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Jeff Goodman, ESPN Insider 476d

Which Mountain West venue is the toughest place to win?

Men's College Basketball, San Diego State Aztecs, Wyoming Cowboys, Boise State Broncos, Fresno State Bulldogs, UNLV Rebels, Utah State Aggies, Air Force Falcons, New Mexico Lobos, Nevada Wolf Pack, Colorado State Rams, San José State Spartans

Over a two-week span, we're answering the following question for college basketball's 10 best conferences: Which venue in each conference is the toughest place to play? A number of factors, not just capacity and attendance, could affect a venue's place in the order. Where does your school fall? 

The Pit at New Mexico has always been considered one of the top venues in all of college basketball, but coach Steve Fisher has created quite an environment at San Diego State.

Which one ranks at the top of the Mountain West? And where does the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV sit in the league's rankings?

11. San José State Spartans: The Event Center, opened in 1989
The toughest thing about playing at The Event Center is the lack of fans in the building. It's a small venue, with a capacity of 5,000, but the Spartans averaged only 1,647 last season.

Fun fact: This isn't exactly a fun fact, but it's a fact nonetheless: The Spartans are just 154-206 in the building since it opened in 1989.

10. Fresno State Bulldogs: Save Mart Center, opened in 2003
Other than Thomas & Mack, it's the largest venue (15,596) in the league, an NBA-style arena. It's nice, but the fans are far away from the action, and the Bulldogs averaged just 6,296 in attendance last season, a year in which the team was good and wound up going to the NCAA tournament.

Fun fact: The first concert in the building was held by opera tenor Andrea Bocelli.

9. Nevada Wolf Pack: Lawlor Events Center, opened in 1983
It's one of the easiest places to play in the league these days, but that could change if second-year coach Eric Musselman starts to get his team going on the court again. The Wolf Pack averaged 6,554 fans (capacity is 11,784) this past season, and even when they had it rolling under Trent Johnson and Mark Fox, they were averaging about 8,000 fans per game.

Fun fact: The building was named after Glenn "Jake" Lawlor, who coached the football, men's basketball and baseball teams at one time or another. He was also the school's athletic director from 1951 to 1969.

8. Air Force Falcons: Clune Arena, opened in 1968
It's an old building, and back when coach Joe Scott had things rolling in the mid-2000s, the cadet section was rocking. Clune, which holds 5,858, was sold out just about every game with 1,300 to 1,400 cadets jammed into 700 seats. It's not like that these days -- with an average of 1,476 fans last season -- but Clune has a low, flat ceiling, meaning it can get extremely loud. And the fans are right on top of the players.

Fun fact: The building is named after Col. John Clune, Air Force's athletic director from 1975-91. Clune is actually a Naval Academy graduate.

7. Colorado State Rams: Moby Arena, opened in 1966

It's small (holds 8,745) and older, but it gets extremely loud at times, even though the Rams have averaged just under half-capacity over the past couple years. The students are right on top of the players, and coach Larry Eustachy's team has a different mindset and style at home. One coach described the Rams as "tough, physical and nasty" in their building. Eustachy is also wild on the sidelines, which gets the crowd going.

Fun fact: The arena was the setting for the 1976 movie "One on One," starring Robbie Benson, in which he played a basketball standout from Colorado named Henry Steele.

6. Boise State Broncos: Taco Bell Arena, opened in 1982
Coach Leon Rice has done a terrific job the past few years with the program, but it still hasn't resulted in sellout crowds. In 2015, the Broncs averaged 5,775 fans. Last season saw a slight increase to 6,270. The place holds more than 12,000. It's middle-of-the-road in terms of the toughest venues in the conference.

Fun fact: The most memorable play in the arena came when UCLA point guard Tyus Edney went the length of the court to beat Missouri in the 1995 NCAA tournament. The Bruins went on to win the national title.

5. UNLV Rebels: Thomas & Mack Center, opened in 1983
It obviously hasn't been what it was back in the '90s when Jerry Tarkanian made it the hottest ticket in a city full of them. The place holds more than 18,000 and is currently undergoing a $72.5 million modernization project, which includes a 2,500-square foot observation deck that overlooks the Las Vegas Strip. When Tark had it rolling, this place was as high-powered as just about any in the country.

Fun fact: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar swished a skyhook against the Utah Jazz and passed Wilt Chamberlain as the NBA's all-time leading scorer in the building in 1984.

4. Utah State Aggies: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, opened in 1970
When the Aggies are winning, the student section is as good as just about any in the league. The 10,270 in Logan are cramped, clad in navy blue, and loud. The Aggies have won nearly 81 percent of their games in this building since it opened, and even though Utah State struggled last season, fans still came -- nearly 9,000 per home contest.

Fun fact: The arena was named for Dee Glen Smith, the founder of Smith's Food & Drug.

3. Wyoming Cowboys: Arena-Auditorium, opened in 1982

The elevation makes it extremely difficult to play in the "Dome of Doom" in Laramie. The place holds 11,612, and the winter weather doesn't help matters for opposing teams making the trip. The Cowboys have won 74 percent of their home games since the building opened. The arena is currently undergoing a $30 million renovation that will feature expansive courtside seating.

Fun fact: It's the highest Division I court in the country with an elevation of 7,220 feet.

2. New Mexico Lobos: WisePies Arena aka The Pit, opened in 1966
The Pit, which crams in nearly 15,000, is regarded as one of the top venues in the nation and ranked in the top five in attendance 16 times in the first 20 years of its existence. It gets mind-numbingly loud, the altitude (more than 5,300 feet) is extremely difficult for opponents, and the building is 37 feet below street level (hence the name). The Lobos are 708-162 in the building, an 81 percent clip.

Fun fact: The St. Petersburg Times conducted a study of decibel levels at collegiate basketball arenas during the 1988-89 season, and the Lobos' game against Arizona registered the loudest at 118 decibels.

1. San Diego State Aztecs: Viejas Arena, opened in 1997
The venue is built into a canyon hillside and holds more than 12,000. Coach Steve Fisher has created a home environment that rocks. "The Show" is one of the top student sections in the country, and this is one of my favorite places to catch a game. The Aztecs sold out all 20 home games last season and ranked 29th in the nation in attendance.

Fun fact: Viejas Arena sits in the school's old football stadium, the Aztec Bowl. There are concrete bleachers on either side of one parking lot.

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