Five tough venues

February 11, 2005|By Paul McMullen

Noise and insults out of the stands rise in direct proportion to the quality of the home team. Dynasties feed fan frenzy, and it's no coincidence that some of the nation's most successful programs also have the most rabid supporters.

Kentucky's Rupp Arena seats 23,000 and gets as loud as an airport runway, but it's too impersonal for effective taunting. Wisconsin rarely loses at the Kohl Center, but Badgers basketball fans are demure compared with the football version.

It was impossible to win at St. Bonaventure in the 1950s, but now there's little reason to back the Bonnies. Connecticut's Gampel Pavilion is harsh, but the Huskies take their big games to Hartford. At Maryland, the foul language at Comcast Center hasn't been as draining on visitors as the heat generated at steamy Cole Field House. Others are in the running, but here are five places where you definitely don't want to be the visiting team.

Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas: It turns 50 next month - Wilt Chamberlain played there - students occupy nearly half the house and visitors have no idea what to make of the "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" chant. After complaints of complacency, Kansas has kept up with the Joneses, as coach Bill Self lectured fans recently about their language.

Breslin Center, Michigan State: When the arena opened in 1989, Jud Heathcote showed architects and coaches the way by keeping students close to the floor. With the "Izzone" taking up two-thirds of the lower bowl, the Spartans set a Big Ten record with 53 straight wins from 1998 to 2002.

Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke: It's not what the Cameron Crazies say and do, it's how close they are when they say and do it. After playing in spacious, relatively new palaces, Atlantic Coast Conference teams go to Durham, are confined amid 9,314 seats and suffer from claustrophobia.

Maples Pavilion, Stanford: Arizona and Oregon are no picnics, but in the Pacific-10, Maples has become Cameron West. When the Cal cheerleaders took the floor four years ago, "The Sixth Man Club" sang "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

The Palestra, Penn: The game's greatest neutral court transforms into hell for Ivy League and Philadelphia Big Five foes facing the Quakers. The Cameron Crazies wish they were as inventive as the Penn kids. Signage at Tuesday's signature Ivy rivalry included this high-brow subtlety: "Princeton Eats Babies."

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