America’s Top Five Party Schools: College Hoops EditionPosted by BHayes on August 13th, 2013
Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. Be sure to tweet your disagreements with this column @HoopsTraveler.
You may have already caught it, but last week the Princeton Review released its annual list of the top 10 party schools in the country. This coronation of the most “festive” campuses across the country got us to thinking a little bit, and we wondered which schools best combine college basketball and partying. Unfortunately, it is only in a fantasy alternate reality that I have had the privilege of visiting the campuses of all 351 Division I basketball programs (now we all know how sad my dreams are), but with over 100 of them under my belt, including eight of the Princeton Review’s top 10 (Lehigh, really?), I feel at least somewhat qualified to create a list of the schools that best combine college basketball with extracurricular festivities. I’m only working off what I know here (i.e., the places I’ve personally been), and apologies if I went to the wrong frat party during my one night in town – we all swing and miss sometimes. So with those caveats in place, here are college basketball’s five best party schools – plus a few honorable mentions below those.
5. Missouri – Columbia, Missouri is one of the more underrated college towns in America. Not only the midpoint between Kansas City and St. Louis, the home to the Mizzou campus also lays claim to a lively downtown and massive student body as well as a pretty decent athletic program. The newest members of the SEC have made plenty of recent noise under Mike Anderson and now Frank Haith, and passers-through will not be disappointed by the post-game activities on and off East Broadway. Oh, and Shakespeare’s Pizza is an absolute must for food and libations before heading over to the game at Mizzou Arena.
4. Minnesota – Few college basketball arenas can match the eccentric personality of The Barn in Minneapolis, and it’s those little quirks that make Williams Arena the perfect spot to cozy up on a cold Minnesota night. The good but rarely great Gophers have been a bit of a tease over the last few years, but the program has a solid history, and win or lose, the streets outside the doors to the Barn have plenty of immediate options for eating and drinking. Finding a seat at Campus Pizza before or after a game will be a challenge, but well worth the effort if you can make it happen.
3. Texas – Wait, Texas is a football school, you say? Okay, fair point, but the Horns have had their share of success on the hardwood too (last year aside), and the Austin faithful have made the Frank Erwin Center a worthy stop for any college basketball fan. A Longhorn win (maybe a loss is fine too) serves as the perfect kick-start for a long night on bar-infested 6th Street, as the short walk from the Erwin Center is sure to precede hours of reveling for college students and young adults alike. I even happened upon J’Covan Brown during my post-game trip up and down the thoroughfare – and what’s more, he wasn’t taking an ill-advised 25-footer at the time.
2. Wisconsin – Winters in Mad-town come in one variety only – cold and bitter – but the forecast for partying is warm and sunny when your team decides to win almost every single game it plays at home. The Kohl Center has not seen many Badger losses in the past decade, and the bars of Madison have benefited. The students get after it before, during, and after the game, and the Wisconsin capital provides plenty of locales for celebrating in the vicinity of the arena. My trip to Madison coincided with the Jordan Taylor-led upset of #1 and undefeated Ohio State, so yeah, everybody had a pretty good time that day.
1. Indiana – Indiana, you are simply without a peer in this category. No school combines basketball tradition with good old-fashioned fun better than the flagship campus of the Hoosier State. As if taking in a game at Assembly Hall isn’t enough for one night (imagine multiplying the Cameron Crazies by 10 and having them fill a 17,000 seat arena – somehow, the students in the rafters are every bit as animated and involved as those sitting courtside), the party inevitably spills over into houses and bars throughout Bloomington after the final buzzer. Downtown bar Kilroy’s is often the epicenter of the postgame festivities — a neighborhood hot spot where Hoosier red is omnipresent and candy-striped warmup pants stand as the outfit of choice. It all happens in a classic American college town where hoops and merry-making blend together in the most seamless of fashions, creating what has to be college basketball’s best approximation of nirvana. Oh, and I heard December 10, 2011 might have been a good day to be in Bloomington…
- Kansas, Butler: Amazing experiences both, but think pilgrimage, not fiesta.
- Iowa State: Hilton Magic is real, but not enough of it escapes the Coliseum.
And A Pair Of Lesser Known Stops…
- Murray State: Wonderful little town that loves their Racers, but a wonderful little town situated in a dry county. Yeah…
- South Dakota State: Jackrabbits know how to party, but will end of Nate Wolters era remove Brookings, South Dakota, from the college basketball map?