For many on-campus students, attending campus sporting events is an integral part of the college experience. At many schools, the basketball team provides the best opportunity for students to blow off steam and grow closer to their classmates. These fans tend to be more creative and rowdy than those at professional games, and student sections are filled with energy and excitement.
Students attending the schools on this list may attend games dressed in costumes, carry giant pictures of celebrities, or cover their bodies in paint. At some schools, students camp out overnight just to be the first in line for great seats. Some teams can draw football-sized crowds, and even the smaller arenas get noisy. All of this excitement comes together to give students and local fans a great experience during gameday.
Which Colleges Have The Best Basketball Crowds?
University of Kentucky
Many people refer to Wildcat fans as the "Big Blue Nation," and for good reason: the NCAA reports that the average Kentucky basketball game attracts nearly 22,000 people. As one of the states without a professional sports team, Kentuckians rally around Wildcat basketball. These enormous crowds give the University of Kentucky one of the biggest crowds in college basketball -- a feat that would be more than enough to rank high on this list -- but Kentucky wins the top spot thanks to more than just attendance figures.
Students occupy about 5,000 seats within Rupp Arena, but they generate plenty of noise. Non-student fans and alumni who want to add to this frenzy can buy tickets within "The eRUPPtion Zone." Attendees fill the area with painted faces and funny posters, and make games difficult for opposing teams. Wildcat supporters also frequently travel to see their team play; sports commentators often remark at how many from the Big Blue Nation attend away games.
University of Kansas
With an average of 16,344 attendees per game, Kansas hosts fewer fans than others on this list. However, their passion and excitement are unmatched. Jayhawk students make it particularly hard for anyone to beat the team at home, as the Phog Allen Fieldhouse is statistically one of the hardest places for a visiting team to earn a win.
This home-court advantage is due -- in part -- to the stadium being the loudest in the country. During one particularly tense game, the decibel level in the fieldhouse reached a record 130.4, which is equivalent to a jet launching off an aircraft carrier. Jayhawk fans also have some of the most loyal traditions. For example, students often camp outside the stadium before games to secure great seats. With fans like these, it's no wonder that Kansas hasn't had a losing season since 1984, and currently holds the record for consecutive winning seasons.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
|Chapel Hill, NC||
With more than 2,000 wins, even the most casual college basketball fans recognize the success of the UNC Tar Heels. The school holds the record for most Final Four appearances (19), while some of the best basketball players in history have donned the Carolina Blue, like Michael Jordan, Bob McAdoo, and James Worthy.
Die-hard supporters fill the Dean Smith Center, which students and fans affectionately call the "Dean Dome." The Center first opened in 1986 which saw the Tar Heels beat their basketball rivals, Duke University. Today, UNC basketball draws an average of 18,378 fans per game, according to the NCAA. Most of these fans are alumni and fans from the local area, which gives the Dean Dome a calmer atmosphere than many others on this list. However, the crowd often rushes the court after a hard-fought win.
Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium is a notoriously difficult venue for opposing teams. With a stadium that holds only 9,314 fans, Duke does not break any attendance records. However, these smaller crowds can produce noise that reaches 121 decibels in the stadium. The loud and dedicated fans have also helped the team earn several records for comeback wins.
While calmer fans sit toward the back of the stadium, the "Cameron Crazies" -- or "smurfs" -- come ready to cheer. Supporters often paint their bodies blue. Students camp out the night before home games, study each player on the opposing teams, and voice unique taunts. The fans are relentless and clever with their chants, and help make Duke one of the hardest places for visiting teams to win.
The Carrier Dome at Syracuse hosts both football and basketball games, and the latter draws an average 21,462 fans per game, the second-highest attendance figure in the NCAA. Fans come clad in orange and ready to cheer, regardless of the team's record. During seasons in which Syracuse does particularly well, the Dome sees crowds of up to 35,000.
In addition to these numbers, Syracuse fans are known for their traditions, the most well-known of which is the "stand-and-clap." At the start of each half, Orange fans clap rhythmically until Syracuse makes a basket. The school also has a Taco Time tradition, in which Taco Bell gives all attendees free tacos if the team scores over 70 points.
The love of basketball runs deep in Indiana. Dubbed "Hoosier Hysteria," Indiana residents show their love for basketball games at every level, even high school. But nowhere is the hysteria more prevalent than on the IU Bloomington campus. Hoosiers swarm to Assembly Hall to cheer the men's and women's teams. Hoosier fans are always enthusiastic, even when the team is in the midst of a losing streak.
One of the best things about Hoosier basketball is that the stadium reserves 7,800 student seats. With an average of 15,590 total attendees per game, around half of the fans in the stadium are current students, making it one of the loudest places to play.
Butler University, located in Indianapolis, IN, participates in the state's "Hoosier Hysteria." The team lays claim to one of basketball's most venerated sites: the Hinkle Fieldhouse. Not only is it where the Butler Bulldogs play their home games, it was also the site of the basketball movie "Hoosiers." Dubbed "Indiana's Basketball Cathedral," the Fieldhouse is a dramatic backdrop for the team's raucous fans.
Hinkle Fieldhouse seats only 9,100 people, but home games are packed with an average attendance of 8,554. That's more than the university's total student body of approximately 5,000. Though the school is relatively small, students make their mark with renditions of the Butler War Song. They also demonstrate plenty of enthusiasm: students get seats near the court and lead chants. The university's mascot, a real-life bulldog, makes his way around the stadium to get fans on their feet.
Michigan State University
|East Lansing, MI||
Fans call the student section of Michigan's stadium the "Izzone," nicknamed after the school's famous coach Tom Izzo. This 4,000-seat area is the center of basketball in East Lansing, Michigan. Students find creative ways to cheer on their beloved Spartans and taunt opposing teams. For example, they bring copies of the school newspaper and open pages at strategic times.
They also wear white, remain vocal throughout games, and wrap their arms around one another and sway as they chant, sing, and cheer. The end result: a student section that makes the game even more fun to attend.
Iowa State University
The Iowa State Cyclones play in the Hilton Coliseum in front of a loyal and excited crowd. Although the Cyclones do not have the same history of success as other schools on this list, the fans stay loyal. The Hilton Coliseum hosts an average of 14,121 fans per game, including 2,500 students. The layout of the arena puts students on both baselines, so opposing teams cannot escape the taunts and cheers. Dubbed the "Hilton Magic," it seems to work.
In fact, the Cyclones have won approximately 80% of their home games since the opening of the Hilton Coliseum. Students camp out to get good seats, and set up tents in the cold winter of Iowa, no matter how much snow falls. During games, students perform clever stunts like the collective "flop", created specifically to taunt an opposing player.
While Villanova is an excellent academic institution, it's arguably most well-known for its basketball program. The small university, just outside of Philadelphia, burst onto the national stage in 1985 when the team won the national championship. Since then, Villanova has won two more national championships. It's no wonder the school's supporters are some of the most enthusiastic in the nation. The school fully supports the students' enthusiasm, too, even cancelling classes to give them the chance to celebrate after the team's national championship in 2018.
The Villanova Wildcats play in a small stadium called The Pavilion. This intimate arena seats just 6,500 during basketball games, but that only adds to the energy in the room. The Pavilion even buzzes when the team is not there. Although the 2016 championship game took place in Texas, Philadelphia students filled The Pavilion to cheer on their team together.
University of Arizona
The Arizona Wildcats have a rich basketball legacy. The McKale Center, the team's home court, boasts the largest crowd in the Pac-12 with a particularly boisterous student section. Meanwhile, Arizona has sent several great players to the NBA, such as Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, and Steve Kerr.
On an average game day, 14,434 fans pack the McKale Center. While most of these fans show up ready to cheer, the student section sets this university apart. The "ZonaZoo" started as a T-shirt idea in 2002. Since then, it has become one of the most active and well-attended student sections in college basketball. Students dress in costumes, carry signs, and paint their bodies. Wildcat fans are deeply loyal to their team, as well, despite not having won a championship in more than 20 years.
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Dubbed "The Grateful Red," the students at Wisconsin basketball games make life difficult for opposing teams. They fill only 2,100 of the more than 17,000 seats, but they are some of the most vocal fans in the NCAA. They also let loose with their choice of outfits: students are clad in tye dye T-shirts and wild costumes, including one fan who dressed as a polar bear. Even their own fans don't escape the taunts. If students decide other sections aren't showing enough support, they will chant, "Old people, stand up!"
Wisconsin basketball fans are some of the most loyal in the country. They routinely draw the fourth-largest crowds in the NCAA, and are famous for traveling to support their team. In fact, when the Big Ten Tournament took place in New York in the midst of terrible weather, Badger fans showed up in force. They packed a bar for a pep rally alongside the band, team mascot, and cheerleaders.
University of Pittsburgh
Pitt is notoriously difficult to beat at home. The 1,500-person student section, which fans call "The Oakland Zoo," makes it nearly impossible for opposing teams to concentrate. The Zoo is filled with fans donned in yellow, and it is spread across the lowest sections of three sides of the court. The crowd has even become the sixth player on the Pittsburgh team; the school included the official Oakland Zoo logo on the players' jerseys in 2011.
The student section at Pitt is well-known for their rowdy antics and creative taunts. Attendees regularly wear animal masks and costumes, and fans check the Oakland Zoo Twitter account and website, where instructions for cheers are posted prior to each game. It takes some coordination, but Pitt fans create some elaborate hijinks for each contest. For example, students wore matching yellow shirts and bathrobes to a 2013 game against Syracuse following allegations that the starting guard tried to steal a robe.
Virginia Commonwealth University
The VCU Rams play in the small-but-intimidating Siegel Center. Although the venue holds only 8,000, the noise levels rival much larger stadiums. In fact, the intimacy of the Siegel Center adds to this energy, and the student section, the "Rowdy Rams," does its part to raise the volume in the venue. However, it is VCU's band that makes this university stand out. With rousing songs and perfect timing, the band is like the sixth player on VCU's team.
While some crowds hold up cut-outs of random celebrity faces, these students prefer to wave cardboard faces of their own basketball players. Enthusiasts also wear all black for certain games, which can make the space even more intimidating than usual. Many fans know VCU as a March Madness bracket-buster, especially after their run to the Final Four in 2011. This small school regularly competes with larger, more historic programs, which makes each game exciting and keeps fans returning to the Siegel Center.
University of Dayton
Fans call the student section in the UD Arena the "Red Scare," and the students deliver on that promise for every home game. Not only are they noisy, but they coined the term "LOWD," which is a combination of "rowdy" and "loud." Fans come from the surrounding communities to cheer on the Flyers, and regardless of the opponent, the UD Arena almost always sells out. With 19 consecutive winning seasons and counting, the boisterous and loyal crowd does its part to help the team succeed.
The venue itself plays a significant role in the success of the Flyers. Built in 1969, the arena has hosted more NCAA tournament games than any other in the country. Despite recent success, however, the university has no plans to move to a newer facility. Instead, they plan to renovate the space.
University of Maryland
|College Park, MD||
The phrase "Fear the Turtle" may be silly to casual observers, but college basketball fans know that facing off against the Maryland Terrapins can be downright intimidating. Not only does the team consistently perform well, but the crowd is a force to reckon with. Even fans from other schools recognize that Maryland's student section is one of the best in the Big Ten conference. The Xfinity Center reserves student seating for the first ten rows all the way around the court and up one side.
An especially dedicated group of student fans, the Turgeonites, dress up as the team's coach and fire up the crowd. The team's eccentric mascot, Testudo, leads fans in creative stunts. Sometimes they create flash mobs, while other times the crowd forms a new twist on "the wave" as they seamlessly change from black to yellow shirts.
University of Pennsylvania
As a member of a small conference -- and an Ivy League school -- Penn may not be on most college basketball fans' radar. However, Penn fans are some of the most dedicated in the country.
Penn opened The Palestra in 1927 and, at the time, the 10,000-person stadium was one of the largest of its kind. The unique design allows fans to sit closer to the action than at any other college basketball game. The campus also frequently hosts the Ivy League tournament, which becomes a break for students and a chance to let loose. Although Penn shares the beloved arena with other nearby schools, Penn fans leave their mark.
San Diego State University
|San Diego, CA||
SDSU's basketball team may not have national recognition or even consistent winning streaks, but their fans remain fiercely dedicated. The Viejas Arena is also home to some of the weirdest traditions in college sports. Perhaps the best-known and wildest fan activity is the start of the big-heads trend. Students in the SDSU crowd enlarge pictures of famous faces and glue them to cardboard. When the opposing team shoots free throws, they wave the faces in an effort to distract the players. While this trend took off nationally, it all started with the Aztec fans.
Enthusiasts also approach each SDSU game as a costume party and dress in the most distracting outfits possible. When the school plays rival teams, the crowd may also decide to "Blackout," with everyone in the arena donning black to intimidate the opposition.
University of Notre Dame
|Notre Dame, IN||
While most people know this private Catholic school for its football team, the school's basketball team creates a similar fervor on campus. For about 50 years, Fighting Irish fans have poured into the Purcell Pavilion clad in green, ready to support their team. Students bring their trademark energy to basketball games, while the Pavilion itself carries a grandeur and history that fuels excitement.
Unlike many universities, the women's basketball team draws large crowds on this campus. In fact, in 2018 the women's team beat the perennially successful University of Connecticut on its way to winning the national championship. Notre Dame boasts some of the loudest and most loyal fans, and its Catholic heritage means fans of the school can be found across the country.
University of New Mexico
The Pit, where the UNM Lobos play their home games, is one of the most notorious venues in sports. The site gets its name from its unique architecture: while it looks like a one-story building on the outside, the court itself is several stories below ground level.
The crowd brings the novel stadium to life with their famous loud and rowdy cheers. With an average of 10,883 fans per game, supporters create a rousing environment by using call-and-response cheers. Additionally, prior to each game, fans distribute a "howl sheet" that describes which opposing player will draw their chants. They also show feign disinterest of the opponent by reading the school's newspaper as the announcers bring out the team. All together, Lobos fans create an exciting environment for any basketball enthusiast.
University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas competes in the SEC, where football is the biggest draw. However, Razorback fans demonstrate just as much intensity for their basketball team. Like the hog that the mascot represents, the fans are wild and fearless. In recent years, the team has added more student seating to accommodate growing interest from the student body. The university also dropped the prices of other tickets, allowing more fans to experience the game in person. The gamble paid off and games now average 16,181 fans. This attendance figure places Arkansas firmly in the top ten in college basketball.
The Razorbacks perform unique chants during basketball games. The Hog Call includes hand signals that may seem silly at first, but which make a significant impact during games.
Utah State University
Although the Utah State Aggies may not have the name recognition of other schools on this list, the student section is one of most raucous and clever in the country. The HURD, which is the student spirit organization and the nickname for the student section, goes above and beyond to distract the opposing team. Students dress in outrageous costumes and wave funny signs behind the baskets.
Members of The HURD are loud and enthusiastic, and the school intensifies this energy with unusually close student seating and percentages. The Aggies also have an especially daunting and pointed chant. When the team is ahead in points, the crowd points to the opposing team and yells "losing team." They then point to their own players and shout "winning team." The fans repeat this cycle several times to get into the visiting players' heads. The student section chant "I believe that we will win" has also gained notoriety in recent years.
Oklahoma State University
Although many people know the university for their football team, OSU has deep roots in basketball. The school was the first to earn back-to-back NCAA championship titles, and today's fans enthusiastically cheer on their Cowboys. The crowd uses many of the same chants and songs found at their football games, and spectators participate in the wave and other fight songs.
One campus legend alleges that fans in the OSU Gallagher-IBA Arena once got so loud that several light bulbs broke in the middle of a game. Supporters in this legendary arena are not afraid to make noise and have fun doing it. This behavior and the size of the stadium earned it the nickname "Madison Square Garden of the Plains."
Ohio State University
The Value City Arena at Ohio State is one of the toughest arenas for visiting teams, thanks to the student section. Dubbed "The Nuthouse," this part of the stadium keeps things lively on the home court. Students sit behind the bench and taunt the opposing players. They often wave signs depicting their coach's face, demonstrating that basketball fans are as dedicated as the football lovers at this school.
The Buckeyes routinely host 13,495 fans who make plenty of noise. Just like in the football stadium, fans often chant "O-H!" while the other half finishes with "I-O!"While the cheer is simple, the sheer number of people who participate make it forceful. Groups of four also use their arms to spell out the state's name for emphasis. The fans are so involved in the game that the school let them assist in designing the new court.
University of Florida
Appropriately named "The Rowdy Reptiles," the Gators' basketball student section show up ready to support their team. In one game, students went so far as to perform a lengthy and complicated dance for halftime. Gator fans have had plenty to cheer about, with the team winning two national championships in 2006 and 2007, and now making regular appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Many of Florida's basketball traditions may be familiar to the school's football fans. Supporters throughout the stadium do the famous Gator Chomp. While this tradition started as a football chant while the band played the theme song "Jaws," it is a staple at basketball games as well. Fans also sing many of the school's tunes, including the fight song, the alma mater, and Orange and Blue. Students do their homework on the opposing players ahead of each game and devise clever chants to target each one.
Our rankings are based on several factors. First, we considered how many fans show up to games during winning and losing seasons. While many schools pack their stadiums when they are winning, only the best basketball schools pack the house regardless of their team's win-loss record. We also noted the loudest stadiums in the country, where fans support their players with creative slogans. Finally, we considered those schools with the most fun traditions -- from waving wheat in the air to camping out for tickets.