The 2021-22 DII men’s and women’s basketball seasons are underway. West Texas A&M got things rolling on the men’s side with a 3-0 start in the D2CCA Tip Off Classic, while the Drury women’s team swept through its three opponents as well. This weekend, the reigning champion Lubbock Christian women's team heads to Montana State Billings which hosts another D2CCA Tipoff Classic while eight of the best men’s teams in the nation — including the defending champion Northwest Missouri State Bearcats — converge at the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.
Wayne State (MI) also has a big weekend ahead. The Warriors host Division I Michigan in an exhibition to open their new WSU Fieldhouse. Wayne State (MI), coming off the 2021 GLIAC regular season championship, hopes to get things started in the new venue with an upset of sorts.
It got us thinking: Who has the best arena in DII basketball? We took to Twitter to find out and the votes are in. Below, the arenas with the most mentions are highlighted, but we were sure to shine some light on all the venues considered by Twitter and DII faithful.
The 10 best arenas in DII basketball, according to the fans
Wachs Arena, Northern State
This is what is known as a no-brainer. Wachs Arena has hosted the men’s and women’s basketball teams — as well as women’s volleyball and wrestling — since 1986. This 8,000-person venue has been home to some of the wildest DII basketball games and has led DII in attendance for more than a decade. It will host the inaugural Small College Basketball Champions Classic in 2022.
Gross Memorial Coliseum, Fort Hays State
No arena got more mentions and votes than the home of the Tigers. In fact, per fan Mason Gentry, it's the “Only answer.” Gross Memorial opened its doors in 1973 and now holds 6,814 devout Fort Hays fans every night. The arena is also home to women’s volleyball, wrestling and track and field. Fort Hays State came in at No. 7 in our 2021-22 preseason Power 10 rankings, so expect more excitement in Gross Memorial this season.
Alaska Airlines Center, Alaska Anchorage
The Alaska Airlines Center has seen quite a bit of winning basketball the past few seasons: The women’s team has averaged 31.2 wins per season since 2016. The 5,000-seat venue was also host to the Great Alaska Shootout over Thanksgiving weekend from 1978-2017. Names like Dwyane Wade from Marquette and Ray Allen from UConn were just some of the big-time Division I talent who won MVP of the event on the AAC court.
O’Reilly Family Events Center, Drury
The Drury women’s basketball team has gone 69-2 at home over the past five seasons, so you can imagine how electric the home court advantage in Springfield, Missouri must be. The venue holds 3,100 Panthers fans for basketball games and can fit an additional 500 fans for other events.
D.L. Ligon Coliseum, Midwestern State
The home of Mustangs basketball and volleyball for more than 50 years got quite a few votes. The coliseum was named after Dr. Ligon who seemingly served in every position during his tenure at Midwestern State and the court is named after Mustangs’ longtime coach Dr. Gerald Stockton. The venue holds 3,640 people.
William L. White Auditorium, Emporia State
The home of the Hornets received quite a bit of shoutouts. It has been home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams since 1940 with several renovations along the way. The venue now seats 5,000 fans and has played host to NCAA championship tournament games as well as Kansas high school championships for decades.
Tucker Coliseum, Arkansas Tech
Home to the Wonder Boys (men's) and Golden Suns (women's) basketball teams, Tucker Coliseum is “one of the most recognizable buildings in the entire Arkansas River Valley." Opened in 1976, the venue has a capacity of 3,500 and recently got a new hardwood floor. Along with the men’s and women’s basketball teams, Tucker Coliseum is home to the women’s volleyball team.
Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, Indiana (PA)
Whenever we dig into DII basketball’s top arenas, the home of the Crimson Hawks is always mentioned. Not only is this 5,000-seat, 17,000-square foot convention center a massive site, Ed Fry Arena is home to perennial NCAA DII tournament contenders in both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. This is one of the newer venues in DII, breaking ground in 2008.
B. Frank “Tex” Turner Arena, Lincoln Memorial
The Tex has been home to Railsplitters basketball since 1991 and Lincoln Memorial students and alumni have certainly been treated to quality hoops ever since. Visiting fans are engulfed in a sea of blue as the 5,009 seats don the Railsplitters colors. The venue is so large that many of the other athletic programs use it as a practice facility.
Taylor Center, Minnesota State
According to Twitterer Jake Morrow, “it’s not even close.” Looking at the packed house in this photo, it’s hard to disagree. The home of the Mavericks’ men’s and women’s basketball teams — as well as women’s volleyball and wrestling teams — the Taylor Center 4,800-seat facility is quite the intimidating place to play.
I’ve watched a lot of DII basketball over the years. The following arenas received a minimal number of votes or mentions but deserve to be highlighted as well.
Augustana (SD): Sanford Pentagon — This massive venue hosted the DII men’s and women’s basketball championships at the same time in 2018. That was more than 1,800 hot dogs served by tournaments' end.
Nova Southeastern: Rick Case Arena — It is beautiful inside and has palm trees when you exit into the warm Florida weather. But we are not leaving an arena nicknamed “The Shark Tank” off our list.
The Ford Center, Evansville, Indiana — This isn't home to a specific DII team, but the 11,000-seat arena is home to the DII Men’s Elite Eight. Since this is “author’s choice” the 2019 national quarterfinals upset between “home” team Southern Indiana and the No. 2 West Texas A&M Buffs was one of the most electric atmospheres I have seen at any level, including the NBA. Yeah, I said it.
7,330 people: The new record for the most in attendance at ANY opening-round game of the @NCAADII Men's Basketball Elite Eight... EVER. Thank you fans for showing your #ScreaglePride! pic.twitter.com/agcy5bYSkX— USI Athletics (@USIAthletics) March 28, 2019
Best of the rest
Kudos to the following teams. Even if it was a mere one mention, we wanted to highlight all those fans that took the time to vote.
- Angelo State — The Junell Center
- Cal (PA) — Convocation Center
- Central Missouri — Multipurpose Building
- Fairmont State — Joe Retton Arena
- Ferris State — Jim Wink Arena
- Glenville State — Waco Center
- Grand Valley State — Fieldhouse Arena
- Northeastern State — NSU Event Center
- Parkside — Alfred and Bernice De Simone Gymnasium
- Pittsburg State — John Lance Arena
- Queens (NC) — Curry Arena
- Saint Leo — Marion Bowman Activities Center
- Southern Indiana — Screaming Eagles Arena
- Southwestern Oklahoma State — Pioneer Cellular Event Center
- Truman — John J. Pershing Arena
- Valdosta State — The Complex
- Washburn — Lee Arena
- West Chester — Hollinger Field House
- West Georgia — The Coliseum
- West Texas A&M — First United Bank Center