I’ve received some e-mail this week regarding my story in Tuesday’s Charlotte Observer that asked whether Duke’s Cameron Crazies have lost their edge.
Some Duke fans agreed with the story’s premise that Duke’s students are more eager to dress up and get on TV than with coming up with witty ways to elevate the Blue Devils and rattle opponents.
Others accused me of being a North Carolina fan (which I’m not) and couldn’t figure out why anybody would criticize the best college basketball fans in America. I haven’t been to every arena in America, but I can break down the best and worst environments in the ACC.
Here’s what I’ve got:
1. Duke: They may not be as inventive as they used to be, and they lose points for getting spit on my computer screen while jeering from behind me at Florida State’s Derwin Kitchen on Tuesday night. But Cameron still ranked first in my preseason poll of ACC players, and it was incredibly loud for the North Carolina and Wake Forest games.
2. Maryland: When Duke played up there on Feb. 25, an impressive number of students carried poster-sized photos of Jon Scheyer’s face twisted in an awkward position. When the Terps are desperate for a win, these fans can be intimidating.
3. Clemson: When the Tigers aren’t good, it’s a lousy atmosphere. But coach Oliver Purnell has his second straight NCAA tournament team, and Littlejohn Coliseum routinely sells out. The fans still are more accustomed to supporting the football team, but considering Clemson’s struggles in that sport, it may be on its way to becoming a “basketball school.”
4. Wake Forest: I love “Welcome to the Jungle,” but I’m not crazy about the motorcycle or indoor exhaust fumes. Still, the tie dye motif gives the Deacs some identity, and the arena has been electric for big wins over North Carolina and Duke this season.
5. North Carolina: Strictly because of its sheer size, the Smith Center noses out Virginia Tech’s Cassell Coliseum for the fifth spot on the list. The “wine and cheese” rap doesn’t stick anymore now that there are more noisy students close to the floor on the baseline. But the big-money boosters in the courtside seats still wait for the team to fire them up rather than taking their own initiative to motivate the team.
1. Maryland: How can it be one of the best and the absolute worst at the same time? Two words: No class. Chanting “(Bleep) you, Singler” in unison at one of Duke’s players was a low point. Coach Gary Williams ought to rein in the students the same way Mike Krzyzewski has at Duke.
2. Miami: Really, who can blame anybody for not getting excited about ACC basketball when the weather is gorgeous at that time of year and the beach beckons?
3. Florida State: The arena is an old county civic center that lacks the character of many on-campus facilities. The students are more energized than they used to be now that they’re standing behind press row, but basketball just really isn’t their thing in Tallahassee.
4. Georgia Tech: The atmosphere was dead even when Duke visited and it wasn’t yet clear just how bad the Yellow Jackets are on Jan. 14. Coach Paul Hewitt is lucky he has the nation’s top recruit (Derrick Favors) coming in and the economic downturn has made it difficult to justify buying out coaches.
5. Boston College: Got to wonder if it would be better if Connecticut and Providence were coming to Chestnut Hill every season rather than N.C. State and Florida State. Conte Forum might be a better facility for college hockey than for basketball.
And what of N.C. State? The RBC Center is a beautiful facility that causes opponents to compliment the amenities.
But it, too, is a much better building for hockey. Because it has to be used for hockey, the seats are too far away from the basketball court. That prevents noise from impeding opponents even when the arena is full. And let’s face it, it’s not often full.
If N.C. State still was playing at Reynolds Coliseum, it would have been difficult to choose between Reynolds and Cameron as the best atmosphere. The noise at Reynolds was sensational.
I remember covering an NIT game against Georgia in 1998, back when fans actually liked coach Herb Sendek, who was in his second season. The crowd was deafening – for an NIT game – and I decided that it’s almost unfathomable how loud that building must have been when David Thompson was starting at State.
The RBC Center doesn’t have nearly as much soul.
- Ken Tysiac
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