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Overreaction Monday: Hawkeye Fans Return Home Court Advantage to Carver

Carver-Hawkeye Arena isn’t often described as an intimidating place, but once sleepy Iowa fans have been vocal in a surprisingly good season.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Iowa
Fran hasn’t been the only one yelling in Carver this season.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Over the years, Iowa hoops fans and Carver-Hawkeye Arena have earned a less than stellar reputation. While we often hear about the difficulties of life on the road in the Big Ten, it never seems to be a major issue for opposing teams in Iowa City.

Maybe it’s our Iowa nice demeanor or the welcoming feel of the town and state itself, but the home court advantage for the Hawkeyes has never been to the same level as we seem to see when Iowa is on the road. There’s always some relatively unknown player for Iowa’s opponent who has a career night in Carver. And there are certainly never shooting nights like we saw Iowa have in Lincoln for opposing teams in Iowa City.

Over the years, a lot of that has been attributed to lackluster crowd support in Carver. The stadium doesn’t sell out on a regular basis and those that do show up are know for not only sitting, but sitting on their hands. That is, of course, until the under-eight media timeout in the second half, at which point the crowd begins rising to its feet. No, not to get loud down the home stretch, but to start heading up the 30+ stairs for the upper concourse or the exits. Nothing worse than being stuck in stadium traffic.

That reputation, however, has been turned on its head over the last couple weeks. With back-to-back major winter storms wreaking havoc on the state, dropping several inches of snow and ice on game day, fan turnout was expected to be underwhelming for Iowa’s matchups with Maryland and Michigan. While total attendance was undoubtedly down, the crowds have been anything but lackluster.

What we’ve seen in the midst of these big storms is that those fans who really want to be in Carver, who are willing to deal with the traffic and road conditions and parking and everything else, are the ones who want to be there. They want to be there and they want to cheer.

Despite attendance surely well below 10,000 for each of Iowa’s last two home games, the crowds have been some of the loudest of the season. That’s been a combination of passionate fans fighting to be in the stadium and a team that gives their fanbase a lot to cheer for.

Over the years, Iowa has had plenty of exciting teams. Under Fran McCaffery, games have long been exciting with plenty of scoring, a fast pace and loads of explosive plays from greats like Eric May, Aaron White and Tyler Cook. But this year’s team, lacking high-flyers, plays with as much heart and tenacity as any in recent memory. They’re never out of a game and they always keep fighting.

The fanbase has followed suit. In situations where past crowds would’ve started packing things in, heading to the soft serve lines early or scrolling Twitter to pass the time, this year we see the crowd looking for a reason to stay engaged. When this group of Hawkeyes gets behind, the crowd can’t go to sleep for fear of missing another spectacular finish from Luka Garza or a big time three from CJ Fredrick or both from Joe Wieskamp.

And with good reason. The Hawkeyes haven’t lost in Carver in more than two months. In fact, the November 11th loss to DePaul remains Iowa’s lone home loss on the season. With all the talk this year of the difficulty in winning on the road in the Big Ten, something that’s happened just seven times all year, Iowa appears to finally be on par with the rest of the league in holding a home court advantage.

That will be test again on Wednesday as the Hawkeyes play host to a Rutgers squad that already has 14 wins, as many as they managed all last season. There’s a chance of snow in the forecast yet again, so perhaps we’ll see that smaller, rowdy crowd we’ve seen the last two home games yet again.

Regardless of turnout in any of the remaining games this season, one thing’s become clear: the issue with Carver, and there are many physical limitations (from the wrestling meet design keeping fans further from the floor, to the pit structure without a mid-concourse creating more aisles near the floor and letting noise seep out the top, to the soft surface roof designed to limit noise rather than trap it), is not with the stadium itself, but with the fans who fill it. We’ve seen what it can be when the passionate fans have access to tickets and seats, whether it be the NIT matchup with Dayton in 2012, or just the last few weeks with inclement weather. When the Iowa fans who desperately want to be in Carver are the ones in the building, it doesn’t matter how many there are - it can truly rock and will always be a home court advantage.

Happy Monday everyone. Let’s pack Carver again on Wednesday and get a fourth straight Big Ten win!