College Basketball in Chicago: Cheap Tickets, Good Times

Thanks to Bull-headed success in the 1990s, Chicago now has a rich basketball culture. Between the Bulls and a new WNBA franchise in 2006 (the Sky), Chicago residents have two great options to see professional basketball. But the city’s many excellent colleges and universities provide basketball spectating opportunities as well. If you are an avid hoops fan and want to support amateur players, why not do something different and check out college basketball in Chicago? You don’t have to be a student at any of the schools, and you’ll find that these cheap tickets also make for good times.

Here are some of the college basketball programs in Chicago and some basic information on tickets. Please note that ticket prices are always subject to change.

1. DePaul University
Athletics Website: www.depaulbluedemons.com
Team Name: Blue Demons
Basketball Venue: Allstate Arena

For Big East Conference basketball, DePaul is your school. Nationally known teams like Louisville and Connecticut compete in DePaul’s conference, and DePaul has enjoyed some of its own March Madness playoff action in recent years thanks to its sometimes-solid men’s team. But don’t forget about the women’s program, which is often even stronger. Perhaps because of DePaul’s Catholic orientation, its natural rivals include Marquette and Notre Dame. Tickets for Blue Demon games run $13-15 for men’s games and only $8 for women’s games. If you’re looking for some higher quality college basketball in Chicago, DePaul will certainly provide cheap tickets and good times.

2. Loyola University Chicago
Athletics Website: www.loyolaramblers.collegesports.com
Team Name: Ramblers
Basketball Venue: Joseph J. Gentile Center

Loyola, playing Division I basketball in the notable mid-major Horizon League, hasn’t had many winning men’s seasons in the past twenty years, and the women’s team is not markedly better. They’re lovable losers though! Just take the red line up to the northern bounds of Chicago, and visit the Gentile Center. Men’s tickets are $10, while women’s tickets are way cheap: a mere four bucks. Support amateur hoops at Loyola, and watch the Ramblers play teams like UW-Milwaukee and cross-town rival UIC.

3. Northwestern University
Athletics Website: www.northwestern.edu/athletics
Team Name: Wildcats
Basketball Venue: Welsh-Ryan Arena (in Evanston)

Ride the purple line north to cheer for the guys (or gals) in purple. Northwestern draws far more fans for its football games, but this Big Ten school does field men’s and women’s basketball teams of, well, marginal quality. Like Loyola, Northwestern’s winning seasons in basketball are rare. Recognizing this, Northwestern students take solace in their high academic caliber though; the future-leader student body assures themselves with cheers like: “that’s all right, that’s okayâÂ?¦you’re gonna work for us someday!” Tickets are pricier here – closer to $20 for men’s games.

4. University of Illinois at Chicago
Athletics Website: www.uicflames.collegesports.com
Team Name: Flames

Like Loyola, UIC is part of the Horizon League. Enjoying a reasonably stable program, UIC has made it to the NCAA men’s tournament several times in the last ten years. The Flames play at the UIC Pavilion (which they share with a WNBA team) just southwest of the Loop and easily accessible from the Blue Line. Men’s games cost $15, while women’s games are only $5. For a campus free of football, UIC rallies around its basketball more than any other sport. Along with DePaul, UIC is probably a good choice for more competitive college basketball in Chicago.

5. University of Chicago
Athletics Website: www.athletics.uchicago.edu
Team Name: Maroons

Convenient for residents of Hyde Park and the South Side, the University of Chicago participates in a special Division III league for schools that are more academically rigorous. Of all the college sports programs in Chicago, this one is notable because nearly every athlete (and student spectator) is academically gifted. Cheers sometimes involve mentions of Greek philosophers and chemical equations. Basically, UC students will make sure you see the most cerebral college basketball in Chicago, even if it’s not the most nationally competitive. All tickets are under $5. What a cheap way to spend a day in Chicago!

6. Chicago State University
Athletics Website: www.csu.edu/athletics/
Team Name: Cougars

The Cougars of Chicago State do play Division I basketball but have never been a post-season presence in men’s or women’s hoops. Nicely located for residents of the far South Side, this school’s ticket prices are super cheap: $8 for men’s and $5 for women’s. Chicago State plays in the Mid-Continent Conference against teams like Valparaiso and Western Illinois.

Other Schools
There are several other schools in the Chicago area that have smaller-scale basketball teams worth watching, almost all Division III. These include Dominican University, Saint Xavier University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Concordia – just to name a few.

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