"Aren't the fans what it's all about?"
-- Gil Renard (Robert De Niro), The Fan
Now Gil ultimately took his fandom a little too far, but let's not discount the fact that the guy was onto something. It is really all about the fans, isn't it? The Tenth Power is feeling you, Gil, aside from the whole kidnapping Bobby Rayburn's son, so I've deciphered the chants, checked the bodypaint for vibrancy and presentation to bring you the 10 best student sections in college basketball.
1. Duke: It gets no better than the Cameron Crazies or more daunting if you're an opposing player, unless you're Tyler Hansbrough and the North Carolina seniors. There are the fans looming over visiting players, everyone holding up their hands in silence during foul shots and the Treasure Troll wigs. Of course, developing meningitis while camping out in Krzyzewskiville just to get a spot is a bit of a drawback.
2. Kentucky: There's a reason beyond the guys on the court as to why the Wildcats are 426-58 all time at Rupp Arena and it's the standing-room only eRUPPtion Zone. There's the bodypaint, the chants but what truly sets the Wildcats fans apart is the occasional visit from the school's most alluring alum, Ashley Judd. And the UK fans are more than willing to show the Bluegrass State belongs to the 'Cats and now Louisville, even on Facebook.
3. Kansas: The slow, lluaby-esque repetition of Rock Chalk, Jayhawk and the rocking make for one of the most original moments in college sports, which ironically, was originally created for the KU science club. But the student body does get a slight knock for the multitude of colors a Jayhawks fan can wear (red, white or blue), which make cohesiveness a battle.
4. Michigan State: What makes the Izzone special, aside from the fact that it steals from the Jay-Z vernacular, is that it stretches around three-fourths of the bottom level of the Breslin Center, making it all the more imposing and ear splitting for opponents. Plus, how many student sections sell their own official sunglasses?
5. North Carolina: Not quite as iconic as its Tobacco Road neighbors, the student body makes the Dean Dome a tough place to play -- just ask Oliver Purnell and Clemson. Before we start talking inferiority complex because of the attention paid to the Cameron Crazies, let's not forget that the Heels, and not Duke, stole Ms. Judd for an evening.
6. Illinois: The Orange Krush is loud, proud and nasty, as Eric Gordon can attest, although they balance the verbal abuse with a healthy dose of community service. The Krush also have their own theme song, which this year is Let It Rock, the Kevin Rudolf and Lil' Wayne version, and unfortunately not the far superior Kids Bop version.
7. Pitt: Contrary to its name, the Oakland Zoo is not in fact inhabited by wild animals. The raucous student section, led by a third-year grad student known as "the bald guy" has earned the Petersen Events Center the title of the "toughest place to play in the Big East."
8. Washington: The Dawg Pack isn't lacking for creativity; think the sombreros they wore on "Mexican Heritage Night" after Ernie Kent's infamous trip south of the border brandishing bars of soap in taunting grizzly-looking Adam Morrison to take a shower.
9. Gonzaga: For the record, the Bulldogs don't like being called a "mid-major" and if we're basing it on student sections alone, the Kennel Club is anything but. They've taken a page out of Penn State's football playbook, adopting Zombie Nation's Kernkraft 400, which resulted in the following exchange with Digger Phelps before GameDay:
Phelps: "What's that song you guys like?"
Student: "Zombie Nation."
Phelps: "That's it. Domination. So when that song comes on, dominate."
10. Florida: The Rowdy Reptiles have been criticized for not being as rowdy as they were in the "good old days," which were, of course, just two years ago. But the Gator fans get serious props for singing Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al", which gave us the greatest video of the 1980s.
"Aren't the fans what it's all about?"