Final Four History
Virtually every college basketball fan who has ever held Final Four tickets has been able to say that they saw a great memory – either a classic game, an unbelievable play, or a great performance for the ages by an individual player. The Final Four – the national semi-finals and finals of college basketball – has become an American institution, thanks in large parts to these memories.
Perhaps the greatest Final Four memory was not technically in the Final Four, but it did end up sending the Duke Blue Devils to a Final Four. Everyone has seen Grant Hill’s 3/4-court-length toss to Christian Laettner probably hundreds of times in their lives.
That miracle sequence, including the catch, dribble, head fake and shot from above the key, occurring in the final 2.1 seconds of an overtime versus Kentucky in the 1992 Elite Eight, gave Duke a 104-103 win.
In 1990, the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV made history. Led by controversial coach Jerry Tarkanian, UNLV ran right past Duke for a 103-73 win in the NCAA basketball finals to give the school the largest margin of victory in a championship game in history.
The name Syracuse is familiar to any college hoop fan. The school has been to the Final Four on four occasions, but legendary Head Coach Jim Boeheim had to wait until 2003 to win his first career national title. That year, freshman forward Carmelo Anthony lead a team that was unranked to start the season all the way to the promised land. It was his only collegiate season and he was tabbed the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player before moving on to the NBA and becoming a superstar.
The 1985 Final Four featured two schools in Syracuse’s Big East Conference in the finals, though one of them, eighth-seeded Villanova, was a dark horse, to say the least. Those who had Final Four tickets that year were treated to a 68-64 Villanova upset victory over Georgetown in the finals. They remain the lowest seed to win the tournament, as well as a constant reminder that just about anything can happen during March Madness - including the Final Four.
Schools from smaller conferences, or mid-majors, have made the Final Four especially interesting in recent years. Butler University, then a member of the Horizon League, fought its way into the Final Four in consecutive seasons in 2010 and 2011. The Bulldogs defeated Michigan State to earn a berth in the championship versus Duke in 2010. A desperate half-court shot at the buzzer by eventual NBA guard Gordon Hayward did not land for Butler, giving Duke a national championship by a 61-59 margin.
A year later, Butler outpaced Virginia Commonwealth University, another mid-major or “Cinderella”, to earn its second straight trip to the national championship stage. Final Four tickets that year were good for a Butler-University of Connecticut championship game that saw a 53-41 UConn win, their third national title in just 12 seasons.
The George Mason Patriots, however, are the Final Four’s mid-major darling. In 2006, George Mason, out of the Colonial Athletic Association, lost to Florida in the Final Four, but victories over UConn, Michigan State and North Carolina captured America’s attention, if not its heart, to qualify for the Final Four. The team qualified for the NCAA tourney again only twice in the next five seasons, demonstrating how precious any Final Four appearance is.
But the tournament and the Final Four, has, by and large, belonged to the big name schools, and big name athletes. Michael Jordan thrilled those with Final Four tickets in 1982 with a game-clinching shot in the finals versus the Georgetown Hoyas, as Jordan’s North Carolina Tar Heels won 63-62 in New Orleans that season.
Legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight won his final title in 1987 versus Syracuse when he was with Indiana. Keith Smart’s game winning shot for Indiana late in that game provided the memory for that year’s Final Four. The win was not only Coach Knight’s final national championship, but also that of Indiana University. The school did reach the 2002 final as a 5-seed, but fell to the University of Maryland.
One of the biggest championship game upsets occurred in 1983, when the N.C. State Wolfpack met the Houston Cougars, known by their Phi Slamma Jamma nickname. The heavily-favored Cougars fell to the upstart Wolfpack when Lorenzo Charles dunked a 30-foot air ball from the tournament’s leading scorer, Dereck Whittenburg with seconds remaining. The victory cemented NC State Head Coach Jim Valvano in NCAA lore, as he scrambled around the court at the final buzzer, looking for someone to hug in his greatest coaching moment.
No discussion of the Final Four can be held without discussing the UCLA Bruins. The school not only leads the sport in national championships (11), 10 of those 11 wins came in a 12-year span, from 1964-1975. The program reeled off seven straight national titles from 1967-1973 under legendary coach John Wooden and remains a would-be “measuring stick” for all other potential “college dynasty” conversation.
To put the Bruins’ NCAA accomplishments in perspective, here are some of the records associated with the program:
7 consecutive NCAA titles (1967–1973)
12 NCAA title game appearances
18 Final Four appearances
10 consecutive Final Four appearances (1967–1976)
25 Final Four wins
38 game NCAA Tournament winning streak (1964–1974)
Imagine a team not losing an NCAA tournament game in 11 years, never mind the consecutive championships?
The program went the three consecutive Final Fours again in 2006-2008 under coach Ben Howland, but unfortunately those who held Final Four tickets in those years did not see a single UCLA title.
Almost as highly regarded in NCAA lore is the University of Kentucky program. The school is second in national championships with eight. Unlike UCLA, which won all of its titles under Wooden, Kentucky has seen five different coaches lead their lauded university to the national title. Of course, legendary coach Adolph Rupp netted four titles of his own.
Kentucky has made 15 separate Final Fours, spanning from 1942 to 2012. Rupp coached the program from 1930 to 1972, retiring at age 70 only because of a university rule that forced retirement at that age. Rupp’s Wildcats appeared in 20 NCAA Tournaments and six Final Fours. Other Kentucky coaches to bring home a national title are Joe B. Hall (1978), Rick Pitino (1996), Tubby Smith (1998) and John Calipari (2012).
Thanks to an exciting blend of legendary universities and hungry mid-majors, the NCAA Tournament and its Final Four will continue to provide rich memories and great history for college basketball fans for generations to come.
Final Four Venue History
In the classic basketball movie “Hoosiers,” the coaches and players alike from the small school team from Hickory marveled at the size of the arena in which they were to play for the state championship. The coach famously measured the distance from the rim to the floor and the length of a free throw. Of course, they matched those of their home gym in their small school, but the point was made.
As much as people like basketball, they love championship basketball. Final Four tickets are hard to get, but the NCAA has been routinely setting attendance records for its world famous events.
In recent years, the Final Four has been played in large football domes that typically accommodate about 70,000 fans.
The all-time attendance record for the two-session Final Four is 145,378 people in 2009, when the games were played at Ford Field in Detroit. The home state Michigan State Spartans naturally had something to do with the record numbers, but they fell short in the championship, losing 89-72 versus the University of North Carolina.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome has a rich Final Four history, as well. In 2012, the venue sold over 144,000 tickets, good for second best all time. In fact, the stadium holds three of the top five Final Four attendance records.
Much like in 2009, hometown pride played a role in the 2010 Final Four. The feel-good story of the college basketball season saw mid-major Butler University advance to the Final Four in Indianapolis. That’s where Final Four tickets sales reached almost record numbers: 142,228 fans saw the three games at Lucas Oil Stadium. At the time it was good for second place all-time and today sits as the third most attended Final Four in history.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans has sold its share of Final Four tickets. That site holds the third, fourth and fifth place distinction in total Final Four attendance. In 1987, 129,918 fans witnessed a Final Four that saw Indiana University get the best of Syracuse University, 74-73, in what was Bobby Knight’s final national championship.
In 1993, Dean Smith and North Carolina took home a title after 128,302 people attended that Superdome Final Four. The Tarheels scored a 77-71 victory over Michigan that year. In 1982, the Superdome sold 123,224 Final Four tickets, and again North Carolina won. This time they beat Georgetown, 63-62. The site also sold the third highest total tickets for the final in 2012.
The very first Final Four was held in Evanston, Illinois in 1939. That year, the Oregon Ducks beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 46-33 to win the championship. But the three games were not played in the same location until 1952, when the tournament shifted to a regional format.
Since that time, Kansas City has hosted the most Final Fours, with seven, including four of the first five under the new format from 1954-1957. Municipal Auditorium hosted six of seven of KC’s Final Fours, with Kemper Arena selling Final Four Tickets in 1988.
Louisville, Kentucky has hosted six Final Fours. Freedom Hall has seen five of them, all between 1958 and 1969, while Rupp Arena hosted the Final Four in 1985.
Surprisingly, the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, has never hosted a true Final Four. It did host the championship games in 1943-1948 and in 1950, but has not hosted the actual Final Four event since the regional format. In addition, MSG has not hosted a tournament game at all since 1961.
The nearby New Jersey Meadowlands, in 1983, marked the last time Final Four tickets were sold in an area rather than a larger football stadium. It was also the last time the Final Four was played on the home court of a college basketball program, that of the Seton Hall Pirates.
Indianapolis and New Orleans have both hosted five Final Fours. Three venues in Indianapolis – Market Square Arena, the RCA Dome, and now Lucas Oil Stadium – have seen Final Fours within their walls. Lucas Oil Stadium was built specifically for both football and basketball and is slated to again host the Final Four in 2015.
The state of Missouri, with both Kansas City and St. Louis, has hosted 10 of the “modern-day” Final Fours. St. Louis Arena sold Final Four tickets in 1973 and 1978, and the Edward James Dome hosted in 2005.
The state of Texas also has its share of Final Four history and will see at least two more national championships in the coming years. The Alamo Dome has hosted three of the state’s six Final Fours and upcoming semifinal and championship rounds have been promised to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in 2014 and Houston’s Reliant Stadium in 2016.
Washington State – Seattle’s Kingdome specifically – has been home to three Final Fours, in 1984, 1989 and 1995, while Hec Edmundson Pavilion hosted the first true “Final Four” under the regional format.
Detroit’s 2009 Final Four was the city’s (and the state of Michigan’s) only time to host the event, though the venue is in line for future national championships.
The NCAA is considering a change to the rule that a Final Four venue must contain at least 70,000 seats, which could return the event to basketball-specific arenas for the first time in a couple of decades.
But given the overwhelming popularity of the event, and the demand for Final Four tickets, more fans will get to enjoy the end of the college basketball season at indoor football stadiums for quite some time.
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Final Four Tickets News
4-4-14: Final Four tickets continue to fall in price and as of April 4th have hit their lowest point yet. An all-session strip currently averages $651 on the secondary market, a 22% decrease in the past 24 hours alone. Tickets for the semi-finals saw the next biggest decrease, falling 21% to an average of $402 per ticket.
4-3-14: Final Four ticket prices continue to fall, as the All Session strip has dropped $72 (8%) in the past 24 hours to an average of $838. The Semi-Finals session currently averages $513 which is even from yesterday. The Championship game also saw a drop from $437 to $420 in the past 24 hours.
4-2-14: Since the Final Four match-ups were set last weekend, prices for tickets have been fluctuating greatly. After going up over the first 48 hours after the Elite Eight came to an end, leaving tickets at a higher price point than any recent final four, prices have been dropping consistently. Currently, the average price for the semifinals is $513 a drop of nearly $60 since Monday. Championship game prices have dropped nearly the same amount, falling from $494 on Monday to $437 today. The all-session strip has also dropped, falling from $1023 to $990.
4-1-14: After this weekend's action, the Men's final four for 2014 is set. Top seeded Florida will take on Connecticut and No. 2 Wisconsin will take on Kentucky. The average ticket price of the secondary market for April 5th semi-finals is $590. The championship game two days later averages $522. An all-session strip is the priciest Final Four ticket, at an average of $1015.
3-30-14: The current average price for the Final Four all sessions strip is $1,301.72 with a get in of $359. Below is the average and get in price for previous Final Four all session tickets:
2011-(Kentucky, UCONN, VCU, Butler):$856.14 ($213)
2012-(Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas):$822.53 ($201)
2013-(Louisville, Wichita State, Michigan, Syracuse): $895.69 ($331)
The average price for a ticket to the Final Four is currently is $669.11 with a get in price of $206. Below is the average and get in price for previous Final Four tickets:
2011: $595.41 ($161)
2012: $722.74 ($185)
2013: $887.90 ($309)
The highest priced ticket currently listed for the Final Four is in Lower Prime 111 listed for $8,100. There are also suites listed for up to $31,900+
The current average price for the National Championship game is $561.32 with a get in of $118: Below is the average price and get in for the past 3 National Championship games:
2011- (UCONN v Butler): $316.75 ($60)
2012- (Kentucky v Kansas): $362.60 ($65)
2013- (Louisville v Michigan): $486.16 ($91)
3-28-14: We're one step closer to the Final Four with of the teams selected for the Elite 8. Thus far Dayton, Florida, Arizona, and Wisconsin will each go at it for a ticket to Dallas. Tonight's games feature Uconn vs Iowa State, Virginia vs Michigan State, Michigan vs Tennessee, and Kentucky vs Louisville.
3-27-14: The first set of Sweet 16 games kick off tonight as we inch closer to the Final Four. Tonight's action sees two cinderella teams battle it out with Dayton vs Stanford followed by Florida vs UCLA. Out west at the Honda Center in Anaheim, San Diego State vs Arizona will be preceded by Baylor vs. Wisconsin.
3-26-14: Within the past 24 hours, the average price for all session strip for the Final four has increased $9.87 on the secondary market. The Semi Finals session saw a $52.54 increase (8.79%). Finally, the championship game actually saw a 3.90% decrease from $615.80 to $591.80. The regionals will get underway on Thursday night.
3-25-14: Final Four tickets update over the past 24 hours: The All session strip has increased .61% to increase from $1107.97 to $1114.75. The semi final session has gone down 2.53% from $613.40 to $597.89. The championship has increased 5% from $586.44 to $615.80. The overall tournament average is $389.36 on the secondary market.
3-24-14: Rounds 2 & 3 of the NCAA tournament saw a plethra of notable upsets. We now know that top candidates such as Wichita State, Duke, Kansas, and Syracuse will not be making a trip to the Final Four. Instead, cinderella squads such as Dayton and Stanford have a chance to punch a ticket to the big dance. The other 3 no.1 seeds (Arizona, Florida, and Virginia) still remain for Sweet 16 action later this week.
3-21-14: All aspects of 2014 Final Four tickets saw an increase on the secondary market in the past 24 hours. The All Session strip increased $20.90 to a new average of $1,112.71, the semi finals went up 5.16% percent to $595.84, and the championship game saw a 5.67% increase to a new average of $613.62
3-20-14: Many fans' brackets were busted thanks to an upset win with Dayton beating Ohio State 60-59. There was balanced scoring from Dayton with 5 players with 9 or more points. Aaron Craft played a strong game for the Buckeyes with 16 points, 4 steals, and 5 rebounds. However, Craft missed a last second highly contested drive to the basket that would have sealed the victory.
3-19-14: Before the Final Four, we must first decide the first four. Yesterday's action in Dayton saw Albany beating Mount Saint Mary's and NC State defeating Xavier. The Great Danes were lead by DJ Evans with 22 points and 9 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. Will Miller had 21 points in 26 minutes off the bench for Mount Saint Mary's.
3-18-14: Ticket prices for the 2014 Final Four has remained fairly consistent this week. The average ticket prices for the semi finals has fallen by 2% this week, and the average asking price for the championship game has fallen by 1% this week. An all session strip currently averages $1,116 on the resale market with cheapest available being $349.
3-17-14: With the selection of the NCAA tournament bracket yesterday, the top 4 seeds came with little surprise. Florida topped the south, Arizona topped the west, Wichita State took the top seed in the midwest and Virginia kept the top slot in the east. Louisville, who took the 4th seed in the Midwest is the current favorite from the experts to win it all.
3-14-14: Bracketology expert Jerry Palm from CBS Sports has replaced his first four after yesterday's conference tournament action. His new batch of first four is SMU, Providence, Tennessee and Missouri. He removed Cal, Arkansas, Minnesota, and BYU. Conference tournament action continue today and throughout the weekend with selection Sunday this weekend.
3-13-14: With Villanova taking an early exit in the Big East tournament, they may have shown some weaknesses en route to the main tournament. Many experts are considering dropping them from their top seeds. Similar reservations have been made about the 34-0 Wichita State Shockers, due to their lack of quality opponents during the regular season.
3-12-14: The average price for Final Four tickets on the re-sale market is $661. The semi finals currently average $646 while the championship game commands an average asking price of $676. The all session strip has an average price of $1,125. This year's Final Four takes place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
3-11-14: Joe Lunardi's bracketology on ESPN.com has been updated to reflect the last weekend of regular season action. He currently has Florida as the 1-seed in the South, Villanova taking the top spot in the East, Arizona number 1 in the west, and the Wichita State Shockers as the number 1 seed in the Midwest.