1. Assembly Hall — Illinois
The "Orange Krush" has helped build the Illini's Hall into one of the best home-courts in the Big Ten.
The spaceship-looking arena, opened in 1963, seats 16,618 fans and has ranked in the top 10 nationally for attendance in recent years.
"There's been a lot a talk down here about either renovating or replacing the Assembly Hall, but the truth is, at nearly 44 years old, it still gets the job done," said Brian Klein, sports editor of The Daily Illini. "The Orange Krush is still one of the premier cheering sections in the country, while locals regularly sell out the stadium and come wearing orange. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?"
However, it isn't the finest of facilities. Hallways are tight for space, and there isn't a single suite in the house.
But with a sea of orange and rowdy students filling courtside seats, the atmosphere alone makes Assembly Hall.
2. Kohl Center — Wisconsin
The Center that Herb Kohl built has quietly grown into one of the most hostile environments for opposing teams in all of college basketball.
While some of that may have to do with the Badgers' continual improvement under sixth-year head coach Bo Ryan, having a fine facility such as the Kohl Center certainly helps.
Opened in 1998 and home to both Badger hoops and hockey, the Kohl Center has 17,190 nice seats, including 36 luxury suites. Also, courtside seats were just added before this season for fans wanting to get closer to the action — for a pretty penny, of course.
3. Breslin Center — Michigan State
Named after MSU alumnus Jack Breslin, a Spartan varsity letter winner in baseball and basketball, the Breslin Center has become one of the nation's most recognizable arenas in the new millennium.
Opened in 1989, the Breslin Center took off in parallel fashion to Tom Izzo's career. Izzo, hired in 1995, quickly brought success to the Spartans' program, making the Sweet 16 in just his third season and not missing an NCAA tournament bid since.
Nearly 4,000 out of the Breslin Center's 14,992 capacity fill the "Izzone" student section, making it one of the toughest places to play.
4. Assembly Hall — Indiana
First opened in 1972 — in just the second season of Bobby Knight's tenure — Assembly Hall has been petitioned by ESPN personality Dick Vitale to be renamed after the General. The building hasn't changed much since, with the exception of the banners hanging in the rafters courtesy of the championships won by Knight.
Assembly Hall is one of the sacred buildings in college basketball holding a wealth of history.
"It holds 17,456 fans, and students are allotted approximately 8,000 seats for every game, which is the largest amount in the Big Ten," said Jake Brown, sports editor of the Indiana Daily Student. "There is not a unified student section like at other Big Ten universities, however, which detracts from the overall environment. The home crowd in Bloomington is continually one of the best in the country despite the lack of [a] unified student section."
Assembly Hall is a time capsule of basketball and a building to be revered, even if the mid-court logo looks a little goofy.
5. Jerome Schottenstein Center — Ohio State
The one thing that first comes to mind when walking into Value City Arena at the Schottenstein Center is how the arena can fit below the atmosphere. The roof appears to be literally sky high. Under that atmospheric roof, up to 19,200 fans can be seated, good for the largest capacity in the conference. However, it was not until recently that sell-outs become common. (OSU averaged 15,390 fans per game last season, still good for 18th in the country.)
Even with the capacity crowd, the Schottenstein Center lacks the college feel of some other Big Ten arenas.
"The Schott — full of high-income fans, luxury boxes and hospitality suites — is suited for the college game like Howard Stern is suited for child care," said Scott Woods, sports editor of The Lantern. "Despite its sterilities, however, when big games come, all 19,000-plus keep their NBA arena pulsating with the unmistakable vibe that is college athletics in Columbus."
6. Carver-Hawkeye Arena — Iowa
Having opened its doors in 1983, Carver-Hawkeye arena is one of the less impressive arenas to gaze upon in the Big Ten. It is dug into the ground and has housing bowl seating all the way around to seat up to 15,500 fans. On the inside, it isn't exactly Rembrandt, either. Much of the lighting is harvested from the sun, which shines through the roof for day games, giving an unusual feel to the arena.
"Carver-Hawkeye Arena has provided a solid home-court advantage for the Hawkeye hoopsters over the past 24 seasons," said Charlie Kautz, sports editor of The Daily Iowan. "Its bowl-shaped construction makes for an enjoyable place to catch a game."
The arena's students are pretty noisy and rowdy but aren't to the level of Illinois or Michigan State, to be sure, though the corner seating might have a bit to do with that.
7. Williams Arena — Minnesota
Williams Arena may be the most unique arena in the Big Ten.
There's the raised floor, its barn-loft suites and bathroom troughs — hence its nickname, "The Barn."
"While the Gophers certainly can't claim home-court advantage anymore, you can't help but step in Williams Arena and feel college basketball," said C.J. Spang, sports editor of The Minnesota Daily. "To me, it's all about that old-school feel. If I want an NBA-style arena, I'll head to the Target Center. But for college basketball, it's all about the raised floor of the Barn."
Williams Arena is the oldest in the Big Ten, dating all the way back to 1928 when it was known as The University of Minnesota Fieldhouse. Back then, it housed basketball, track and field, tennis and winter football practice.
Plain and simple, Williams may just be past its prime as a viable arena.
8. Mackey Arena — Purdue
One of the Big Ten's more historic arenas, Mackey first opened its doors way back in 1967 as the home of the world's most abrasive comb-over, that of Gene Kaedy, who stomped on the court there for 25 years (the actual floor is now named after him).
The arena is warm and friendly. It's also very well-lit and home to some of the best fans in the nation. Plus, it is scheduled to receive a $70-80 million facelift to be completed in 2011 or 2012.
"There are no luxury seats, no comfortable chairs and no removable courts," said Jon Nyatawa, sports editor of The Purdue Exponent. "Mackey's simply for basketball, where fans cram together on bleachers in a 39-year-old arena to get a feel for the past. Plus, the golden dome on top just fits perfectly."
Considering the coach who made the building famous, maybe the roof would be better off being chrome.
9. Crisler Arena — Michigan
Sometimes described as the 40-year-old landfill behind Michigan Stadium, Crisler Arena is in dire need of an overhaul. The 13,751-seat facility houses cushioned metal folding chairs and plenty of empty seats, as the arena is rarely sold out completely. It also is home to some of the more indifferent and quiet fans in the league, though Big Blue hasn't had much to root for since the days of the Fab Five.
"The arena is pretty mediocre, considering the attention Michigan pays to its athletic programs and athletic department," said Daniel Bromwich, senior editor at the Michigan Daily. "It is rarely filled up; only for Michigan State or Wisconsin games is the upper bowl full. The arena itself is old and not very nice."
Still there are some positives, such as the perfect student seating — courtside, all the way down on one side — and no advertising anywhere in the building is a welcome comfort. Despite the few positives, the building is aging like vinegar at this point, not wine.
T-10. Welsh-Ryan Arena — Northwestern
While receiving an acceptance letter from Northwestern University is no easy chore, getting into Welsh-Ryan Arena is no problem.
The Wildcats' Arena looks worse than some high school courts and seats a measly attendance of 8,117 — much of which is filled by opposing fans.
Nevertheless, it is still a tough place to play for opponents for whatever reason — maybe it's the dim lighting, maybe it's a shortage of bathrooms or maybe it's the batting cage turned press room. Whatever it is, opponents just want to leave Evanston, Ill., as quickly as possible.
"The most unfortunate aspect of Welsh-Ryan, aside from its ugly airport hanger-esque interior design, is that far too often, visiting Big Ten fans will out-number supporters of the Wildcats," said Dave Kalan of the Daily Northwestern. "Still, the fan section tends to be pretty rowdy, and because of NU's lackluster tradition and uninteresting aesthetics, visiting teams have difficulty getting excited to play."
T-10. Bryce Jordan Center — Penn State
Penn State's state-of-the-art facility that opened in 1996 is the lowest ranking of the three shiny new arenas for one simple reason: Fan support — or more accurately, a lack thereof. The Bryce Jordan Center from the inside looks like a carbon copy of the Kohl Center — painted in navy, of course — but the key difference is that the seats at Bryce Jordan are empty. Average attendance is floundering at 7,589 per game this season.
"The student section and PR staff are doing great jobs in promoting the program and the 'Nitwits' do try to be loud, but there's not much to cheer for. You can't be loud when your team's down by 20-plus," said Andrew Wible, men's basketball writer of The Daily Collegian. "It is essentially a cave, and appears so when the curtains in the upper deck are dropped to make it appear as though the place is packed, when it isn't even half full."
Affectionately referred to as the spaceship or UFO due its disc-shaped exterior, Bryce Jordan is not nearly as aesthetically pleasing from the outside as its opposite numbers at Wisconsin and Ohio State.