Below is our exclusive ranking of the toughest places to play hoops in the SEC, brought to you by a group of hotels that plays home to visiting teams at three stops along the annual SEC road trip.
Visiting Columbia to watch your team take on Mizzou? There’s a Holiday Inn hotel in Columbia for that.
Heading to good old Rocky Top? There’s a Crowne Plaza hotel in Knoxville for that trip, too.
“Geaux”-ing to Baton Rouge? Well whaddaya know, there’s a Crowne Plaza Baton Rouge hotel and a Holiday Inn hotel in Baton Rouge, too.
Let us know in the comments if you agree/disagree with our ranking of the toughest venues in the SEC, and why.
1. Rupp Arena – Kentucky
The country’s largest arena designed specifically for basketball is easily the toughest place to play on the road in the SEC. And why not? UK has a win percentage of about .888 since beginning play there in 1976, so the Wildcats pretty much never lose on their home court. Also, the arena is almost always packed – Rupp Arena annually leads Division I men’s basketball in attendance, so road teams have that going against them as well.
It’s large. It’s loud. It’s legendary. And when it comes to playing hoops on the road in the SEC, there’s no tougher place to play than Rupp Arena.
To see which stadium ranks no. 2, plus check out the remaining 13 arenas on our list,
2. Memorial Gymnasium – Vanderbilt
Sometimes referred to as the “Fenway Park of college basketball,” Memorial has the most unique design in the sport. With the court raised above the floor, similar to a stage, the benches placed at the ends of the court, and no AC in the main gym – Vandy’s home for hoops is likely the strangest place to play ball in D-I.
While it only seats 14,316 and Vandy’s team doesn’t carry anywhere near the mystique of UK, Memorial certainly provides the Commodores with a unique home court advantage, placing their gym a solid no. 2 behind Rupp Arena.
3. Pete Maravich Assembly Center – LSU
What makes the PMAC better than the arenas that Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mizzou call home? To quote the Grinch: “all that noise, noise, noise, noise.” LSU’s arena – while seating only 13,215 – is referred to as the “Deaf Dome” for it raucous fan base.
LSU hoops doesn’t exactly have the cred on the court it once did, but coach Johnny Jones has been brought to the school to get the team back on the right track. Jones was assistant head coach under Dale Brown, who coached the team for 11 seasons and led the Tigers to the Final Four in 2005.
4. O’Connell Center – Florida
The Rowdy Reptiles make the O’Dome one of the SEC’s toughest places to play all by themselves. Add to that Florida’s recent on-court success – the Gators are the only team in Division I college basketball to make the Elite Eight each of the last two seasons – and it’s pretty easy to see why Florida ranks as well as it does.
5. Thompson-Boling Arena – Tennessee
Tennessee has the second largest capacity stadium in the SEC, and the conference record for single-game attendance. During the Bruce Pearl regime in Knoxville, the Vols had two straight seasons where they went undefeated at home. This season, the Vols won all seven of their home games on the non-conference schedule.
6. Bud Walton Arena – Arkansas
The days of Arkansas being a premier college basketball power are over, but the Basketball Palace Of Mid-America is still the fifth largest on-campus arena in the US.
7. Mizzou Arena – Missouri
Of all the schools on this list that have a chance to move UP, Mizzou is it. As of this posting, Mizzou is the highest-ranked SEC team in the AP Top 25 in their first year playing in the SEC. The arena could use some more history to unseat some of the other staple SEC arenas.
8. Coleman Coliseum – Alabama
Alabama plays men’s basketball? This arena does have a striped ceiling, which I guess can be distracting for any opponent who spends too much time looking up.
9, Stegeman Coliseum – Georgia
Similar to Bama, I’m a little surprised to learn Georgia plays basketball.
10. Colonial Life Arena – South Carolina
This ranking seems appropriate – this is the 10th largest college arena in the country.
11. Tad Smith Coliseum – Ole Miss
Only seats 9,000? And that’s an upgrade!