There might not be a better sports tournament on earth than the yearly NCAA tourney that has the men and women of college basketball engaging in a single-elimination bracket to crown a champion.
From the opening round upsets, all the way to the Final Four, NCAA Tournament tickets are made nearly priceless due to the emotion, heart and skill going into every game. With the top high school basketball players in the nation no longer being able to skip the college game in order to enter the NBA, the NCAA tournament has benefited immensely from an improved talent pool and more heated competition.
The bracket for the NCAA tourney, also widely known as “March Madness” due to the majority of the tournament taking place in the month of March and containing crazy upsets, is initially formed from the 31 Division I conferences. These 31 conferences receive automatic bids, with the remaining entrants into the tournament being awarded at-large berths.
The intensity of a long, grueling season combined with the pressure of conference tournaments and Selection Sunday (the day of the final selection process), helps to build the value of NCAA Tournament tickets every year, and also offers storylines that mature throughout the tournament, adding to the climax of the tournament, the Final Four.
While widely considered one of the purest championships in sports due to its large amount of upsets and unlikely bids to make the Final Four, the tournament was at one time completely dominated by UCLA (11 championships). Since UCLA’s last NCAA title in 1975, however, the tournament has been relatively wide open on a yearly basis.
But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been a good amount of main-stays that have helped add value to NCAA Tournament tickets. The Duke Blue Devils, backed by legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski, or Coach K, have routinely made it into the “Big Dance”. In fact, Coach K’s Duke teams have made it to the NCAA men’s tournament every single year since 1983, save for one - when he coached only 12 games (the team went 9-3) in 1994 before taking the remainder of the season off to rest due to exhaustion and back surgery. On top of willing his teams into the tournament basically every year for the past 30 years, Krzyzewski has had great success in basketball’s most famous tourney, as well. Over the years, Duke has found its way to an incredible 12 Elite Eight appearances, eight national championship games, and has claimed four NCAA titles.
While there are plenty of historic college basketball coaches worth discussing (Bob Knight, John Wooden and many more) that have helped sell NCAA Tournament tickets, it’s the more recent coaches that come to mind when you think of an ever-changing and always fresh tournament like March Madness. With that in mind, any fan of the NCAA tourney knows to never count out the Michigan State Spartans, who are led by their fiery yet balanced head coach, Tom Izzo.
Izzo has just one NCAA basketball title to his name, but has had fantastic success in the tournament over the years. As Michigan State’s all-time winningest head coach, Izzo has led his Spartans to six Final Four appearances and two college basketball title games. However, of all of his college basketball accolades, the most impressive might be the fact that every four-year player he has coached has had the luxury of appearing in a Final Four under the tutelage of one of the game’s most heralded head coaches.
While coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo get the praise and big schools like Duke and Michigan State get the national spotlight, it’s the little guys that truly make March Madness go, and keep fans buying more NCAA Tournament tickets year in and year out.
Fans who have purchased NCAA Tournament tickets for the men’s field have seen history being made on an almost yearly basis. In terms of upsets, the field has gotten more competitive as the years have gone on, with two #13 seeds reaching the Elite Eight since 2006, three #15 seeds escaping the first round since 2001, and two #11 seeds (George Mason and VCU) reaching the Final Four since 2006.
George Mason alone put NCAA Tournament tickets back in high demand, further showing fans and inside competition alike that any team could make a run for college basketball’s most coveted trophy. While the more prestigious teams like North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky for men’s basketball lead the way, the NCAA tourney has been and continues to be the stomping grounds for true, unbridled competition.
NCAA Tournament tickets have been available for avid fans of college basketball since the tournament unleashed an 8-team grouping back in 1939, with the first championship game being played in Evanston, Illinois at Patten Gymnasium. Oregon was college basketball’s first champion, and has ended up playing an unfortunate (but critical) role in showing the tourney’s competitive nature, as they have never claimed another title since then.
Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams--and then more recently 68--the location for the tournament’s Final Four has rotated every year. In recent years, the Final Four has mostly been played in the South. Four of the next five Final Four’s set to be played in New Orleans, Atlanta, Arlington and Houston. Each year, the tournament starts out by being split into four separate regions, with each region including 16 teams (not counting the “First Four” to fulfill the recently adjusted 68-team field). A committee decides how to arrange the matchups of the seeds into the four regions. The matchups are typically geographic in nature and usually match up with the chosen cities that will be hosting the NCAA games during the regional finals.
While much time and consideration goes into making the brackets and deciding on the regions and locations to sell NCAA Tournament tickets, all sites are chosen as neutral sites heading into the tournament (meaning that if a team were to somehow play a home game, it would be completely by chance), while the actual Final Four venue is generally decided upon years in advance.
Despite the location of the venue shifting every year and the games leading up to the Final Four changing cities as well, the value of NCAA Tournament tickets remains high due to elite competition and the constant thrill and possibility of upsets.
If it is upsets you seek, the NCAA tourney is the place for you. Naturally, those who purchase NCAA Tournament tickets expect some big name teams to drop, and Cinderella Teams to make their way far into the tournament. What no one expects, however, is the #1 seed to fall in the first round, as a #16 seed has never made it out of round one. The top overall seeds are a remarkable 112-0 prior to the 2012 NCAA Tournament (100%), while many of those first round games being blowouts. With that said, the tournament can easily get rocky from that point on, as #1 seeds routinely get bounced from the second round on, as the competition quickly stiffens when #8 and #9 seeds get involved. It only makes sense, as the #9 seed actually has upset the #8 seed 48% of the time in NCAA history, and the winner of that battle always faces the #1 team in that region. Needless to say, the growing number of upsets gets more fans purchasing NCAA Tournament tickets earlier in the tourney as the years go on.
While it’s anyone’s guess how the first round or even first several rounds will shape out, ultimately what every NCAA basketball fan wants is an entertaining title game. If fans can’t get their March Madness brackets right, they at least want to see a good title game and a worthy champion raising the trophy when it’s all said and done.
That can arguably be said for recent years, as the NCAA Tournament has seen some classic title battles. One of the best games in recent memory was Duke’s narrow victory over Butler in the 2010 tournament finals. The Blue Devils were a #1 seed and survived a last second half-court heave from NBA-bound swingman Gordon Hayward to beat the Butler Bulldogs 61-59 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. The win gave legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski his fourth national championship and gave those who purchased NCAA Tournament tickets that year a crazy ending to one wild ride.
To add to the tournament’s appeal, Butler pushed the “underdog” or “Cinderella” label to the max the following year, when they returned to face the University of Connecticut in the NCAA title game as the #8 seed of their region. They ended up losing for the second straight year, however, this time by the score of 53-41 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Butler isn’t the best feel good story in college basketball, but they’re a perfect example of a Cinderella that can advance further than just about everyone expects. They came within one basket of shocking the world, and even returned the next year for an encore run.
Another NCAA tournament piece of information that is not just a rarity, but basically unheard of during March Madness is a team ending the tourney with an undefeated record. In fact, the last men’s team to do it was Indiana back in 1976. Bob Knight’s Hoosiers entered the tourney at a formidable 27-0, and steam-rolled through the Big Dance to become that year’s champions at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Not only did they end the year with an unblemished record and the NCAA basketball title in hand, but they did it against Michigan, a Big-10 rival, making it the first time a NCAA basketball championship had two teams from the same conference facing off for the title.
Indiana being the last team to begin and end the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with an undefeated record is quite an accomplishment. However, they’re far from the only college team achieve this feat. The UCLA Bruins, a long-time NCAA dominating force, managed to go undefeated an unprecedented 4 different times. They did it in back to back seasons in 1972 and 1972, and also did it in 1964 and 1967. The only other two teams to finish a season with an unblemished record are North Carolina (1957) and San Francisco (1956).
On the flip-side, March Madness has seen teams come extremely close to obtaining perfection. Unfortunately, Ohio State fell short in the NCAA title game in 1961 with a loss to Cincinnati, while Larry Bird’s Indiana State lost their only game of the 1979 season to Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans. North Carolina State is actually the only other NCAA team to end the year undefeated, but they didn’t get to play in the tournament due to probation.
The Bulldogs two-year run and Indiana’s undefeated season are just two of many NCAA testaments that show just how unpredictable and legendary March Madness can be. It also shows why obtaining NCAA Tournament tickets can easily be worth the price, regardless of the matchup or venue.
10-14-13: March Madness starts now with exclusive ticket access from the NCAA for 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament tickets. Starting on Tuesday October 14th at noon eastern and running through Thursday October 17th and 11:59 pm fans can get early access to NCAA Men's basketball tournament tickets. Preliminary round tickets go on sale to the public on October 19th.
10-10-13: 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Schedule
First Four: March 18th and 19th
University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio
2nd and 3rd Rounds: March 20th through March 23rd
March 20th and 22nd
First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York (Host: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Host: Marquette University)
Amway Center, Orlando, Florida (Host: Stetson University)
Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Washington (Host: Washington State University)
March 21st and 23rd
PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina (Host: North Carolina State University)
AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas (Host: University of Texas at San Antonio)
Viejas Arena, San Diego, California (Host: San Diego State University)
Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Missouri (Host: Missouri Valley Conference)
Regional Semifinals and Finals (Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight): March 27th through March 30th
March 27th and 29th
South Regional: FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee (Host: University of Memphis)
West Regional: Honda Center, Anaheim, California (Host: Big West Conference)
March 28th and 30th
East Regional: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York (Hosts: St. John's University, Big East Conference)
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana (Hosts: IUPUI, Horizon League)
National Semifinals and Championship (Final Four and Championship):
April 5th and 7th
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas (Host: Big 12 Conference)