College basketball means a lot of things. It means exciting games, upsets, and Cinderella stories. It also means crazy fans cheering their teams on.
College basketball fans have silly, irrational relationships with their teams. We’re talking about students who camp outside arenas in tents ahead of a big game, just so they can get a great spot in the student section. We’re talking about people that will take their clothes off, paint their bodies with their team colors and then walk to the game in the middle of the winter. That’s next-level fandom.
Right now, you’re probably thinking back to the days of your youth, and the bizarre things you did to show your love for your team. Well, keep those feelings going with a trip through the 35 top college basketball fan bases.
Take a look and see if your team made the cut. If not, you may need to try harder.
It’s not as easy to be a Duke fan as it might seem on the surface. Sure, they have a great tradition, the greatest college basketball coach in the history of the sport, and are almost always competing for national championships.
With all that comes incredible hate. Tell people you’re a Duke fan and they’ll turn their nose up at you. Duke fans to a good job internalizing all that hate though. Just watch a game at Cameron Indoor sometime. The Cameron Crazies are the most energetic and frenetic bunch of fans in the country.
Kentucky fans, or “Big Blue Nation” as they are known, are some of the most loyal and passionate fan-bases in the country. They live and die with every dribble of a basketball.
In Kentucky, BBN is just a way of life. Wildcats basketball is more important in Kentucky than just about everything other than bourbon. Come game day, you know where you’ll find a Wildcat fan. Either in Lexington at Rupp Arena or glued to a television somewhere.
3. North Carolina
North Carolina fans are everywhere. Well, at least there are people who like to wear North Carolina gear everywhere. The fans in the arena are great, though. They have seen some of the greatest players of all-time play in Carolina Blue so they know what good basketball looks like.
Michael Jordan, James Worthy, and Vince Carter have all played in front of their home crowds in Chapel Hill. It’s been three seasons since the Tar Heels have won a national title, so they’ll be getting anxious for their next one.
It’s obvious why Kansas Jayhawks fans are so obsessed with their team. Kansas has one of the oldest and most storied programs in college basketball. Kansas has an incredible tradition to be proud of and they show it off on the game day.
The “Rock Chalk” cheer is one of the coolest scenes in college basketball. That gets Jayhawk fans going like they were being pumped up by Coach Phog Allen himself. Not that there’s much need for them to get into games, the Jayhawks have won 17 of the last 20 Big XII Championships.
Basketball in the state of Indiana is like a religion. Each new baby born in the Hoosier state has a basketball placed in their arms at birth. Okay, that isn’t true; but we wouldn’t put it past some basketball-crazy parents in that state.
Chief college team in Indiana? The Indiana Hoosiers, of course. While they haven’t been great for a long time, Hoosier fans show up and make Assembly Hall one of the toughest places to play in the country.
Louisville fans can be excused for any behavior that could be considered over the top by the rest of us because they have to contend with Kentucky’s Big Blue Nation daily. Can you imagine being a great college basketball program only to be the second-best program in the state because the other one is Kentucky?
That’s tough, but Louisville fans are as proud of their Cardinals as they can be. While the program is down right now, they’ll be rebuilt in no time. The Yum! Center will be rocking and rolling again soon.
The Syracuse winters are awfully difficult. It’s incredibly cold and they got a ton of snow. So, you might as well go inside the Carrier Dome to watch a Syracuse basketball game. When they get going, they can make the Carrier Dome and an impossible place to play.
Syracuse fans consistently led the nation in attendance since the 1980’s. That’s partly due to the program Coach Jim Boeheim has built, but it doesn’t hurt that the dome has the largest capacity of any arena in college basketball.
8. St. John’s
The Red Storm has more wins than all but 5 programs in college basketball. That’s incredibly impressive for a small private school in NYC. St. John’s plays most of their home games in Carnesecca Arena in Queens, but when they need to play big games they move to Manhattan and Madison Square Gardens.
Red Storm fans follow the team wherever they play. The Johnnies will be looking for new glories under new head coach Mike Anderson. Watch for big things to come for the Red Storm.
9. Michigan State
The IZZONE, named after Spartan’s head coach Tom Izzo, is one of the best student sections in college basketball. They’ve yelled and screamed as their Spartans have consistently challenged for Big Ten and National Championships.
The Spartans have the third-longest active NCAA tournament streak in the country, behind just Kansas and Duke. Interestingly, before they recently replaced it, the floor at the Breslin Center was the same floor they won the 2000 National Championship on. They bought it from the NCAA and moved it into their arena.
The Paint Crew, named after head coach Matt Painter, is one of the most well-organized student sections in the country. Their website includes just about everything an aspiring crew member would need to know, from game day information to how to acquire tickets. We wouldn’t expect anything less from an engineering school.
They always know when to book their vacations too. Avoid a trip in March, because the Boilermakers are almost always in the NCAA Tournament these days.
There’s no football for ‘Zags fans to follow, so all of their attention is focused on their basketball team. That’s probably why they are such rabid fans. Well, that and because Mark Few turned them into the Bulldogs into a basketball powerhouse despite not playing in a major conference.
The Zags have made every NCAA tournament since 1999 and have made the Sweet Sixteen 10 times during that stretch. They’ve also won all but one conference championship during that period. Dominant.
12. Wichita State
It shouldn’t shock you that the Shockers are on this list. Ok, sorry for the pun, but it’s true. Wichita State has had one of the best mid-major programs in the country for about 15 years.
Do yourself a favor and attend a Wichita State game when they host rival Creighton. Talk about an intense rivalry. It will be “Midwestern nice” but the intensity will be high at Charles Koch Arena. The arena that once hosted Elvis Presley shakes, rattles, and rolls when the Shockers are at home.
Wisconsin fans are crazy for their Badgers no matter what sport it is. You’ve seen what a difficult place Camp Randall Stadium is to play football, but the Kohl Center is just as tough to play basketball.
The successes of Badgers basketball can be directly tied to coach Bo Ryan. The man took over in 2000 and is responsible for 3 Big Ten Tournament wins, 4 Big Ten Regular season wins, and 16 of Wisconsin’s 25 trips to the NCAA tournament. Talk about a legacy.
Tennessee may seem like a football school from the outside. But they love their basketball just as much on Rocky Top. Sure, the love of basketball stems mostly from their incredible Lady Vols program, but the men get support too.
From the Ray Mears era to the Bruce Pearl days and now with Rick Barnes, the Volunteers have always had good teams, even if they haven’t matched the heights that the women’s program has. The Rocky Top Rowdies will be court-side supporting their Vols.
“UConn” athletics has been lost since they left the Big East for the ACC in 2-13. Sure, they’ve won a national title while playing in the ACC, but they just don’t seem to fit outside the Big East.
Thankfully for UConn fans, they’ll be returning to the Big East soon. Under Dan Hurley’s leadership, expect the crowds to pick back up as they play traditional rivals such as Georgetown and Villanova.
The Oakland Zoo is one of the best student sections in the country. They number about 1,500 and cheer on their panthers from the front row. The section runs the length of the baselines under the baskets and the sideline across from the team benches. Major props to the university for prioritizing students in that way.
The Zoo is always sold out so good luck getting tickets, even if you’re a student. It’s hard work too. There’s a reputation to uphold. Pittsburgh’s arena has been ranked by Sports Illustrated as one of the most difficult places to play. And that’s mostly thanks to the Zoo.
You know Arizona fans love their Wildcats because they continue to show up despite having the ability to go outside in the winter. While half the retirees from the Midwest head to Tucson to enjoy the sun, Arizona fans are piling into the McKale Center to watch some hoops.
The Zona Zoo is such a well-organized student section that they have specific cheers prepared for any event in the game. For example, at the start of each half, the students stand until the other team scores a point. If an opposing player gets his fourth foul, the Zoo will chant “FOUR!” four times while waving four fingers. There are many more on the list.
VCU is a solid mid-major program. While it’s nearly impossible for them to maintain the success that Shaka Smart them to, it is impressive that they’ve managed to maintain a high level of play since his departure to Texas.
Cheering on the Rams are The Rowdy Rams, VCU’s exuberant and energetic student’s section. The students have a reputation for excellence and were awarded the Naismith Student Section of the Year Award in 2012-13. That translates to success on the court as the Rams have the 11th highest home winning percentage in Division I basketball.
19. Ohio State
There’s no denying the Horseshoe is one of college football’s greatest cathedrals. However, the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State is more of a pro-style arena, which makes for great viewing but a less great environment.
However, the university did recently make the change to move the student’s section down near the court, which has helped the atmosphere immensely. The “Buckeye Nut House” loves their BasketBucks just as much as their football team.
Maryland basketball has lost a bit of their thunder with the move to the Big Ten. But after a few years out of the spotlight, people are beginning to “Fear the Turtle” again.
Who’s at the heart of that? The Pride of course. That’s the Terrapin’s incredible student section who get loud for their team each game. While they might not be able to travel to away games anymore, Maryland fans still support their fans as much as they can.
You may not think of BYU when you think of traditional basketball powerhouse,s but they have won the 12th most games among all Division I programs. They’ve also made 29 NCAA Tournament appearances.
You may not think of incredible fandom when it comes to BYU, since they’re typically a more reserved people, but when BYU hosted Gonzaga this season, some fans waited outside for over 2 days just to claim their spot. It’s cold in Northern Utah in February. That’s dedication.
In their heyday, UCLA used to have one of the greatest fan-bases in the country. With their recent struggles, the fan support has fallen off. Who could blame them, there’s so much to do in Los Angeles; why would you watch a bad basketball team?
But the fans are there. If a coach can jump-start that program and make them competitive again, it would go a long way to getting fans back in the stadium.
Once a great Big East powerhouse, legendary Hoya Patrick Ewing is now trying to restore the program to greatness. And when he does, the fans will be ready for it. Most of them don’t remember the glory days of Georgetown basketball, but they are just waiting for the Hoyas to rise again.
They’ve got a football program at Georgetown, but it’s not FCS, so for most Hoya fans, basketball is it. Trying to find a Hoya in Washington, D.C.? Just start the Hoya Saxa chant and someone in the area will certainly reply.
As if playing Oregon wasn’t intimidating enough, they have one of the most interesting court designs in the country. It’s design features silhouettes of an Oregon forest. It gives the impression of looking up into the trees from below. It’s uniquely Oregon.
The “Tall Firs” have been impressive on that court as well, giving their fans much to cheer about. The Oregon Pit Crew, as they are known, are some of the most rabid fans in all of college basketball.
Memphis was a program rocking and rolling under John Calipari. He and Derrick Rose made them one of the most exciting programs to watch. After a few years in the wilderness, Memphis native Penny Hardaway has the program back on track.
Hardaway is building the program through local recruits and soon the Memphis fans will be back screaming their heads off for their local boys. The Tigers will be back soon, just watch.
Marquette is one of the historically good mid-major programs in the country. They’ve seen greatness in the 1970’s that includes a National Championship in 1977. They’ve also recently seen Dwayne Wade take them all the way to the Final Four.
Not only are Marquette fans crazy for their Golden Eagles, but they are a pretty educated bunch of fans. They know their basketball. Lately, they’ve been rewarded with consistent trips to the NCAA tournament.
27. Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers have got it going on. They have one of the coolest mascots in college sports, and they’ve got a great basketball program. Do you know that the Hilltoppers have the 16th most victories and the 8th highest winning percentage in NCAA history?
Not bad for a small school in the shadow of two massive in-state programs, Louisville and Kentucky. At the moment the program is once again on the rise. Attendance numbers are climbing and Diddle Arena is jumping.
The Finneran Pavilion is home to the Villanova Wildcats but holds just 6,500 people. You may be thinking that they couldn’t possibly generate much of an intimidating atmosphere in such a small space.
Well, you’d be wrong. The Pavilion is famed for its incredible student’s section which can take up nearly half the venue at times. Villanova fans don’t mess around when it comes to their Wildcat basketball. They’re loud, proud and will let you hear it.
The Musketeers are one of the great coaching talent factories in the country. Skip Prosser, Thad Matta, Sean Miller, and Chris Mack have all used Xavier as the platform for launching their coaching career. Xavier basketball has benefitted from all these great coaches too.
The program has been ranked among the top 20 most valuable college basketball programs in the country by Forbes. While they’ve yet to win a national championship, it’s only a matter of time.
“Alright, alright, alright”, is exactly how the Texas Longhorns have played over the last few seasons. However, fans show up anyway to support their Longhorns. One of those fans is looking to improve things.
Longhorn Alum Matthew McConaughey has been named “Minister of Culture” for the Longhorns basketball arena. Keep watching Longhorn basketball to see if the atmospheres improve under McConaughey’s leadership or not. We’re sure there will be plenty of “Hook Em Horns!” passed around either way.
Illinois has college basketball fan culture figured out. They have somehow cultivated one of the most intimidating student sections in the country, and they did the smart thing and put them right on the floor. The Orange Krush is a sight to behold.
They’re doing good work off the court too. The Orange Krush Foundation was established in 1998 and donates half of all money raised to charity. Everything that doesn’t go to ticket costs is given away. That’s fandom done right.
32. NC State
It must be tough for North Carolina State to have to play Duke and North Carolina multiple times, every single year. Not only that, but they have to battle those schools for recruits, and even attention in their own state. Despite this, NC State has a great basketball program of its own.
The Wolfpack has not won a conference title of any kind since the late 1980’s, but it’s not the fault of their tireless fans, who do their best to cheer on the Pack. They’ve even got that little hand gesture that helps Pack fans find each other.
Creighton was one of the great mid-major programs in the country. For years they dominated the Missouri Valley Conference, but in 2013 they made the jump to the Big East. While many of their fans may not travel to see them play along the I-95 corridor, they get a treat when those schools come to Omaha.
Basketball is a big deal at Creighton for two reasons. The first reason is they’re historically pretty good. The other reason is they haven’t had a football team since World War II. So, Creighton fans have to channel all their energy into their basketball program.
34. Notre Dame
You might be surprised to see Notre Dame on this list as they are known as more of a football school. However, if you’ve ever met a Notre Dame student or alum, you will quickly realize their passion for the Irish extends to all things, not just football.
Quietly, Notre Dame has built a very quality basketball program over the last hundred or so years. The program ranks 8th in all-time Division I wins, and 12th in all-time winning percentage.
35. Seton Hall
Seton Hall is New Jersey’s Big East representative, and as such brings a certain New Jersey attitude to their fandom. Yeah, they love Seton Hall basketball and they’ll let you know about it.
It’s tough creating an atmosphere in a giant arena, but Pirates fans do their best to fill in the Prudential Center and make it a difficult place for opposing teams to come to play. The program is once again on the rise under Kevin Willard and has made 4 straight NCAA tournaments.The Top 35 College Basketball Fan Bases