The best traditions in college hoops

Updated: December 16, 2011, 12:04 PM ET
Associated Press

College football is filled with long-standing traditions, from rubbing Howard's Rock for luck at Clemson to dotting the `i' at Ohio.

College basketball has a few of its own and some of them are, shall we say, a bit unique, including one that involves pajamas and another rolls of toilet paper.

Here are a few of the best ones we know of:

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Silent Night, Taylor University: The tiny NAIA school in central Indiana has held its "Silent Night" every Friday before finals for the past two decades. In one of the most unique traditions anywhere, the students remain silent until Taylor scores its 10th point, then erupt into a cheer as if the team had just won the national championship. Many of the students come dressed in costumes or pajamas and cram into every nook of little Odle Arena. When the game is over, they join arm-in-arm to sing the Christmas song "Silent Night," and many head off to Habecker's Holipalooza, a university-sponsored Christmas party that includes a reading of "A Christmas Story" by the university president. All that's missing is a Red Rider BB gun to make this perfect.

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The TP Game, John Brown University: It sounds like a line from Beavis & Butthead: I need TP for my basketball game. No one's exactly sure how it started, but about 30 years ago, students began bringing toilet paper rolls to the home opener and chucking them onto the floor following the home team's first basket. Thousands of rolls come down in a blizzard of two-ply, covering every inch of the floor at rustic Murray Sells Athletic Center at the NAIA school in Siloam Springs, Ark. The school's Golden Eagle mascot has even been known to do fluffy snow angels in what has been called the best technical foul in all of sports.

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Rock Chalk Chant, Kansas: Allen Fieldhouse is already one of the toughest places in basketball to play, with all that history oozing from the banners, retired numbers and atmosphere. It gets downright spooky at the end of games when, with the Jayhawks firmly in command, the fans sing a ghostly chorus of "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk, KU." The chant evolved from a cheer that a chemistry professor created for the science club in 1886, with the original "Rah, Rah" later replaced by a transposition of chalk rock, the name for the limestone outcropping found on Mount Oread, site of the Lawrence campus. The fans do a spirited version of the chant before the games to get the home team juiced, then let the visiting team know they've been conquered with the eerie rendition.

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St. Joseph's Hawk, St Joseph's. A mascot flapping its wings isn't particularly exciting or original. What makes the St. Joe's Hawk interesting is that he never stops. The Hawk, or at least the various students who have inhabited his bird suit, has been flapping his wings for 56 years. Representing the St. Joseph's motto of "The Hawk Will Never Die," the Hawk was once estimated to flap his wings 3,500 times during a regulation game. The Hawk is one of the few mascots that travels with the team on the road and the student inside the costume -- two have been women -- receives a full scholarship to the school. So kids, if you're looking for a way to get a full ride, you might think about switching from shooting hoops to flapping your arms.

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Cameron Crazies, Duke. Cameron Indoor Stadium is not exactly modern and holds just 9,300 fans but is one of the most intimidating places in the country to play. The Cameron Crazies, one of the most boisterous and creative student sections anywhere, make sure of that. The Crazies brave the elements to get their seats in a tent city known as Krzyzewskiville and face painting is almost part of the required attire. The Blues Devils student section has been credited with coming up with the chant of "Air Ball!" when an opponent misses everything on a shot. They also once taunted one super-sized opposing player by tying a McDonald's Happy Meal to the end of a fishing pole and dragging it across the front of the bench before a security guard put an end to it.

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Philadelphia Big 5, La Salle, Penn, St. Joe's, Temple and Villanova. There are plenty of great rivalries in college hoops, from North Carolina-Duke to Kentucky-Louisville. This one is a fivesome that's become as Philly as the cheese steak. The Big 5 have played each other since 1954 in the musty, high-ceilinged Palestra on Penn's campus. And, this being a rivalry and the City of Brotherly Taunting, there isn't much love lost between the teams and their fans. Among the most entertaining parts of the rivalries are the "rollouts," banners brought in by fans that often include unprintable insults. They're almost always witty, including this one by Temple's student section in a game against La Salle last year: "La Salle has 3 Ls. Your team has nine." Good times.

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Honorable mention: Moses Parts the Red Sea, Central Catholic High School, Lawrence, Mass. This is a high school but worthy of noting because of the sheer imagination of it. With the fans in the student section waving their arms -- they're the sea -- a student shows up dressed as Moses with a broom in hand. With a thunderous slam of the broom to the hardwood, the students part and Moses marches up the bleachers, setting off a wild cheer that turns into a chant of "Let's go Central!" You have to see it to believe it.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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