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The 16 Most Obnoxious Fans in College Basketball

duke basketball fans
Typical Duke basketball fans. | Lance King/Getty Images
Typical Duke basketball fans. | Lance King/Getty Images

You may have no connection to any of the schools seeded in the NCAA tournament, but chances are you’ve encountered plenty of people who do. And some of those people become downright intolerable for the three weeks of March Madness. Because it's difficult to gauge just how obnoxious these fans and alumni can get, we relived some of college basketball's most treacherous fan moments -- the legitimately profane, the unsettling schemes, and the unfounded arrogance -- to rank their level of transgressions in a list considered with the same precision as the NCAA selection committee. These are the cream of the obnoxious crop, the Sweet 16 of obnoxious college basketball fans.

16. Brigham Young University Cougars

In an era when most schools are striving to join better and more visible conferences, BYU chose the opposite path. After winning 32 games in 2011, they left the Mountain West for the West Coast Conference where, despite their advantages, they have routinely played third fiddle to Gonzaga and St. Mary’s. The recent lull in performance hasn’t affected their fans, still loud and annoying, who are like arrogant frat boys without the booze. The fan base peaked during the craze over Jimmer Fredette. Routinely drilling 30-footers, Fredette's high-scoring games inspired the Cougar faithful to start an assault on good taste. Quickly the term "Jimmer" became a verb: any team that Fredette scored a ton of points against was "Jimmered." Hero-worship tribute videos are littered across YouTube; there's even a stupid song, "Teach Me How to Jimmer."

15. University of Kansas Jayhawks

It’s hard to hate too much on nice Midwestern people whose most objectionable in-game tradition is waving around like a bunch of wheat plants in a light breeze. KU's problem is they’re a great program in a basketball-mad region where the only decent team within a day’s drive is Creighton, or K State in a good year. With nobody around to tell them otherwise, Kansas fans think they’re the kings of the sport because James Naismith, inventor of basketball, coached there. Any season ending with less than a championship is a failure; if they don’t win, it’s only a matter of time before they do again. It's that arrogant sense of entitlement that makes conversations with Jayhawks fans like talking to Patriots fans with more pleasant accents. Being the perennial winner that’s not as hateable as Duke or Kentucky doesn’t make them the good guy. Even if they are from Kansas.

14. University of Arizona Wildcats

On the surface, Wildcat fans are fairly unobjectionable, minus their willingness to stick with Sean Miller through all the scandals (though probably not for much longer). Despite one national championship and only a handful of Final Fours, there are fans who seem to believe the team is Pac-12 royalty right up there with UCLA. Then there’s the general denial of any corruption ever (Jason who, now?). But they’re all just kind of charming irritants. Until they start the chant.

Topped in stupidity only by Penn State’s unceasing reminder that they are, in fact, Penn State, Arizona fans do their best imitations of a Sesame Street episode by call-and-response yelling: "U!" "OF!" "A!!!" It’s almost hypnotic in its simplicity and volume. It can turn an otherwise entertaining basketball game into the kind of event you need to leave before you lose your sense of hearing. The upside of your team making a big play against Arizona is that it stops the infernal chant.

13. Virginia Commonwealth University Rams

Remember back like 15 years ago when the Red Sox were lovable losers and we all had a soft spot for their fans? Then they got a little success and now everyone’s rooting for Toronto? This is what VCU has done in college basketball, a charming Cinderella story who parlayed one great run into becoming the Duke of commuter schools. Rams fans seem to think dominating a conference full of luminaries such as Fordham and LaSalle somehow makes them a national power and won’t hesitate to get an ego about their lone 2011 Final Four appearance with anyone who comes within earshot. Enjoy that moment for what it was, VCU. If people outside the mid-Atlantic ever learn how cocky you got from one magical season, you’ll never be America’s darling again.

12. University of Memphis Tigers

Tigers fans like winning, no matter what it takes. This philosophy was on full display when their two most recent Final Four appearances in 1985 and 2008 were stripped by the NCAA. The sleazy form of enabling reached an apex with John Calipari’s tenure at Memphis. Everyone suspected Calipari’s teams were cheating and the fans were (and still are) unapologetic about it. After Calipari left for Kentucky, the predictable drama of the new coach unable to replicate the previous coach’s success unfolded in a storyline that dominated the local sports radio airwaves for years. The fans’ tension with head coach Josh Pastner finally led to the school essentially pay him $1 million to leave and coach Georgia Tech. College basketball is full of stories of fan bases running off coaches, but it usually doesn’t end with them going to an ACC job and winning the ACC Coach of the Year in his first season. Things have gone from bad to worse as his replacement Tubby Smith has done nothing to show signs of turning the team around. In a latest confirmation of their power, a fans’ revolt culminated in Anfernee Hardaway being given free reign over the program. At least Lil Penny makes rooting for Memphis a little more palatable? 

11. University of Florida Gators

Gators fans are the closest thing to a religious cult you'll find in college sports, worshipping at the altar of the deity that is "Gator Nation." They’re the kind of fans who’ll tell you with a straight face that a 20-win Gators team that lost in the second round of the SEC tournament absolutely deserves a No. 2 seed. "We had some injuries," they’ll say, "but we’re elite when we’re healthy." For whatever reason, Gainesville just breeds delusion, and while Gator fans aren’t nearly as intolerable during winter and spring as they are during football season, an evening subjected to the endless chomping by fans who claim to be basketball diehards but are dumbfounded by the concept of a technical foul is an experience you won’t need to repeat. Credit to Gator fans, though: Every season they wholeheartedly believe they’ve got a real shot at the national championship, even if anyone who knows a basketball from a badminton birdie says otherwise. 

10. University of Kentucky Wildcats

Congratulations, Wildcat fans, or Big Blue Nation, to use their preferred nomenclature: You do a great job of getting out of Kentucky during winter. Commentators love to talk about how well the fans travel, coining any city they visit as "Cat-lanta" or "Cat-olululu." Clever feline puns won't save them, though. They're probably the most entitled group of whining fans outside of Alabama football, except they've only won one title this millennium. Sure, Calipari is a genius at getting people to come to Lexington for a year, but all that’s translated into is a lot of late March disappointment eased by blaming the referees who did a perfectly fine job. John Higgins, a referee during UK’s season-ending tournament loss to UNC last season, had to file a federal lawsuit after fans flooded social media with negative comments for his roofing business, throwing in a death threat for good measure. It could never be that your coach doesn’t bother recruiting guys who’ll stick around long enough to cut down the nets. No, to Wildcat fans, losses are always someone else’s fault, an echo chamber they’ll be happy to return to after the next inevitable Tourney defeat.

9. Indiana University Hoosiers

If the Hoosiers' candy-striped pants weren't enough, here are some other reasons Indiana fans are horrendous: First, they’ve clearly taken a cue from their friends up in South Bend by treating their program as a powerhouse despite not having won a title since the Reagan administration; the lack of winning has gotten so bad Hoosiers fans rushed the court after beating Minnesota (the Golden Gophers, not the Timberwolves); the team distributed rings after making the Sweet 16 in 2002, basically the college sports equivalent of handing out participation trophies. Yet Hoosiers fans will tell you this is perfectly fine, because the team is a shoe-in to win the title next year, so this is just an advance on the hardware. Hopefully, nobody comes calling to pay it back.

8. Gonzaga University Bulldogs

Gonzaga fans make Florida fans seem grounded. By their logic, winning the vaunted West Coast Conference, getting an undeserved high seed, beating a couple of liberal arts schools then getting bounced by the first real team you face every year makes you a "perennial." Zag fans love to delusionally wax poetic about there being "something special at Gonzaga." Gonzaga, if you didn’t know, is in Spokane. What Zag fans don’t realize is they’re not a big fish in a small pond; they’re a big fish in a bathtub. Gonzaga’s roster mostly consists of guys from legit programs who transferred so they could see what winning was like by beating up on St. Mary’s and Loyola Marymount. The dirty fact no Zag fan wants to admit is when they face big state schools, the team is average. Beat Ohio State, lose to Florida. Beat Duke, lose to Tennessee. There’s a word for that in big-time basketball conferences: "mediocrity."

7. University of Texas-El Paso Miners

Because UTEP basketball isn’t known for much other than beating down racist-ass Adolph Rupp back when it was Texas Western, its fans don’t get their due for being some of the nastiest in all of college basketball. Going to a game at the Haskins Center, you might think to yourself "El Paso is no treasure but at least the game should be fun." Walking into the stadium, you realize everyone is screaming exceptionally loud for a weekday game against Rice. Then there’s a fight. Then a row of fans behind you doesn’t like a first half foul call and screams "You’re fucking gonna die, ref!" repeatedly, even during halftime. Then you realize all you can smell is a combination of whiskey, tequila, and more whiskey, and that you should probably get the hell out of there before someone mistakes you for that ref. As you leave, you make a mental note to warn anyone who hasn’t been through UTEP that their fans are the Raiders fans of college basketball.

6. West Virginia University Mountaineers

Some stereotypes about West Virginia are a little unfounded. Yes, they have the internet. No, they’re not all married to their cousins. You know what stereotype isn’t even a little untrue? The couch burning. Win or lose, West Virginia fans feel the appropriate response to the end of a sports match is to torch a perfectly good couch. You have one of the best basketball coaches in history and a team that wins all the time. Why are you so angry, Mountaineers fans? Oh right. Because you’re shitfaced. Not "I might not get out of here alive" shitfaced like the fans at UTEP. "Multiple PA warnings about throwing objects onto the court" shitfaced. WVA might not have the most obnoxious fans in college basketball, but if you’re not on their level of inebriation, it sure does feel like it.

unc basketball fans
Peyton Williams/Getty Images

5. University of North Carolina Tar Heels

There are two distinct yet equally awful types of Tar Heel fans out there. First, there are the old Carolina alums who are content to ignore things like invented college courses and blatant NCAA violations in the name of school pride. Dare bring it up, and they’ll respond by citing a mild scandal from YOUR school that probably involved swimming, then say something like, "Well, they all cheat." They’re the same bluehairs (and sweaters) who fill the lower bowl of the Dean Dome and give the place all the energy of a James Taylor concert. These fans still consider their degrees to be better than yours despite the academic fraud unveiled by the NCAA and the fact that Dan Cortese is an alum. Second, there are people who couldn’t even find Chapel Hill on a map yet still rock Michael Jordan jerseys for a year after any season UNC makes the Final Four. Many of them just simply hate Duke, and we can get behind that. But pledging lifelong allegiance to a team you’ve never seen just because they win should really be reserved for pro football.

4. University of Oregon Ducks

Oregon fans are the basketball equivalent of the kid who drives a Bugatti to school, treats everyone like shit, then can’t figure out why he has no friends. They've won exactly zero national championships since America’s participation in World War II, and yet Duck fans still think Brazilian wood floors and individual TVs in the locker room make it an elite program. Which they think justifies their behavior, like shoving opposing fans into urinals and reminding them "Ted Bundy was a Husky." Or spitting on opposing players sitting on the bench, or yelling "benchwarmer bitch" at opposing walk-ons as they step onto the court. These diehards have no problem leaving games at halftime if the team is behind, though. The Ducks are, at best, a distant third program in the Pac-12 over the past couple decades, but the fans still scream to fire the coach after a mediocre season, somehow believing Phil Knight’s money should be able to buy them Phil Jackson.  

3. Duke University Blue Devils

Have you ever met anyone who went to Duke? It’s like they have a question on the application that says "Do you inherently think you’re smarter than everyone? If so, please explain why." Answer yes but fail to explain why, and you’re in. Now take that general baseless arrogance, give those people something to actually brag about, and you might have the most intolerable group of people on the planet. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting anywhere near the student section at Cameron Indoor, you’ll experience an unpleasant combination of mid-Atlantic trust fund kids and overachieving transplants who use the two hours of the game as their lone time to act like actual college students. This explains why on TV, distracting someone from a free throw looks like the most exciting part of the Cameron Crazies’ week. Because it is. God forbid you’re ever around a Duke fan after a loss. They’ll act devastated for about 45 minutes until they remember, oh yeah, they go to Duke. Then they go back to acting like they won.

2. Butler University Bulldogs

A small private school in the Midwest without a major football program has slowly worked its way up the college basketball hierarchy with consistently strong records and NCAA tournament appearances to finally become a member of the Big East. What a feel-good story! The only problem is that it was Xavier’s first. Butler has always lived in Xavier's shadow. Hell, even former Butler coach Thad Matta thought so when he left Butler for Xavier after just one season. Now that the two teams are in the Big East together, this little brother syndrome has become more apparent. Butler has never received higher than a 4 seed and has never finished in the top 10 of the season’s final AP poll (Xavier has outdone both of these things).

If it weren’t for Brad Stevens engineering back-to-back Championship games they lucked into, we probably wouldn’t have even noticed how toxic Bulldog fans can be. Their base is significantly smaller than most on this list, but if you do see one at the sports bar during March Madness, don’t initiate conversation or you risk being inundated with references to how well-coached Butler is, how much harder Butler players hustle than other teams, and, of course, the dreaded mention of "The Butler Way," the hokey phrase referring to the philosophy that embodies Butler basketball. Judging from recent history, the true Butler Way is for the coach to have a couple of good seasons before bolting for a better job. Just ask former coach Chris Holtmann how classy Butler fans handle this. Soon after announcing taking a job at Ohio State, Holtmann received a $1 bill in the mail with the return address simply reading "The Butler Way."

1. University of Maryland Terrapins

Put simply, there is not a meaner, more tasteless, ruthless, unscrupulous fan base in the NCAA than the University of Maryland Terrapins. If attending a home game in opposing colors, prepare to face a shower of profanity and bodily fluids. Dare to stick around after a game and there’s a better-than-there-should-be chance you’ll be privy to a riot. Terps fans are an unreasonably nasty and biting collection of people drawn from the same geographic region as Eagles fans who feel it’s their sworn duty to act like complete assholes at any sporting event. All this and a whopping one national title to show for it. Who can forget how head coach Gary Williams threw shade at Jim Calhoun and his recruiting methods after Rudy Gay chose UConn over Maryland? Don’t get us wrong, there are years when this team has been up there with the best in the nation. There’s just never been one where the fans weren’t flat out the worst.

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Matt Meltzer is a contributing writer to Thrillist who thinks UConn women’s fans are worst of all. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.
Jeff "The Body" Zanotti is a contributing writer to Thrillist who once scored 49 points in a high school basketball game, is a former college intramural champion, and is a future over 35 men’s league legend. Follow him on Twitter at @jzanotti44.