The Big East is a consensus top four conference and they currently have five teams in the AP Top 25. It’s been a great season for the conference and teams have been defending their home floor well. KenPom’s home court advantage ratings include seven teams from the conference in the top 100, a good demonstration of how tough it is to win on the road. The AMP at Providence is known to get incredibly loud and rowdy, while Xavier’s Cintas Center is also a brutal place to have to play. UConn’s Gampel Pavilion (and to a lesser degree the XL Center) is widely feared and Villanova makes it tough to play at either Finneran Pavilion or Wells Fargo Center. You also can’t forget about Georgetown’s Capital One arena that features crowds in the hundreds and a great location to get some studying in. What’s the toughest though? Read DC Sports writers’ takes in this week’s roundtable.
Associate Sports Editor
Before Tuesday night when No. 16 Xavier was upset at home versus Villanova, they were perfect in their own house in conference. The Cintas Center is one of the hardest places for opposing teams to play, holding just over 10,000 people and filling it most nights. Before losing to the Wildcats, they’d lost just one other game this year at home, a tight loss to now No. 17 Indiana. When hosting ranked opposition, they’re 3-1 and 11-1 in all other home games. On the road, the Musketeers are much less strong, boasting a 5-4 record. There aren’t many places that opponents fear more with the wild student section, which is why Cintas gives Xavier the best home court advantage.
Amica Mutual Pavillion
While it’s always going to be “The Dunk” for me, Amica Mutual Pavilion has not only been one of the toughest places to play in in the Big East, but also in men’s college basketball. If you need any better reason as to why it’s such a difficult place to play at, I can refer you to Providence’s undefeated 15-0 record against opponents in both Big East and non-conference competition. In conference competition, the Friars also defeat opponents by an average margin of 10.6 points. While they’ve had scares at home to break that undefeated record such as the Friars’ double-overtime game against Creighton, there’s no doubt that Providence and their fans come to play when it comes to college basketball at the AMP.
It may look like I am going with the “generic” choice here when it comes to tough Big East environments, but the reason that I am picking the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion is because I have experienced how loud it can get in there. I want to look at what makes this place so daunting to play in from a historical lens; the UConn men’s basketball team has not had a losing season since the facility opened in 1990. Even though the Xavier Musketeers (with Zach Freemantle) escaped Gampel with a three-point win last month, there have been countless ranked teams that have entered and succumbed to the atmosphere that the pavilion provides. This has included the No. 1 Texas Longhorns in 2010 and the No. 15 Florida Gators in 2019 in non-conference play as well as the No. 13 Syracuse Orange in 2005 and the No. 2 Villanova Wildcats in 2006. Especially with a new court next season, I am very interested to see what Gampel Pavilion has in store for years to come.
CHI Health Center
Coming off the sixth highest attendance per game in the country last season, the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, continues to be a zoo filled to the brink with Creighton faithful. The 17,000-plus fans that pack the house every home game have made the CHI Health Center not only the toughest road trip in the Big East, but one of the toughest in the country. The Blue Jays have put on a show in recent years in front of their tough home crowd, recording 64 wins and just 16 losses over the last five seasons at the CHI. With Creighton sitting in command of a projected four seed in the NCAA tournament, the Blue Jay faithful will only continue to pack the house as the calendar gets closer to March.
With an attendance of 16,041, the Fiserv Forum, home to the Marquette Golden Eagles, last Wednesday was packed in anticipation of a Marquee matchup against Xavier. Marquette brought their A-game, edging out the rival Musketeers 69-68, which included an Olivier-Maxence Prosper putback layup with 1.6 seconds left to hand their Big East Rivals their fifth loss all year; in response, the Forum exploded with fireworks. This is old news, however, as the Golden Eagles are top dogs in the Big East with a 14-1 home record, and every in-conference home game has had at least 80% capacity, which is a testament to the dedication of Marquette fans. These fans will keep coming back and bringing that 6th man energy that has, at times, overwhelmed their opponents and helped to propel them as the 10th-best team in the country. With the Golden Eagles playing at such an elite level, fans will continue to pack the Fiserv Forum to witness the truly extraordinary spectacle that is Marquette basketball.
Madison Square Garden
There’s not a better venue to watch a sporting event than the World’s Most Famous Arena. Not only is it home to St. John’s basketball, but it’s home to the Big East Tournament. What’s unique about the Garden is that it can be a home-court advantage for multiple teams. Of course, St. John’s has the best advantage, but teams in the tri-state area like UConn and Seton Hall bring in a lot of fans when it’s not even a St. John’s home game. The atmosphere is electric every single game, and it will continue to be for every single Big East contest played there. With a seating capacity of 19,812 for basketball, it is almost always a sell-out, with every single fan bringing the energy. New York City is called the “city that never sleeps,” and that’s certainly true inside MSG.