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The Five Best Basketball Arenas in the Big Ten

Just in case you wanted to travel somewhere else to watch bad basketball this season

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Indiana Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

When Graham asked for volunteers to write a series about basketball this week, I gave into my guilt for doing very little during basketball season and said sure. Somehow, this is the article I was assigned... but there’s something you should know. I have been to exactly two arenas in the Big Ten (Pinnacle Bank Arena and Breslin), so I’m not exactly qualified to write this article.

But then, that’s never stopped any of us before, has it? So, thanks to a heavy dose of hearsay from my fellow “writers,” here are the Top Five arenas in our fair conference.

Assembly Hall—Indiana (#1)

Capacity: 17,222

Year opened: 1971

Why the school thinks it’s special: “Three national championship teams have called the stadium home. The home crowd is definitely a factor in the outcome of Indiana’s games as the Hoosiers have posted winning streaks of 50 and 35 games over the years. Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall is also home to the largest student sections in the country.”

Why we think it’s special:

  • GF: “I give lots of credit to assembly hall for continuing to look different and house a bunch of whackos who love hoops more than their own children.”

From what I gather, it’s an interesting shape, the crowd often makes it a tough place to play, and it’s got a classic simplicity to it that Big Ten fans tend to enjoy.


Breslin Center, Michigan State (#2)

Matthew Mitchell -

Capacity: 15,000

Year opened: 1989

Why the school thinks it’s special: “The Breslin Student Events Center is a facility for students and the greater MSU community, sponsoring major educational and entertainment events. The Breslin Center is also home to Michigan State Basketball.”

I love that they list basketball second, like that’s not the only reason anyone has ever heard of it.

Why we think it’s special:

  • Lifelong MSU fan, GF: “Breslin is a great place to watch a hoops game. Good views from everywhere. Good product. Engaged student section. I will say, the Breslin has been a less intimidating place to play these past few years. I’m not saying fans have become used to the winning, and thus quieter...but it doesn’t quite rock like it did.”
  • BRT: I mostly like it because of how quiet and empty it gets when your team wins there, especially if your team isn’t very good and losing to them is kind of embarrassing. Silencing the Izzone is amazing.

If the arena itself is somewhat standard, the fans more than make up for it. Having the Izzone form a ring around the court at its very lowest level is super cool, and really neat to see in person.

Demerit: I found the corridors to be very dark and kinda creepy, although it’s possible I’m thinking of the football stadium. But no matter, because how long are you in the corridors anyway?

State Farm Center, Illinois (#3)

Capacity: 15,500

Year opened: 1963

Why the school thinks it’s special: “State Farm Center literally comes alive after dark, with its great, white dome glowing in the night sky, the brightness within symbolic of the superstars who perform under its unique roof.”

There you have it. It LITERALLY comes alive after dark. What other arena does that? I’ll tell you: none of them. And neither does the State Farm Center. Because it’s a building. Theodore H. Roosevelt. Nebraska’s never taking any “non-AAU” crap from the Illini.

Why we think it’s special:

  • Thump, with, as usual, about 15 thoughts on the subject: “The concrete mushroom that is the State Farm Center had its construction overseen by an Illinois alumnus. It is a very unique construction that is the largest unsupported concrete dome in North America and was, for a few years, the largest dome in North America (until the Astrodome opened). It was built in the early 60s it still looks remarkably modern. SFC is also unique due to its perfectly circular seating arrangement. The renovations were pretty big time and the building now has air conditioning, and Krush looks way better on TV now. Aaaaaand as much as I don’t like the corporate branded name on a big ten campus, at least it’s going to be consistently named after a downstate Illinois company that’s not called Guaranteed Rate.

So, there you have it. It looks cool, the student section is notably excellent, and unlike regular, lesser arenas, it’s apparently sentient.

Demerit: It’s alive. That’s some Jonah-in-the-whale shit.

Mackey Arena, Purdue (#4)

Capacity: 14, 264

Year opened: 1967

Why the school thinks it’s special: “The first game ever played in Purdue Arena saw the Boilermakers take on Wooden and his UCLA team in a classic contest. The Boilermakers came up just short, 73-71 in front of a standing room-only crowd of more than 14,400, in the debut of the legendary Rick Mount.”

Also, when it was built, “It was hailed as ‘the first of its kind among collegiate sports facilities,’” which seems like a pretty vague and unverifiable claim to me, but whatever.

Why we think it’s special:

  • babaoreally: “Mackey Arena is a pretty good place to watch a game. It’s round so there are no bad seats in the corners. It gets very loud in there; something to do with the metal roof helps keep it loud.”

It is pretty cool looking inside, especially for a mid-century building, which by and large, haven’t aged well. It’s also possible we’re just privileging it because Purdue is good at basketball right now.

Demerit: It is located in West Lafayette, Indiana. :(

Pinnacle Bank Arena, Nebraska (#5)

Capacity: 15,500

Year opened: 2013

Why the school thinks it’s special: “The cornerstone of Lincoln’s $344 million West Haymarket Redevelopment Project, Pinnacle Bank Arena is carrying Lincoln into the future. With its combination of concrete and metal panel facade, spectacular open-air roof deck, contemporary glass-encased entrance and concourse offering picturesque views of the State Capitol, Pinnacle Bank Arena is an architectural embodiment of aesthetics and modernity.”

Aesthetics and modernity. You know, what you commonly associate with Nebraska.

Why we think it’s special:

  • Stewmonkey: “#5. Nebraska” Since Stew hates Nebraska more than just about anything, this is actually extremely high praise.
  • BRT: It’s bright, shiny, and modern. While that means it lacks the history and character of other venues, it also means that it’s a darn enjoyable place to watch a game. And anyway, it’s not like Nebraska had some stunning basketball history that needed to be preserved. It’s clean, spacious, and the corridors have a lot of glass, offering lovely views of the fun and historic Haymarket area. Inside, the arena is nice, if kind of standard.

The fan support is also good, in spite of not always having a lot to cheer about. The Huskers have had over 15,000 in average attendance for four straight seasons—last year, only Wisconsin, Maryland, and Indiana had higher average attendance.

Demerit: It’s super dark in the rafters, where I tend to usually sit. I suppose this is to help you see the court from afar, but it’s also kind of creepy and at least to me, makes me feel lethargic and removed from the game and the rest of the arena.

So, there you have it! The other major contenders were:

XFINITY Center (Maryland): DJ says “it’s awesome place to go view a game. Students actually, you know, come out and stay unlike football. They’re always engaged and it’s super loud. It gets bonus points for getting Coach K to declare he’s never playing another game there (due to the fans).”

Kohl Center (Wisconsin): Almost everyone agreed that this is still an excellent venue and definitely in the top half of the conference, but even our own two Wisconsin writers felt that it lacked anything very distinctive or overtly excellent to push it into the Top Five. Also, we hate the flopping.

So, what did I get wrong? Probably all of it. Tell us about it below!


Which arena is the best in the B1G?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Assembly Hall—Indiana
    (601 votes)
  • 15%
    Breslin Center—MSU
    (294 votes)
  • 8%
    State Farm Center—Illinois
    (162 votes)
  • 16%
    Mackey Arena—Purdue
    (308 votes)
  • 12%
    Pinnacle Bank Arena—Nebraska
    (229 votes)
  • 14%
    None of these, you guys are crazy, and I’ll tell you why in the comments!
    (264 votes)
1858 votes total Vote Now