Calling all basketball lovers. With March Madness sweeping the nation, sports experts debate the best college basketball teams based on the stats. From suspenseful games between famed rivals Louisville and Kentucky, to winters spent in Krzyzewskiville and nights spent on Franklin Street, this makes basketball season the most fun time of the year for basketball lovers. But beyond the stats lie the deep seeded (pun intended) history and rivalries.
We dove deep into traditions, rivalries and stats to bring you the 10 best schools for basketball lovers.
10. Villanova University
Villanova’s 1985 defeat over Georgetown to win the NCAA championship secured the Wildcats a spot as the lowest seeded team to ever claim the national title, making their win one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history. But don’t let Villanova’s early loss in the NCAA tournament this year get you down. The intense atmosphere that takes over Villanova’s campus during the week leading up to the Georgetown game can only be handled by true basketball lovers. Signs proclaiming that “1985 will come again,” hang across campus, and the student newspaper, The Villanovian, traditionally prints a spread reading “Hoya sucks,” that students love using as posters.
Even those who didn’t graduate from Villanova have Wildcat pride. “I am an am not a Villanova graduate, but I am an avid Villanova basketball fan, not because they won a national championship last year but because of the program head coach Jay Wright runs there,” said Dwight Roeters, an avid Villanova fan. “[Wright] acknowledges the Nova students by having his team proceed to the end of the court with arms raised, and hands signaling the Villanova V, singing the Nova traditional song with the students,” Roeters said. “The tradition and school spirit are unique.” Besides being seeded first this year, Villanova has been seeded first or second for the past three years in the NCAA tournament.
Wisconsin’s shocking second-round upset over Villanova in this year’s NCAA tournament glued fans to the screen in hopes that Wisconsin goes far. Aside from being this year’s eighth seed, which we can all agree they’ve handled well, UW-Madison has been seeded fifth or higher in every NCAA tournament for the past five years. Though the Badgers have only earned one national title, their recent successes have turned seniors into avid basketball lovers donning tie-dye t-shirts to join the Grateful Red. Their heated rivalry with Marquette contributes to the atmosphere of basketball season, too. Both teams call Wisconsin home, and quick, one hour away distance keeps this rivalry close to home. Old friends from high-school may just turn on each other the week of the Marquette game as tensions rise and battling cheers fill the stadium.
You can’t deny UCLA’s basketball success any more than you can deny how many episodes of The Great British Bake-Off you watched instead of doing your class readings. With an impressive 11 national titles, UCLA has won the most NCAA championships of all schools in the country. Bruins alumni have even secured an impressive, collective 24 NBA championships. Current NBA players include: Alum Kevin Love, who acquired his first national championship just last year for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his former Bruin’s teammate Russell Westbrook, who currently dominates as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
UCLA’s success makes basketball lovers head to Barney’s Beanery or Sepi’s to watch every Bruin’s basketball game. And since Arizona joined the conference in 1978, its rivalry with UCLA shows off as the biggest college basketball rivalry in the Pac-10. Together both teams have won almost 70 percent of the regular-season championships. This year fans hope for a matchup in the tournament, where they foresee three-seed UCLA taking down the number two Arizona.
7. Michigan State University
For decades, Michigan State and Michigan’s comparable success led to intense competition, but in recent years, Michigan State students will gladly inform you that Michigan State has risen to the top. Michigan State pride runs deep among basketball lovers for generations. When students are home for the holidays, green and white Michigan State gear finds its way into the holiday decorations. This sense of tradition keeps the rivalry intense and students’ feeling that they’re part of an exciting history. Michigan State has also enjoyed successful seasons in recent years being seeded in the top four for four of the five past NCAA tournaments. Unfortunately, they haven’t enjoyed much success this season. “B-ball has been underwhelming this year,” said Jeff Spence, a Michigan State alum. “So much talent with the freshmen, but they just haven’t been able to put it together,” Spence said. “Some days they’re brilliant, others they’re duds.”
However, Michigan State’s unlikely defeat of the Miami Hurricanes in the first round of the tournament gave fans something to cheer for. Though brackets of diehard basketball lovers may have been busted when Michigan State went down to Kansas in the second round, many will end the season pleased with Michigan State’s performance in the first round.
6. University of Louisville
During games, Louisville’s stadium fills with fans and the Cardinals’ “C-A-R-D-S” chant echoes from the red block. Throughout the game, students rally together to cheer on the team and love making an “L” sign with their fingers throughout the game and shouting “whoomp there it is” when a player makes a free throw.
But cheers alone don’t turn basketball lovers into Louisville fun. Louisville’s rivalry with Kentucky is one of the biggest in all of sports, as evidenced by its ranking as the third best rivalry in college sports in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Both schools also call Kentucky home, which makes for an even more competitive games on the home turf. This year, the two teams both secured a number two seed, and though Louisville suffered an unexpected loss to Michigan in the second round, Louisville students still hope that Kentucky will fall victim to an upset too. Louisville’s talent also makes them a great team to support. They’ve won a handful of national championships and produce successful NBA players; collectively, Louisville alumni have secured a combined nine NBA championship rings
5. Indiana University
Need to relax after a week stuck in the library studying for that math midterm? Head to Indiana’s Hoosier Hysteria to blow off some steam and get hype for basketball season. At Hoosier Hysteria, thousands of students and basketball lovers gather in the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to watch their team take part in a three-point shooting contest, dunk contest and scrimmage before the head coach, Tom Crean, delivers a speech that brings everyone to their feet.
Though Indiana didn’t make the NCAA tournament this year, much to the disappointment of students hoping to cheer them to victory, basketball lovers can’t deny their historical success. The Hoosiers lay claim to five NCAA championships, and past players have gone on to secure a total of 10 NBA championships. Their notable alumni include rising star Victor Oladipo of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and past talents Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons and Walt Bellamy who played for a number of NBA teams. Bellamy even helped bring team USA to an Olympic gold in the 1960 Summer Olympics.
4. University of Kansas
Kansas basketball’s community-building traditions have students ditching their studies just to make it to games. Sleepy-eyed Jayhawks show up bright and early after each home game with a group of 10 friends and armfuls of sleeping bags to set up camp inside the Allen Field House. The kicker? At least one person must be at the tent at all times in order to save the coveted spot. Students sleep in the field house until the next home game, when they are let in according to how early they set up their tents. Who wouldn’t camp out to see players who could potentially join the alum who’ve won a combined 14 national championships?
When the players finally appear on the court, the student section explodes newspaper confetti as everyone cheers “Rock, chalk, Jayhawk!” But the most popular tradition is certainly waving the wheat. “We raise our hands up in the sky and wave our hands from left to right as if they’re shafts of wheat, and as the victory is coming, we wave them faster and faster as if a powerful wind with the power of KU is coming,” University of Kansas class of 1998 alum Alisa Lasater Wayloo said. “Waving the wheat ties our Midwest identity with our basketball tradition.” Beyond its traditions, Kansas has consistently secured a seed of one or two for every NCAA championship for the past five years. This year doesn’t disappoint either, as Kansas’ number one seed has fans eagerly betting on their brackets in hopes of winning both cash and glory.
3. Duke University
Led by their famous Coach K, Duke boasts both present and past success. They’ve secured a seed in the top four for the NCAA tournament for the past five years and have won an impressive five national titles. Duke’s basketball success, intense rivalry and traditions make it one of the most fun schools for basketball lovers to watch. For weeks every winter, more than a thousand Duke students pitch tents in the grassy area outside Cameron Stadium, affectionately known as Krzyzewskiville, in hopes of getting in to watch the biggest game of the year: Duke vs. UNC.
“The best part about K-ville is the sense of community it fosters among the Duke students,” said junior Madeline Thornton. “We are all camping out in the freezing cold for months to see Duke play UNC: it is one of the only events that brings all Duke students together. It makes me feel closer to my fellow students and brings out a passion and pride for my school.” The most dedicated and prideful Duke basketball lovers douse themselves in blue paint and don spiky blue wigs to dress up as Cameron Crazies filling the stadium with deafening chants, including “Air-ball,” which they claim credit for inventing.
2. University of Kentucky
Kentucky’s three rivalries ensure that there won’t be a moment of boredom during the basketball season, though they might manage to stress you out even more than that midterm that you forgot to start studying for until the night before. The most intense rivalry Kentucky faces is certainly against Louisville. Kentucky has averaged a five seed for the NCAA tournament over the past five years, but haven’t had as much luck in recent years.
Still, Kentucky claims an intimidating eight national championships, making the Wildcats the second most historically successful basketball team. This year UK has the most alumni in the NBA out of all schools in the NCAA. Overall, Kentucky alumni have collectively secured 20 NBA championships and include recognizable names as DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo and John Wall.
1. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
After beating Duke or winning a championship, bet your bucks that thousands of UNC students flood onto Franklin Street for a riotous night of celebration. Bonfires light up the street when students set fire to couches, stuffed animals and anything else they can find. Chants of alternating “Tar” and “Heels” echo like a symphony on these evenings. “My favorite part of basketball season is getting to see the players grow and improve with each season,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill junior Emily Jarrett said. “Every time they win and play well, I feel like I’m watching family members succeed, and I love it when they are happy.”
And successful Tar Heels have been. UNC has been seeded highly for every recent NCAA tournament, made it to the finals just last year and have claimed five national titles. UNC’s program also boasts a collective 32 NBA championship rings. Speaking of alumni, past Carolina players include household names like Vince Carter, Anton Jameson, James Worthy and, of course, the GOAT, Michael Jordan.