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Majerle: Top teams won't play GCU in Phoenix anymore because Lopes fans are so loud

Posted at 6:27 PM, Oct 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-01 10:21:04-04

In one important way, coach Dan Majerle's team has become a victim of its own success.

Grand Canyon University men's basketball entered Division I four years ago and has won 81 games during that time. The Lopes have even had some top-tier programs agree to come play them in Phoenix.

But after one of those teams (San Diego State) suffered an upset loss at GCU and another (Louisville) was nearly upset, as well, word has spread: Don't play the Lopes in Phoenix. In fact, then-Louisville coach Rick Pitino called GCU the "toughest crowd I've ever faced" after the Cardinals survived in a 79-70 win in front of nearly 7,500 fans.

"We do have one of the best crowds. Unfortunately, it's hard for us to get teams to come in and play us here now," Majerle said Tuesday during a Facebook Live with ABC15. 

Majerle isn't exaggerating. The Lopes have already sold out all of their home games for the 2017-18 season, and they boast one of the most raucous crowds in all of college sports. Their annual Midnight Madness event in early October -- an event designed to promote the upcoming men's and women's basketball seasons -- was an ear-splitting sellout, as students camped out at GCU Arena for days in order to secure a seat.

"Our student section, the Havocs, has been a big part of what we've been able to grow. We've done some really good things in four years," Majerle said.

Some of the Havocs even made their way south when the Lopes played the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson last season. It's rare to see opposing fans infiltrate McKale Center, and it's something that got UA coach Sean Miller's attention.

Majerle said he was proud of GCU's effort in Tucson but noted that another Arizona-based school, which plays its home games less than 20 miles from GCU campus, has yet to agree to a game with the Lopes.

"We went to UA. We played them really tough. ASU's kinda dodging us," Majerle said.  

"That's fine. We just want to make our own mark, and that's been hard to do. It's obvious the reasons why, because we haven't been able to go to the tournament. But this year now that we are eligible, if we're able to get to the tournament, we'll make everybody know what we're about."

The Lopes have a chance to make a major mark this season, their first in which they will be eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament. It's an attainable goal, as most experts favor the Lopes to win the Western Athletic Conference -- not to mention the thousands of screaming Havocs that Majerle & Co. will once again have in their corner.

"This is the year. This is the year we're eligible. We've got a great team, one of the best student sections in the country, so we're expecting great things," Majerle said.

"We've got a great home-court advantage. We play 20 games here this year. We expect everybody to come check us out."