A combination of a local school’s once-in-a-lifetime appearance in the Sweet 16, as well as the presence of three successful schools with famously rabid traveling fan bases, and the lure of a delicious Elite Eight matchup has turned a ticket to the West Regional into the hottest ticket of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.
According to StubHub.com, the average listed price on the resale market (through Wednesday, March 23) for a ticket to the West Regional semifinals tonight, March 24, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA was a robust $743. Tickets, which went for a face value of $186, are ranging from $275 to nearly $1,000.
The high demand for tickets is no surprise given the geographical and historical attractiveness of the bracket, which features schools that have combined to win an impressive seven national championships, as well as the lack of tickets made available to the general public. The four schools in the regional — San Diego State, the University of Connecticut, Duke and the University of Arizona — each received just 1,250 tickets to distribute to fans at the 17,608-seat Honda Center.
Hometown favorite San Diego State, which continued its greatest season ever and advanced to face UConn in tonight’s first game by winning the first two NCAA Tournament games in school history last weekend, is a huge draw locally after selling out 13 of its 15 home games this season — including the last 10 — at the 12,414-seat Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl. Entering this season, San Diego State had sold out just eight games in the first 13 years at the facility.
San Diego State’s emergence is reminiscent of the one authored by UConn in 1989-90, when the Huskies began the year unranked and ended it in the Elite Eight after winning three NCAA tournament games, one fewer than the program had won all-time prior to the season. UConn has made 16 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 21 years, reached the Final Four three times and won it all in 1999 and 2004. The Huskies also have loyal fans who travel well regardless of where UConn is playing: Earlier this month, MetroNorth in New York ran extra trains to carry UConn fans to the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
In the nightcap, defending national champion Duke faces Arizona in another matchup of schools whose fans will trek long and short distances to attend games. This NCAA Tournament could be a historic one for Duke, whose coach, Mike Krzyzewski, will become the winningest coach in Division I with three more wins. Four more wins will give Krzyzewski his fifth national title, a total exceeded only by UCLA legend John Wooden.
Arizona, which had its streak of 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances snapped last year, is in the Sweet 16 for the sixth time since 2000 and aiming for its fifth Final Four and second national title ever. And while the Wildcats might not make as many headlines as the other three teams in the regional, a Wildcats win over Duke coupled with a San Diego State win over UConn would create a truly regional regional final. The Arizona campus is less than 400 miles from Anaheim.
A Duke-UConn final, meanwhile, would be loaded with historical intrigue. Duke ended UConn’s 1990 tournament run when Christian Laettner hit a shot at the buzzer to put the Blue Devils into the Final Four, but UConn got revenge by stunning Duke in the 1999 title game and edging the Blue Devils in the 2004 Final Four.
As of this afternoon, StubHub had 960 tickets available for the West Regional final, scheduled for Saturday, March 26, beginning at $189 for a seat in the Upper Center 437.
Sales on the resale market for the other three regionals are brisk as well. The average price at StubHub for a semifinal ticket to the East Regional in Newark, NJ, which features top overall seed Ohio State as well as traditional powers North Carolina and Kentucky, is $386.
Tickets to the Cinderella-packed Southwest Regional in San Antonio, TX, where Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond are hoping to knock off favorite Kansas, are going for an average of $172 while tickets to the Southeast Regional in New Orleans — where Florida is the favorite among a quartet that includes defending national runner-up Butler — are selling for an average of $161.