nation's most hostile environments. New Mexico's Pit, that is. But in 1992 Lobos students were pushed back five rows, and the Ducks' Pit Crew -- positioned an arm's length from McArthur Court -- gained stature. Last year, when the Crew jumped around and the backboards began to bounce in eerie synchronicity, it took coolheaded Oregon coach Ernie Kent to stop the commotion. The refs had already stopped the game.
The combination of a bouncy floor at Maples Pavilion ("providing spring action [that is] ideal for higher jumping," a university release says) and the raucous Sixth Man Club's collegiate revival of Stomp at crucial moments is key. But these smart kids can be too snarky for their own good, as when they dubbed former UConn guard Khalid El-Amin, "Deadbeat Dad." That's cold, man.
UC Santa Barbara
The Gaucho Locos are the only reason this school's otherwise nondescript hoops program regularly finds itself on national TV. ESPN program manager Tom Odjakjian has called the Thunderdome one of "the three best places in the nation in terms of noise and enthusiasm" and has scheduled 32 broadcasts over the years from Santa Barbara.
The Grateful Red -- formerly Mr. Bennett's Neighborhood for ex-coach Dick Bennett -- debuted in tie-dyed masses in 2002 and have gobbled up every available student ticket since. So, really, it's Badgers coach Bo Ryan -- who has yet to lose a Big Ten game at the Kohl Center -- who should be grateful.
Issue date: January 29, 2004