As the 2016-17 basketball season approaches, Land of 10 spoke to players at Big Ten media day on Oct. 13 and asked for their thoughts on the forthcoming campaign. The players were granted anonymity and had only one rule: they could not vote for their team nor anyone on it.
The Big Ten is home to some of the loudest arenas in college basketball. The conference led the NCAA in average attendance last season, but that’s an annual tradition.
Maryland’s return to national prominence helped the Terps boast the largest increase in average attendance as well. Coaches from around the league always stress how tough it is to win on the road in the Big Ten in part because of the hostile environments that await through the conference.
We asked players from around the league which arena was the best in the Big Ten? Six different venues earned at least one vote, which shouldn’t be surprising considering all of the great places to see a game.
WHICH IS THE BEST ARENA?
Breslin Center, Michigan State (6 votes)
The Breslin Center was a decisive victor as the only arena to claim more than two votes. It’s not the biggest venue in the league, or the newest or the one with the most history.
It houses the best student section in the conference, and one of the best in the nation. The Izzone makes games at Michigan State one of the top spectacles in college basketball.
“Those fans are just crazy,” one opposing player said.
“It’s a great arena. Love playing there,” said another.
Michigan State has been a dominant program with Tom Izzo in charge, reaching the Final Four seven times and winning the national title in 2000. Izzo has 524 wins, and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year.
The program reached great heights before Izzo took control, but never this consistently. And the Izzone has become synonymous with the Spartans’ success.
Assembly Hall, Indiana (2)
Before the Izzone became a national staple of college basketball, Assembly Hall was the crown jewel of the Big Ten. For some fans and players, it still is.
When the Hoosiers are rolling, it is one of the toughest places to play in the country. It gets loud and intimidating, and the home team typically supplements that with really good players.
There are a bunch of new improvements for this season as well after an expensive renovation. And the Hooisers have several of those really good players to make things difficult as well.
Mackey Arena, Purdue (2)
Opened in 1967, Mackey Arena is one of the older venues in the conference. It’s also pretty unique now that many of the old circular designs have been replaced by more modern-looking arenas.
Mackey Arena has a fantastic ceiling, and the aluminum dome helps increase the noise levels. The students definitely make their presence felt as part of the atmosphere. Cold winter nights in West Lafayette are often not a lot of fun for opposing teams.
Value City Arena, Ohio State (1)
With a capacity of 18,809, this is the biggest arena in the Big Ten. It’s also the 12th largest in the country. It feels more like an NBA arena, especially high up in the upper level, but it can get pretty loud when the Buckeyes are playing well.
State Farm Center, Illinois (1)
It looks like a clamshell on the outside, which was a popular arena design in the 1960s. It opened in 1963, which makes it the second-oldest venue in the Big Ten.
The Orange Krush is one of the better student sections in the league, and kudos to the non-students who stay pretty consistent with wearing orange to every game, which creates a great visual for television and adds a bit to the unwelcome party the Illini try to throw for their guests.
Williams Arena, Minnesota (1)
It is the oldest arena in the Big Ten and one of the six oldest in the nation. Williams Arena opened in 1928, and it has one of the best nicknames in college basketball.
The Barn has unique architecture, a few quirks and some great history. Kentucky won the 1951 national championship there, which is notable for being the last tournament before the Final Four became a thing and because the Most Outstanding Player, Bill Spivey of Kentucky, was implicated in a point shaving scandal and never played for the Wildcats again.