The pricey tickets to the men’s basketball NCAA Final Four next weekend could get an extra squeeze from a mononymous 18-year-old freshman at Duke: Zion.
At 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, the improbably balletic forward Zion Williamson is a once-in-a-generation player, and fans have been paying a premium to see him all season.
According to ticket reseller SeatGeek, when Duke was on the road this season the resale value of tickets at the host school went up 178 percent, almost threefold.
While Duke is heavily favored, it isn’t guaranteed to be one of the Final Four teams playing in the semifinals April 6 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Regardless of who survives and advances, fans now must rely on the secondary market for tickets — and be prepared to crack open their wallets wider for Zion.
The NCAA tightly controls tickets for the Final Four, its marquee event. The tournament ends with the championship game on April 8, expected to draw the largest crowd ever to U.S. Bank Stadium — 72,000 ticketed guests. That’s about 4,400 more than attended the 2018 Super Bowl.
SeatGeek analyst Chris Leyden is already tracking the market live and predicts it will be as bouncy as ever.
“Right now prices are fairly average, although so much of the buying doesn’t happen until the matchup is set that the prices at this point are of little indication of where they will end up,” Leyden said.
According to the NCAA, 35,000 tickets were allocated for the general public, and most of those were sold through a drawing that opened a year ago. Fans paid a nonrefundable $25 to enter the drawing, which included seats for all games.
Each fan could purchase up to four seats. Prices for lower level seats started at $330; upper level seats started at $210.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn noted that’s the largest allocation of tickets to the general public of any national sporting event. Fans can still get tickets through the official NCAA exchange or through premium hospitality options, she said.
As for other ticket allocations, the Final Four teams share 25 percent of the tickets, or 18,000 — 4,500 tickets for each team. The host committee receives 5 percent, or 3,600 tickets. Minneapolis committee spokeswoman Maggie Habashy said the committee gave its tickets to financial and in-kind donors, but declined to say who received them.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches, which holds its annual meeting in the days before the games, receives 3,600 tickets, as do Division I member schools.
Because the Gophers aren’t playing, the University of Minnesota didn’t get an extra allotment of tickets. As a Division I school, the U’s athletic department was allowed to purchase 26 tickets and then sell them at its discretion, according to U spokesman Jake Ricker. U athletic director Mark Coyle would be allowed to purchase tickets, Ricker said, as would other campus officials, employees and potentially donors.
CBS Turner Sports, the broadcast partner, gets another 5 percent, as do various NCAA committee members.
Some lucky students attending Final Four schools get floor seats for $40 each. The competing schools have 600 student tickets to distribute as they choose. Students from the two teams that play Monday night get free floor seats.
This year’s ticket market is considerably different from that of 2001, when 46,000 fans watched the Final Four at the Metrodome. Those tickets initially sold for $120, $140 or $160.
That year, all 13 Minneapolis City Council members were allowed to buy tickets from what was then the Sports Facilities Commission. Today the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), which oversees U.S. Bank Stadium, gets nothing.
MSFA spokeswoman Jenn Hathaway said the NCAA has control of the two 18-person luxury suites usually controlled by stadium operators SMG for marketing at Vikings games and concerts. In exchange, she said, the NCAA gave 22 Final Four tickets to SMG that will be forwarded to potential hosts of future events; the names of those recipients will be available after the event under state data practices law, she said.
One oddity with the Final Four, according to Leyden, is that the Monday night championship game is often a cheaper ticket than the Saturday games. Tickets often become available as fans of the losing teams and coaches leave town.
As of Tuesday, Leyden’s tracking showed that the average ticket for each of the two games Saturday was going for $403 and a championship ticket for $406.
Last year at this time, seats for the Final Four at the Alamodome in San Antonio were selling for $354 for the first two games and $332 for the final. In 2017 at State Farm Stadium in Phoenix, tickets were going for $452 for the first two games and $361 for the final.
In 2015, seats for Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis were markedly more expensive, going for $691 and $515. Duke made it into that round, as did nearby Kentucky.
Zion Williamson was still in high school back then. Duke won anyway.