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For Reals?

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Need something to angry up the blood this morning? Well, put away your espresso shots, there, Chandler Bing and listen to the results of a “survey” conducted by the Gainesville Sun that the LHL’s John Clay found yesterday. Apparently, the Gainesville Sun selected sportswriters from around the SEC and polled them as to which SEC basketball arenas were 1. The Best and 2. The Toughest to Play.

Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena took home the honor of being named “Best” SEC Venue, followed by Tennessee’s Thompson-Bolling Arena and good ol’ Rupp. I’ve never been to Bud Walton, but word is that it is an excellent facility and I actually think Rupp’s intangibles elevate it higher than an almost forty-year-old stadium otherwise would be.

However, the surprise in all of this is that the O’Connell Center (it’s where the Gators play) was chosen as “The Toughest Place to Play”. Rupp was second followed by Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym. My indignation comes not as the result of Rupp Arena being chosen as second because I could certainly see an argument for the quirkiness of Memorial Gym leading to its selection as “Toughest”. Nope, my disagreement comes with the selection of the O’Connell Center for the #1 slot. Quick, if I hadn’t told you that the O’Connell Center was the home of the Gators, would you really have known? While many of you would have, it is my guess that the casual college basketball fan knows nothing of Florida’s home gym, and neither does that many college basketball players in the SEC. The two previous years brought Florida basketball fans out of the woodworks to observe this novelty known as “Gator Basketball” in between Tebow Worship Services. During this time, as with many teams that are enjoying success, the O’ Connell Center was right up there in terms of atmosphere and volume. However, I have to dispute that those two years were anything but an aberration and I would suggest that, this year included, the O Dome has toned down a notch.

My hypothesis (soon to be called “Mosley’s Theorem 1.1”) is that the sportswriters fell prey to remembering most vividly those things that happened most recently and chose to think of Florida’s run in ’06 and ’07 as the basis for which to make their judgements never minding the time preceeding the Repeat or 2008. This circumstance often presents itself when people make “Best Of” lists and is evidenced by “Hey Ya” being named one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

At the end of the day, we all want to compare everything to Rupp, don’t we. My contention, though some would say I’m a bit biased, is that Rupp Arena is the toughest SEC arena when anything remotely approaching a big game is at hand. We can all agree that Rupp can, at times, be a bit quiet for a place that holds 24,000 people depending on who the opponent is. However, for me, Rupp Arena is an extremely difficult place to play based on three factors: 1. The sheer size of the arena, 2. The “mystique” associated with the place via the success of the UK Basketball Program, and 3. The deafening and constant roar that reverberates from ceiling to floor when a big game is being played.

Many arenas, such as the O’Connell Center, Bud Walton, and Memorial can also have lively crowds when playing a quality opponent. Additionally, Thompson-Bolling has combined numbers 1 and 3 very successfully this season. However, no team in the SEC can bring the history and tradition of Kentucky basketball and somehow manage to manifest all of this in the form of a single building. To me, this separates Rupp from the other venues and makes it one of the more fear-inducing places to play in the country. Feel free to share your thoughts, but know that I like being agreed with, having my ego stroked, and being given money. If you could please remember to do all three in your comments, we will get along famously. See you at the Tournament. Go Cats.

Best arenas

1. Bud Walton Arena (Arkansas)
2. Thompson-Boling Arena (Tennessee)
3. Rupp Arena (Kentucky)
4. Carolina Coliseum (South Carolina)
5. O’Connell Center (Florida)
6. Memorial Gym (Vanderbilt)
7. Humphrey Coliseum (Mississippi State)
8. Coleman Coliseum (Alabama)
9. Maravich Center (LSU)
10. Stegman Coliseum (Georgia)
11. Tad Smith Coliseum (Mississippi)
12. Beard-Eaves Coliseum (Auburn)

Toughest arenas

1. O’Connell Center (Florida)
2. Rupp Arena (Kentucky)
3. Memorial Gym (Vanderbilt)
4. Bud Walton Arena (Arkansas)
5. Thompson-Boling Arena (Tennessee)
6. Humphrey Coliseum (Mississippi State)
7. Tad Smith Coliseum (Mississippi)
8. Coleman Coliseum (Alabama)
9. Carolina Coliseum (South Carolina)
10. Maravich Center (LSU)
11. Stegman Coliseum (Georgia)
12. Beard-Eaves Coliseum (Auburn)

The participating sportswriters:

1. The Sun’s Pat Dooley
2. Pat Forde of ESPN.com
3. Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
4. Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader
5. Ron Morris of The State in Columbia, S.C.
6. Bill Koss of Sun Sports
7. Rick Cleveland of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger
8. Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
9. Ron Higgins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal
10. John Adams of the Knoxville News Sentinel
11. Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
12. Tim Brando of CBS Sports
13. Alabama radio personality Paul Finebaum.

Article written by Mosley