Since 2011, when Oregon debuted its Tinker Hatfield-designed "Tall Firs" court at Matthew Knight Arena, the nation's college basketball courts have taken a sharp turn for the ugly. Monstrous silhouettes are the dominant design aesthetic. Oversized logos lumber from key to key like late-career Rasheed Wallace. No joke, somebody actually convinced San Jose State that this was a good idea.
The desire to elicit any kind of reaction is the reason these courts exist in the first place, and we've written plenty about this indefensible trend in recent seasons. Unfortunately, that means we've spent far less time praising the best court designs in college hoops.
Today, that injustice is corrected. The following list -- populated as it is by simple, striking, timeless designs -- is proof that basketball can be beautiful even when no one's playing.
1. Assembly Hall, Indiana
How sacred is Indiana's court? In 2012, when the Big Ten added required logos to the free throw line, Indiana fans were slightly ticked. And why not? The Hoosiers' home floor is the granddaddy of college courts, a perfect design whose timelessness testifies to the depth of the state's relationship with the game. Adding a conference logo is like putting an "Only at the Louvre!" sticker on the Mona Lisa. May it ever be so.
2. Dean E. Smith Center, North Carolina
Speaking of classic, right? It's not just the colors. It's the details: the atypically narrow out of bounds area, the just-right dimensions of the center logo, even the light grain of the hardwood itself. We would do away with the Tar Heel logos in the corners for maximum minimalism, but that's a minor gripe.
3. Jon M. Huntsman Center, Utah
As much as this list clearly prefers the classic, it's worth noting that change need not be a bad thing. In one fell swoop, Utah has totally overhauled its court colors and logo, and the results -- which will be finalized next month and debut at the Huntsman Center in 2014-15 -- are spectacular.
4. Pauley Pavilion, UCLA
If we were running UCLA's athletics department, we would lean on vintage callbacks at every turn. Which means we'd swap the current "UCLA Bruins" midcourt logo for the classic, sky-blue jump circle. Or maybe even this. In that world, Nell and John Wooden Court ranks No. 1. In this world, it's still really pretty.
5. McKale Center, Arizona
Arizona has come a long way from the technicolor cactus logos of yore. (Though, to be fair, if you told us you wanted to put one of these things in the center of the floor, we'd struggle to disagree.) The McKale Center's current floor is almost effortlessly attractive.
6. Thompson-Boling Arena, Tennessee
Tennessee's color scheme is gorgeous, sure, but the best thing about this court is the checkered baselines -- an instantly recognizable homage to the football team's defining end zone design.
7. Memorial Gymnasium, Vanderbilt
Say what you want about Memorial Gymnasium: The whole setup, from the raised floor to the baseline benches, is pretty strange. But Vanderbilt's current court design stands out for its four-cornered star motif and understated contrast between the lane and the rest of 3-point semicircle.
8. XFINITY Center, Maryland
We preferred Maryland's old midcourt mark to its new logo, but even after a recent refresh -- which spells out "Maryland" and underlines it in the colors of the state flag -- this remains a clean design worthy of a mention here.
9. Moody Coliseum. SMU
Gross, red 3-point areas; gross, red key semicircles; a formless, massive (and, yes, gross) red Mustang. Moody Coliseum had a horrendous floor way before it was cool. The renovated Moody has since emerged with a far classier, more subdued look. The court improvement is roughly akin to what Larry Brown did with SMU's defense.
10. Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa
The Hawkeyes have always had the benefit of that great black-and-gold color scheme (and a fantastic logo somewhat obscurely inspired by a fictional nickname given to the hero of James Fenimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans" -- hey, the 1800s were weird). The floor at Carver-Hawkeye Arena has almost always used it well.