epending on where you live, college basketball may have even more draw than the professional level does. For example, the most profitable team, the Louisville Cardinals, is worth an astounding $43.9 million. But the sport is about much more than the money; it’s about the players and the entertainment value. Which cities provide the most exciting teams to root for?

That’s a tough question to answer, as each city has its own unique basketball history and charm. Graduates also tend to favor their alma mater, while others may have an understandable loyalty to their hometown.

To find 2019’s top spots for NCAA hoops, WalletHub crunched the numbers on more than 280 U.S. cities using nine key metrics. They range from the number of teams per city and the winning percentage of each to stadium capacity and social-media engagement. You can find the results below, followed by a Q&A with a panel of leading college basketball experts. If you disagree with where the data led us, tell us why in the Comments section. Make sure to also check out WalletHub’s March Madness Stats & Facts infographic for fun and interesting stats about the matchup.

Main Findings

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Best College Basketball Cities

*Note: 1 = Best
 

Ranking by City Size

Rank
(1=Best)

Large City
(Score)

Rank
(1=Best)

Midsize City
(Score)

Rank
(1=Best)

Small City
(Score)

1 Los Angeles, CA
(55.36)
1 Durham, NC
(56.99)
1 Lawrence, KS
(59.03)
2 Philadelphia, PA
(51.30)
2 Ann Arbor, MI
(42.33)
2 East Lansing, MI
(53.79)
3 Lexington, KY
(51.16)
3 South Bend, IN
(38.06)
3 Chapel Hill, NC
(52.94)
4 Washington, DC
(44.00)
4 Norman, OK
(37.44)
4 Storrs, CT
(51.78)
5 New York, NY
(42.86)
5 Cincinnati, OH
(34.50)
5 Fayette, MS
(47.07)
6 Boston, MA
(41.67)
6 Salt Lake City, UT
(33.99)
6 Loretto, PA
(46.35)
7 Houston, TX
(33.84)
7 Provo, UT
(32.62)
7 College Park, MD
(45.81)
8 Tulsa, OK
(32.87)
8 Syracuse, NY
(32.13)
8 Morgantown, WV
(44.65)
9 Louisville, KY
(32.16)
9 Columbia, SC
(30.32)
9 Bloomington, IN
(43.86)
10 Long Beach, CA
(31.42)
10 Providence, RI
(29.15)
10 Kingston, RI
(43.42)
11 Nashville, TN
(30.54)
11 Eugene, OR
(29.14)
11 West Point, NY
(42.20)
12 Chicago, IL
(29.98)
12 College Station, TX
(27.38)
12 Charlottesville, VA
(38.51)
13 Omaha, NE
(29.53)
13 Dayton, OH
(27.31)
13 Fayetteville, AR
(38.15)
14 Baltimore, MD
(28.20)
14 Gainesville, FL
(27.06)
14 Ames, IA
(37.26)
15 Tucson, AZ
(28.01)
15 Murfreesboro, TN
(26.55)
15 Lewiston, NY
(36.91)
16 Memphis, TN
(27.96)
16 Spokane, WA
(26.54)
16 Buies Creek, NC
(35.84)
17 Seattle, WA
(27.82)
17 Norfolk, VA
(26.26)
17 Iowa City, IA
(35.25)
18 Miami, FL
(27.48)
18 Lafayette, LA
(26.12)
18 West Lafayette, IN
(34.78)
19 Columbus, OH
(27.40)
19 Akron, OH
(26.03)
19 Stillwater, OK
(34.36)
20 Phoenix, AZ
(27.15)
20 Baton Rouge, LA
(25.91)
20 Itta Bena, MS
(34.24)
21 Dallas, TX
(26.95)
21 Waco, TX
(25.78)
21 Spartanburg, SC
(32.67)
22 San Francisco, CA
(26.52)
22 Madison, WI
(25.74)
22 Emmitsburg, MD
(32.09)
23 Milwaukee, WI
(26.17)
23 Toledo, OH
(25.35)
23 Champaign, IL
(31.62)
24 Pittsburgh, PA
(25.76)
24 Lincoln, NE
(25.31)
24 Murray, KY
(31.37)
25 Arlington, TX
(25.32)
25 Tallahassee, FL
(25.28)
25 Princeton, NJ
(31.35)
26 Jacksonville, FL
(24.74)
26 Boulder, CO
(25.28)
26 Clemson, SC
(31.11)
27 San Diego, CA
(24.39)
27 Savannah, GA
(25.28)
27 Lewisburg, PA
(30.90)
28 Corpus Christi, TX
(24.07)
28 Greensboro, NC
(25.24)
28 Orangeburg, SC
(30.49)
29 San Antonio, TX
(24.04)
29 New Haven, CT
(25.08)
29 Troy, AL
(30.46)
30 New Orleans, LA
(23.80)
30 Fargo, ND
(25.01)
30 Highland Heights, KY
(30.07)
31 El Paso, TX
(23.77)
31 Reno, NV
(24.98)
31 Olean, NY
(30.06)
32 Bakersfield, CA
(23.64)
32 Buffalo, NY
(24.91)
32 Pullman, WA
(29.24)
33 Portland, OR
(23.63)
33 Lubbock, TX
(24.73)
33 Ogden, UT
(28.76)
34 Austin, TX
(23.55)
34 Hampton, VA
(24.54)
34 Stanford, CA
(28.63)
35 Indianapolis, IN
(22.98)
35 Irvine, CA
(24.50)
35 Hamilton, NY
(28.62)
36 Raleigh, NC
(22.97)
36 Tempe, AZ
(24.49)
36 Nacogdoches, TX
(28.56)
37 Atlanta, GA
(22.94)
37 Newark, NJ
(24.40)
37 Athens, OH
(28.51)
38 Fresno, CA
(22.93)
38 Jackson, MS
(24.39)
38 Cheney, WA
(28.50)
39 Sacramento, CA
(22.55)
39 Abilene, TX
(24.35)
39 Carbondale, IL
(28.42)
40 Las Vegas, NV
(22.35)
40 High Point, NC
(24.28)
40 Huntsville, TX
(28.36)
41 Denver, CO
(22.31)
41 Charleston, SC
(24.28)
41 Cullowhee, NC
(28.23)
42 Detroit, MI
(22.01)
42 Boise, ID
(24.13)
42 Williamsburg, VA
(28.21)
43 Kansas City, MO
(21.44)
43 Chattanooga, TN
(23.79)
43 Laramie, WY
(28.16)
44 Colorado Springs, CO
(21.40)
44 Macon, GA
(23.57)
44 Oxford, MS
(28.15)
45 St. Louis, MO
(21.24)
45 Lowell, MA
(23.03)
45 Princess Anne, MD
(27.87)
46 Riverside, CA
(21.08)
46 Clarksville, TN
(23.01)
46 Brookings, SD
(27.60)
47 Albuquerque, NM
(21.06)
47 Fort Wayne, IN
(22.80)
46 Thibodaux, LA
(27.60)
48 Cleveland, OH
(19.98)
48 Orlando, FL
(22.59)
48 Durham, NH
(27.57)
49 Wichita, KS
(19.87)
49 Beaumont, TX
(22.24)
49 Boiling Springs, NC
(27.08)
50 Honolulu, HI
(19.81)
50 North Charleston, SC
(22.01)
50 Johnson City, TN
(26.88)
51 Stockton, CA
(19.68)
51 Birmingham, AL
(21.92)
51 Albany, NY
(26.80)
52 Fort Worth, TX
(18.88)
52 Worcester, MA
(21.90)
52 Moraga, CA
(26.77)
53 San Jose, CA
(18.77)
53 Little Rock, AR
(21.68)
53 Kent, OH
(26.65)
54 Tampa, FL
(18.65)
54 Mobile, AL
(21.59)
54 Cedar Falls, IA
(26.58)
55 Charlotte, NC
(17.53)
55 Columbia, MO
(21.45)
55 Radford, VA
(26.56)
56 Minneapolis, MN
(13.62)
56 Springfield, MO
(21.38)
56 Prairie View, TX
(26.55)
57 Fort Collins, CO
(21.36)
57 Ruston, LA
(26.34)
58 Cambridge, MA
(21.32)
58 Lexington, VA
(26.34)
59 Hartford, CT
(21.29)
59 Grambling, LA
(26.30)
60 Athens, GA
(21.28)
60 Mount Pleasant, MI
(26.29)
61 Denton, TX
(21.27)
61 Normal, IL
(26.24)
62 Las Cruces, NM
(21.27)
62 Long Branch, NJ
(26.14)
63 Evansville, IN
(21.25)
63 Rock Hill, SC
(26.12)
64 Greeley, CO
(21.13)
64 Amherst, MA
(26.11)
65 Green Bay, WI
(21.06)
65 Moscow, ID
(26.02)
66 Santa Clara, CA
(21.04)
66 Morehead, KY
(26.00)
67 Winston-Salem, NC
(20.97)
67 Ypsilanti, MI
(25.99)
68 Peoria, IL
(20.89)
68 State College, PA
(25.91)
69 Wilmington, NC
(20.38)
69 Corvallis, OR
(25.89)
70 Fullerton, CA
(19.96)
70 Stony Brook, NY
(25.70)
71 Richmond, VA
(19.58)
71 Hammond, LA
(25.55)
72 Berkeley, CA
(19.06)
72 Davidson, NC
(25.37)
73 Knoxville, TN
(18.70)
73 Bowling Green, KY
(25.29)
74 Des Moines, IA
(17.94)
74 Muncie, IN
(25.17)
75 Huntsville, AL
(16.32)
75 Valparaiso, IN
(25.10)
76 Jersey City, NJ
(13.86)
76 Annapolis, MD
(25.08)
77 Montgomery, AL
(12.61)
77 Fairfield, CT
(25.07)
78 Statesboro, GA
(24.99)
79 Conway, SC
(24.92)
80 Boone, NC
(24.89)
81 Jacksonville, AL
(24.86)
82 Elon, NC
(24.76)
83 Lynchburg, VA
(24.76)
84 Terre Haute, IN
(24.72)
85 New Rochelle, NY
(24.70)
86 Grand Forks, ND
(24.63)
87 Martin, TN
(24.53)
88 Easton, PA
(24.51)
89 Huntington, WV
(24.44)
90 DeKalb, IL
(24.36)
91 Greenville, SC
(24.27)
92 Starkville, MS
(24.23)
93 Towson, MD
(24.19)
94 Richmond, KY
(24.09)
95 Trenton, NJ
(24.06)
96 Davis, CA
(24.05)
97 San Marcos, TX
(23.98)
98 Asheville, NC
(23.79)
99 Charleston, IL
(23.70)
100 Hanover, NH
(23.68)
101 Harrisonburg, VA
(23.37)
102 Kalamazoo, MI
(23.23)
103 Cape Girardeau, MO
(23.19)
104 Ithaca, NY
(23.17)
105 Orem, UT
(23.10)
106 Blacksburg, VA
(23.08)
107 Natchitoches, LA
(22.99)
108 Santa Barbara, CA
(22.98)
109 Fort Myers, FL
(22.98)
110 Farmville, VA
(22.90)
111 Rochester Hills, MI
(22.83)
112 Bozeman, MT
(22.81)
113 Florence, AL
(22.69)
114 Monroe, LA
(22.67)
115 Hempstead, NY
(22.62)
116 Pine Bluff, AR
(22.53)
117 Fairfax, VA
(22.53)
118 Evanston, IL
(22.51)
119 Macomb, IL
(22.49)
120 Auburn, AL
(22.48)
121 San Luis Obispo, CA
(22.44)
122 Tuscaloosa, AL
(22.13)
123 Oxford, OH
(21.98)
124 Manhattan, KS
(21.96)
125 Vermillion, SD
(21.80)
126 Clinton, SC
(21.80)
127 Orono, ME
(21.53)
128 Edwardsville, IL
(21.47)
129 Lake Charles, LA
(21.34)
130 Jonesboro, AR
(21.27)
131 Bowling Green, OH
(21.27)
132 Youngstown, OH
(21.18)
133 DeLand, FL
(20.95)
134 Kennesaw, GA
(20.92)
135 Logan, UT
(20.80)
136 Newark, DE
(20.78)
137 Hattiesburg, MS
(20.49)
138 Binghamton, NY
(20.28)
139 Greenville, NC
(20.07)
140 Conway, AR
(19.67)
141 Cedar City, UT
(19.32)
142 Malibu, CA
(18.97)
143 Boca Raton, FL
(18.74)
144 Poughkeepsie, NY
(18.64)
145 Edinburg, TX
(18.62)
146 Dover, DE
(18.50)
147 Flagstaff, AZ
(18.34)
148 Burlington, VT
(18.33)
149 New Brunswick, NJ
(17.50)
150 Missoula, MT
(17.18)
151 Bethlehem, PA
(16.40)
152 Cookeville, TN
(15.55)
153 Hackensack, NJ
(12.91)
154 Daytona Beach, FL
(11.57)
155 Pocatello, ID
(11.07)
156 New Britain, CT
(10.21)

Ask the Experts

For more input on what makes for a great college basketball city and how residents can ramp up their fandom without spending too much, we asked the following questions to a panel of leading industry experts. You can check out their bios and responses below.

  1. What, in your mind, makes a good college basketball fan?
  2. What do you think is the best city for college basketball fans and why?
  3. Do you have any tips for how basketball fans can enjoy the sport without breaking the bank?

Methodology

In order to identify the best and worst cities for college basketball fans, WalletHub compared the 289 U.S. cities with at least one college (Division 1) team using nine relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for college basketball fans.

We determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. Cities were also ranked based on population size, using the following groupings:

  • Large Cities: More than 300,000 people
  • Midsize Cities: 100,000 to 300,000 people
  • Small Cities: Fewer than 100,000 people

NCAA Basketball

  • Number of College Basketball (Division 1) Teams: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
  • Performance Level of College Basketball (Division 1) Team(s): Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
    Note: This metric was calculated by dividing “Number of Wins” by “Total Games Played” and using the past three seasons’ averages.
  • Number of Basketball (Division 1) Championship Wins: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
  • Number of College Basketball (Division 1) Conference Regular Season Championship Wins: Half Weight (~6.25 Points)
  • Number of Hall of Fame Head Coaches: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
  • Minimum Season Ticket Price for a College Basketball (Division 1) Game: Full Weight (~12.50 Points)
  • College-Basketball Fans Engagement: Sesqui-Weight (~18.75 Points)
    Note: This metric was calculated by adding “Number of Twitter Followers” and “Number of Facebook ‘Likes’ per Capita.”
  • Number of Coaches in Past 10 Seasons: Half Weight (~6.25 Points)
    Note: “Past 10 Seasons” include seasons 2009–2010 to 2018–2019.
  • College-Basketball Stadium Capacity: Half Weight (~6.25 Points)
    Note: This metric was calculated by dividing “Stadium Capacity” by “City Population.”

Videos for News Use:

Sources: Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, ESPN, Sports Reference, NCAA.org and each team’s website.

Image: Alex Kravtsov / Shutterstock.com

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