The 7 Best College Basketball Arenas: Most Exciting & Atmospheric Venues

The best College Basketball arenas in America, from the most exciting venues to those with the best atmosphere.

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The best NCAA basketball games tend to happen during March Madness, but what are the Best College Basketball Arenas?

The NCAA tournament is certainly one of the better events in sports each year. But, the one complaint college basketball fans offer is that all the games are played at neutral sites.

This removes the home-court advantage for either side, but also deprives us of the raucous atmosphere and school spirit that make NCAA basketball great.

Luckily, we have the regular season and some conference tournaments to enjoy these one-of-a-kind settings. The best schools pack their arenas with passionate students, dedicated alumni, and anyone with a love for college basketball. Or simply looking to see the next NBA superstar.

These are our Top 7 places to see an NCAA Basketball game. The best college basketball atmospheres don’t go unnoticed!

7. Carrier Dome – Syracuse

Carrier Dome Syracuse
Syracuse Mens Basketball vs Duke by Charles Wainwright SU Athletic Communications

Size matters in college basketball. And in an arena also designed for football, you can pack in quite a few fans.

To be exact, 34,616 fans is the listed capacity of the Orange’s on-campus arena. The considerable capacity allows the Orange to hold several records related to on-campus attendance, including:

  • Highest total home court attendance in a season – 537,949 (1990)
  • Biggest average home court attendance in a season – 29,918 (1989)
  • Highest home court single-game attendance – 35,642 (2019)

Of course, if the team isn’t up to par that just means a lot of empty seats. This can be an issue for the biggest college basketball arenas in the country. Fortunately, Syracuse has created quite a legacy over Jim Boeheim’s 46 years as head coach, qualifying for five Final Fours and winning the national championship in 2003. Carrier Dome is always worth a visit.

The school was the college home of such NBA stars as Carmelo Anthony, Dave Bing, Derrick Coleman. And don’t forget the late Duane ‘Pearl’ Washington.

6. Rupp Arena – Kentucky

Rupp Arena Kentucky

How Many People Can Rupp Arena Hold?

Named after legendary Kentucky head coach Adolph Rupp, Rupp Arena seats over 20,000 fans (and seated more before a 2019 renovation). To be exact, it holds 23,500.

It remains the most recent arena associated with a single college team to host the Final Four (1985). After that year, the event moved to NBA arenas or larger, multi-purpose stadiums.

But Rupp Arena built its reputation on University of Kentucky basketball. The Wildcats reward their fans with perennial deep runs into the late rounds of March Madness.

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Since moving into Rupp Arena, the Cats have four NCAA titles and ten Final Four appearances. A ticket to Rupp Arena is the hottest seat in the Bluegrass State this side of the Kentucky Derby. Future NBA legends such as Anthony Davis, Devin Booker, DeMarcus Cousins, and John Wall calling Rupp Arena called it home during their college years. Rupp Arena has to go down as one of the best College Basketball stadiums around.

5. Allen Fieldhouse – Kansas

Allen Fieldhouse Kansas

Talk about tradition! Allen Fieldhouse has been up and running since 1955, meaning Kansas legends spanning from Wilt Chamberlain to Joel Embiid have called the playing court home.

Speaking of that court, the playing surface itself is named James Naismith Court. All Naismith did was literally invent the game of basketball in 1891 before becoming Kansas’ head coach only seven years later. This makes the Jayhawks America’s longest-running traditional NCAA basketball program.

He coached Forrest ‘Phog’ Allen, for whom the Fieldhouse is named. Allen later coached for 40 years at Kansas himself.

But 125 years after Naismith brought basketball to Lawrence, Kansas, the Jayhawks continue to give fans new reasons to visit Allen Fieldhouse. The defending NCAA champions are regular contenders, qualifying for six Final Fours in the past 20 years under coach Bill Self and routinely placing their top players as early NBA draft picks.

Allen Fieldhouse is one of the most iconic college basketball stadiums, simply due to the history and tradition attached.

4. Hinkle Fieldhouse – Butler

Hinkle Fieldhouse Butler

Home since 1928 to the Butler University basketball team, Hinkle is known to many people as the site where the well-known basketball movie Hoosiers was filmed in 1986.

But before becoming coach and president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens turned the Bulldogs into a national powerhouse. They made consecutive NCAA championship games in 2010 and 2011 and brought Hinkle back into the national conscience.

Hinkle Fieldhouse was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and was the subject of a 2006 documentary on ESPN entitled Indiana’s Basketball Cathedral. It is definitely one of the best CBB arenas in America.

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The arena also hosted the first-ever basketball game between the United States and the USSR. A visit to Hinkle is a must for any fan interested in the history of basketball, particularly in the state of Indiana.

3. Assembly Hall – Indiana

Assembly Hall Indiana

And yet there’s another arena in the state of Indiana that gets higher billing.

1971 was a big year for Indiana University basketball. The Hoosiers didn’t just hire the legendary Bob Knight as coach. They also opened the 17,000-seat Assembly Hall that same year. This means that Indiana’s historic 50-year run in college basketball has all taken place inside the arena Gus Johnson labeled “the Carnegie Hall of college basketball.”

The Hoosiers have five NCAA titles, three coming during Knight’s 29-year tenure as coach. Isiah Thomas is the school’s most famous basketball alum, while Steve Alford, Eric Gordon, and Victor Oladipo are also former Hoosiers.

More recently, Assembly Hall was the site of this famous Christian Watford buzzer-beater to beat No. 1 Kentucky in 2011. An historic moment in NCAA history.

2. The Palestra – Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania

Palestra Philly

The oldest and smallest college basketball arena on this list, the Palestra opened in 1927. With a seating capacity of 8,722 it was, at the time, one of the world’s largest arenas.

Times have changed. But the Palestra remains largely the same – an undeniable part of college basketball lore and as much a part of Philadelphia history as the Liberty Bell. It’s got to go down as one of the best College Basketball arenas.

Dubbed “the cathedral of college basketball” the Palestra has hosted more games, more teams, and more NCAA tournaments than any other arena in college basketball. Philadelphia’s famed “Big 5” – an annual round-robin between La Salle, Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova – was played exclusively at the Palestra for decades. The venue still plays doubleheaders featuring four of the five teams regularly.

Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania calls the 95-year-old arena home, with the Ivy League Tournament joining the list of prestigious events in 2017.

Even Penn State, located almost 200 miles away in the center of Pennsylvania, has moved some home games to the Palestra to give players the one-of-a-kind experience of playing in ‘the Cathedral’.

1. Cameron Indoor Stadium – Duke

Cameron Indoor Duke

If you’ve only seen it on TV, you’d probably be surprised to learn that Cameron Indoor Stadium holds only 9,000 fans. And it largely resembles a classroom building from the outdoors.

Of course, it’s anything but a library, as anyone who’s watched a game featuring the ‘Cameron Crazies’ – Duke’s raucous student section that sits right alongside the court across from the player benches – can attest. It’s one of the loudest college basketball stadiums around.

The proximity of the fans to the court, the clever chants and cheers that emanate from the Crazies, and the tradition of Duke basketball make Cameron a favorite of ESPN College Basketball Gameday and legendary announcer Dick Vitale. All this makes it one of the best atmospheres in College Basketball.

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One little-known fact about Cameron – there are no student tickets to games. Students are merely admitted from a line about 90 minutes before the start of a game. Thus, the ‘Krzyzewskiville” tradition was born – named for recently retired coach Mike Krzyzewski – of students camping overnight or several nights for admission to Duke’s biggest home games.

The tradition started in 1986. Now, it has become such a part of campus lore that Duke planted grass to set up a designated area for campouts and eventually equipped the area with wireless internet service.

Dedication like that is what pushes the Cameron Crazies and their home to the top of our list of best College Basketball arenas. Hopefully, someday college basketball incorporates these incredible environments into March Madness. It will allow on-campus games to make one of sports’ greatest spectacles even better!

2028 Will See Huge Attendances

Yes, that’s right. The rumors have become a reality. Some of the March Madness fixtures in 2028 will be played at the Allegiant Stadium in Vegas! Stay tuned for more news on this one.

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