February 24, 2010

The Importance of "The Jungle"

As many of you know, IUPUI went 10-0 this year at The Jungle, winning by an average 20.7 points and scoring less than 70 only once. In my opinion, any team that came into The Jungle this year would have a very hard time escaping with a win. But what's so special about the 1,215 person gym?
My first experience with The Jungle was last year in an exhibition against U Indy. IUPUI won, of course, but seeing the game up close and personal was the most amazing thing I've ever done. Everyone reading this has seen basketball in some capacity, but how many people can say they are just 15 feet from the court watching D-1 basketball? IU's Assembly Hall is fairly close in the South End Zone, but really it's pretty far compared to the closeness of The Jungle. Even at the top row you're only about 30 rows from the floor.
This year, I got more involved in the student section and realized one thing: That place is tiny. I mean really small. In high school we could fit about 6x as many people as The Jungle, and I come from a town of 9,000. Of course the upside to the size is the noise level. When IUPUI took on Oakland this year, that place was rockin'. 1,188 people filled the 1,215-seater gym, and the 24-point win is proof of the true dominance The Jungle creates. The closest game was against Duquesne when the Jags only (I lose that term loosely because it wasn't THAT close) won by 9.
Do we have the BEST team on the planet? No. Do we have the MOST people that come out to games? Absolutely not. Are we even the most recognized sports program at IUPUI? No. But by God, when that ball tips at about 7:00 on Thursdays and Saturdays, one of the smallest gyms in all of NCAA basketball (yes, ALL of NCAA basketball) turns into a shrine to the Mid Major gods. A smooth lefty three-pointer from Alex, a monster jam by Robert, or a behind the back pass by John warrants an eruption of cheers and claps from the fans that, even though they aren't being as loud as possible, still drown out any other noise.
There is no better place to watch basketball in the world. The Jungle is the most cozy and raucous sports venue I have ever been to. Some places can match its volume, some places can come close to its comfort level, but nothing can replace it. Not Assembly Hall in Bloomington, not Freedom Hall in Louisville, not anywhere. I'll love my school's gym until the day I die. It's what gives IUPUI the feel it deserves - A small school with a small gym.
As a quick side note, IUPUI has one of the only two tandems in the NATION scoring 18+ points per game - Robert Glenn at 19.8 and Alex Young at 18.3.

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