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The Best College Basketball Pep Bands

This past college football season, re-released and updated version of our popular The Best College Marching Bands article which was once again a huge hit. Gaining mentions on University sites, News Channels and multiple TV mentions, we were able to offer something few sports professionals have expertise in - marching bands. Today, Burt Gressler returns for his latest ranking of complementary organizations to the world of college sports - pep bands. While the format is not a typical Top 10 rankings list, we are sure that any fan of the NCAA Tournament will enjoy his work.

NCAA's "Sweet 16" Best College Basketball Pep Bands in the Country

Hello College Sports Fans! The pageantry of the NCAA tournament is in full swing, and with all the attention that is being paid to Kentucky and their likelihood to go 40-0 and win the 2015 NCAA Championship, I thought it was high time that we take a look at another aspect of the game that some people tend to overlook!

In the football world, marching bands are an integral part of the game, often gaining as much if not more attention than the team that they are supporting; however in the basketball world the same bands are often left overlooked, and under appreciated. So, for your literary enjoyment, I will take this opportunity to rank for you the top College Pep Bands in the country! In the spirit of the tournament, I will be ranking the Top 16 pep bands in the country in “Sweet Sixteen” style.

So here’s how this works. Each band has been evaluated on their musicality, their individuality, their enthusiasm for the team and their ability to keep the crowd pumped up and into the game. Size of the group, instrumentation and use of flip folders was not taken into consideration, nor was the comparison between the basketball bands and football bands. While school locations have been taken into account, it was not possible to perfectly match each school with their region, much like that in the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament.

And now let’s take a look at the top 16 College Pep Bands in the country today!


Midwest Regional:


East Regional:
#1 GMU


South Regional:
#1 VCU
West Regional:
#3 USC

Nothing says bragging rights like a Fathead!

Okay, now that you’ve had a chance to digest that, let’s take a look at each group of seeds individually. Please note that this is NOT a ranking the individual seeds - simply the #1 seeds are the four best pep bands, the #2 seed are the next tier, etc.


#1 Seeds (Ohio University, GMU, VCU, LSJUMB) – All four of these bands are extremely entertaining in their own way and that is why they were picked to be at the top of each “group”.

Ohio University’s Varsity Band is an extension of the Marching 110, OU's highly energetic and entertaining football band. Their main job at the Convocation Center in Athens is to keep the O-Zone (Ohio’s student section) pumped up and they do so by performing all of the charts that the 110 played during the football season, complete with dance routines and a full drum line in lieu of the traditional drum set used by most pep bands.

George Mason’s “Big Green Machine” is a force to be reckoned with in and of itself. Led by Doc Nix, the GMU band has been joined by rappers, DJs, singers, strings and just about anything else that you can think of over the years while jamming along to the likes of everything from Rage Against the Machine and Michael Jackson. Nobody can walk away from one of their performances feeling cheated as the Doc and his band leave nothing out on the court when they are finished.

VCU Pep Band - 2015 NCAA TournamentVirginia Commonwealth University was relatively unknown until their Cinderella run to the Final Four in the 2011 NCAA tournament. Since then, the Rams and their Peppas basketball band (pictured) led by Ryan Kopasci have gained national attention due to their highly energetic performances, which are fueled by Kopasci’s unparalleled enthusiasm on the band stand.

Lastly, the LSJUMB (Leland Stanford University Marching Band) pep band is one of the most unconventional, chaotic and most “rock and roll” bands in the country. With a repertoire that weighs highly on ‘70s classic rock and a style that can only be characterized as complete chaos, the LSJUMB might not be the most musical group on this list, but they are definitely one of the most entertaining to watch.


#2 Seeds (Memphis, Indiana, UCLA, Syracuse)
Memphis’ “Mighty Sound of the South” began with just 19 students who boarded a bus to NYC and wanted to become the first pep band to represent their school at Madison Square Garden. Now with over 200 members that rotate throughout the season, the band is one of the most recognizable and respectable bands in the country.

Indiana’s “Big Red Basketball Band” provides its fans with one of the most unique experiences in all of college basketball, performing the William Tell Overture during the 3rd time out of every 2nd half at Assembly Hall, they also keep the students pumped with “Indiana, Our Indiana” and “Indiana Fight” throughout the season.

UCLA’s pep band likes to have a lot of fun. The Bruin’s pep band performs on the court a lot, as opposed to being confined to the stands, and performs complete with dance routines, rock music, and colorful attire (the band has been known to don Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses as well as the traditional polos and khakis).

Syracuse’s “Sour Citrus Society” almost earned a number one seed based upon their name alone. This high-energy group will play just about anything from Emerson Lake and Palmer to Parliament Funkadelic to keep the crowd at the Carrier Dome fired up during the game.


#3 Seeds (Kentucky, UCONN, USC, Oklahoma)
Few things are more spectacular than hearing the University of Kentucky’s band play “Kentucky Fight” at Rupp Arena. The band combines that with blues, swing music and standards such as Bruce Channel’s “Hey Baby” to keep the eRUPPtion Zone rocking, the fans cheering and the Wildcats winning.

The University of Connecticut has a rich basketball history, and their Husky Pep Band adds their painted faces, energetic rock music, dancing and singing to keep Gampbel Pavilion electrified night after night.

The USC Trojans’ pep band is more-or-less an extension of their famous football marching band and rocks the Galen Center with tunes from Lada Gaga, LMFAO and other modern artists as well as the tune that made the band famous, Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”.

The Oklahoma Sooners pep band gets the crowd at the Lloyd Noble Center going with their powerful rendition of “Oklahoma!” at each and every game.


#4 Four Seeds (Michigan, Ohio State, Arizona, Illinois)
Of the four bands that I have picked in the number four seeds, only one does not reside in the Midwest and that is Arizona. Arizona’s pep band uses a unique entrance in which the band runs across the basketball court and into the stands before performing the fight song to start the game, a tactic that gets their fans up and out of their seats long before the game is ready to begin.

Michigan and Ohio State are once again battling it out only this time it is on the hardwood instead of the gridiron. Both bands blend a mixture of pop and modern and classic rock music to keep their crowds entertained throughout the game. Illinois, another Big 10 rival whose band also likes to play some rock and roll including the likes of the Dave Matthews Band, rounds out your number four seeds.


So there you have it. While all those players are out on the court over the next few weeks and getting the spotlight on National TV, let’s not forget about the 30 kids in the band every night that are there to cheer on and support not only their team, but their University on a National level. They are just as hard working and dedicated to their craft as the guys and gals that they are supporting. So if you’re headed to one of the NCAA Tournament games, instead of going to grab a beer or a hot dog in between quarters, do yourself a favor and check out the pep band instead. You won’t regret it - I promise.


By Burt Gressler



Photo Credit: Eduardi Pulanco with the VCU Pep Band in Portland, Oregon from the VCU Peppas Facebook page.

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