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Green: Venue played role in other “Big Game”

| Sunday, February 2, 2014

In case you missed it, the biggest game of the year took place this weekend.

No, I am not talking about the Super Bowl. Sure, that was a good one that certainly receives a lot of fanfare and draws in a good-sized crowd each year.

But the game to which I referred actually broke a record for its magnitude.

Still guessing? You should ask one of the 35,446 fans who packed into the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., to watch Saturday’s tilt between No. 2 Syracuse and No. 17 Duke, and he or she could probably help you out with the answer.

The contest set a new mark for the largest attendance for a college basketball game at an on-campus site. Not surprisingly, the Carrier Dome, which also hosts football games for the Orange, held the previous record, set when Syracuse beat Georgetown in 2013 to close out one of the nation’s best rivalries.

The clash between the Orange and the Blue Devils matched up two historic programs, two of the country’s top freshmen in Tyler Ennis and Jabari Parker and the winningest two coaches of all-time in men’s college basketball, as Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski brought in a combined 1,914 victories.

Despite so many similarities, the two squads also represented a stark contrast in two different, but no less famous, home courts.

Syracuse boasts the massive Carrier Dome, while Duke takes on opponents in the much more intimate Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., where the schools will meet Feb. 22 for chapter two of this blossoming rivalry.

So when it comes down to looking at these notable but dissimilar venues, which one is tops?

In my opinion, bigger is better.

While playing in Cameron Indoor, where it seems all 9,314 fans are piled on top of each other and breathing down the backs of visiting players on the court, can be daunting, the Carrier Dome brings no less of an intimidation factor with its overwhelming size compared to most collegiate facilities.

That size can be a benefit for a team like Syracuse come March, when it will play in more spacious arenas during the NCAA tournament, with the sites only getting bigger as the team makes a deeper run towards its one shining moment.

While the sheer enormity of a venue like the 80,000-seat AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, host to this year’s Final Four, might be imposing to any basketball team, it would probably have the smallest effect on a squad like the Orange, who are used to playing in front of a large crowd and under a shot-altering high ceiling.

Plus, the sound levels at the Carrier Dome about match the ones at Cameron Indoor, with both registering around 120 decibels, so close confines do not necessarily make for a more reverberating experience.

Home-team help: advantage, expansive arenas.

Now, look at the comparison from the perspective of a fan.

Though the showdown between the Orange and the Blue Devils nonetheless sold out in a matter of minutes, it would have been a lot easier to find an available ticket in the Dome than in Cameron Indoor.

As a student, camping out for a seat in the dead of winter would have more of an appeal knowing that you would be sitting in a larger student section and would have a better chance of claiming an available spot.

It would also be more fun to watch the game with 35,446 of your closest friends than with only 9,314 — the more, the merrier.

Fan experience: advantage, vast halls of basketball.

Finally, what would the schools rather have — under 10,000 tickets to sell or over 30,000?

University profit: advantage, cavernous sites.

So there you have it, the reasons why the spacious Carrier Dome and arenas like it delivers an overall better experience than cozier settings like Cameron Indoor.

But if someone wants to offer me a ticket to the Feb. 22 rematch at Duke, I certainly would not pass that up.

Contact Mary Green at [email protected]

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About Mary Green

Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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