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January 31, 2007

SCS.comWith conference play in full swing, I thought it might be fun to look at some of the “bests” of college basketball. Most of the college hoops nation would agree on who the best overall players are, so we’re not going to go there. I’m talking about fan loyalty and what true college basketball fans believe to be the best things about this season and its teams. Usually when you start to have a conversation about these things, some fans get a little defensive if you disagree or suggest another choice. That is the nature of college basketball fans. I say that to say this: I will be as unbiased as possible, but I bleed Carolina blue!

Best Announcer

We all have our favorite team-associated play-by-play guys. Mine is obviously Woody Durham. But I’m talking about the guys that do the big, nationally televised games. I think that the best current announcer is Jay Bilas. Dick Vitale and Billy Packer could learn a lot from their younger professional. It’s easy to make the case for Bilas; any former Duke player (like Bilas) who announces on national television that he thinks the best team in the nation at the time is UNC is a true professional. As I read on another site, “he tells you more about college basketball that you didn’t know.” He seems to do his research no matter who he is covering and gives one of the more unbiased opinions among college basketball analysts today.

Ask Dick Vitale who the best team in college basketball is at any given time and I guarantee that somewhere in the answer you will hear at least one of two things: “Duke” or “J.J. Reddick.” Ask Billy Packer who the best team in college basketball is, and he might tell you that there are no good teams in basketball this year, nobody takes good shots anymore, and defense is nowhere to be found. I’ll keep the television tuned to ESPN and Bilas.

Best Looking Jerseys

Here comes the biased part. North Carolina’s jerseys are awesome. They have the modern day appeal with North Carolina history lined up the side of the shorts. The argyle pattern that decorates the UNC uniforms is unique to North Carolina, and Tar Heel fans like it that way. The new, bolder Carolina Blue is also a nice touch.

In at a close second are the Florida jerseys. I like the bold blue and orange in the away jerseys, and the touch of blue and orange on the white home jerseys is just enough to impress you, but not too much that it’s blurry on your television screen. Good looking uniforms must coincide with top spots in the national rankings.

Celebrity Fan

There are probably some other celebrity fans and the ladies won’t be particularly impressed with this choice, but it was an easy choice for me: Ashley Judd. When it comes time to cheer on the Wildcats, you won’t find Judd in one of the fancy suites. She’s right there near the court with the crowd. She has shown that she is very faithful in her support of her Alma Mater all the way up through Tournament time. And obvioulsy, she’s not hard to look at.

Best College Basketball Atmosphere

This is definitely going to hurt a little. Against my better judgment, I guess the best college basketball atmosphere is at Duke. I don’t know whether it’s loyalty or insanity that makes you sleep in a tent in winter weather conditions, but whatever it is, Duke students do it. Duke basketball is an event in its own; the basketball game is just part of it. Duke fans are extremely loyal in both wins and seldom seen losses. That’s more compliment than I thought I could give to Duke. Moving on...

Best Stadium

I’m not going to say Cameron Indoor. I already gave Duke a little bit of credit, although holding less than 10,000 people and being that loud and hot is pretty impressive. Phog Allen Field House is also pretty impressive. It holds a little more than 16,000 people, and most of the seats are bleachers. This allows this venue to be a little smaller than 16,000 seats would normally require, which in turn makes it feel like the home team fans are right on top of the visitors. It’s a definite advantage for Kansas and a great place to watch a game.

Best Fans

I’ve already discussed how loyal Duke fans are, so I’m not going to go there with this one. By the way, that’s three categories that Duke has been mentioned, for those keeping count. This Carolina fan has done pretty good being unbiased.

Kentucky’s fans are also avid supporters of their team. Whether they are at the top of the national polls or in a rut, Kentucky faithful are always there to show their support. It has been said that they are some of the loudest fans in college basketball. Many teams have seen this first hand this year and would agree that the UK fans are a rare breed.

As a side note, it should be pointed out that if NC State ever gets its basketball program back to national status, you will hear from their fans. I’ve seen first-hand that both their basketball and football fans are loud and supportive, and the organizers of NC State basketball have done a good thing putting their student section all the way around the basketball court, something that their ACC rival in light blue should try.

Best Mascot

College mascots may be more well known in football than basketball, but they are still worth recognizing. Real life mascots such as “Bevo” at Texas and “Uga” at Georgia will always be at the top of the list; your team has an awesome mascot if they bring a steer out on the field before a ball game or if they are confident enough to put all the spirit of the team in a small, white bulldog.

But there are a few mascots that get a little more attention when basketball season starts. “Sparty” from Michigan State embodies the look of a college basketball mascot. Standing at around 7 feet tall, he’s big, colorful, and shows the spirit of what a college mascot should be. “The Deacon” at Wake Forest University should also be mentioned for one reason: he rides a real Harley onto the court at home games.

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