Kentucky’s perfection driving Final Four ticket prices to record

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The Kentucky Wildcats’ run toward perfection has helped boost Final Four ticket prices to record levels.

The University of Kentucky is 38-0 and needs just two more wins to become men’s college basketball’s first undefeated team in 39 years. With the Final Four in nearby Indianapolis, Kentucky will be joined by three other basketball power schools: Duke, Michigan State and Wisconsin. That’s yielded resale ticket prices that are the highest since the market was first tracked in 2011.

The average resale price for an all-session strip of tickets to the April 4 semifinals and April 6 title game is $1,893, according to secondary market ticket aggregator TiqIQ. The price is 25 percent higher than the previous record a year ago, when the field included Kentucky, Wisconsin, Florida and eventual champion Connecticut. The last team to go undefeated was Indiana in 1975-76.

“Everybody wants to be a part of history,” Chris Matcovich, a spokesman for New York-based TiqIQ, said in a phone interview. “And you don’t have the Cinderellas coming into play in the Final Four this year. You have the big dogs.”

All four remaining teams in the three-week tournament were among the top 10 in basketball revenue during fiscal 2014, according to U.S. Department of Education statistics. Duke ranked fourth with $27 million; Kentucky was fifth with $23.7 million; Wisconsin was ninth with $19.4 million; and Michigan State was 10th with $18.4 million.

Driving distance

Kentucky, in Lexington, is about 180 miles, or a three-hour drive, from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the closest of the four schools. Lansing, Michigan, is 250 miles away; Madison, Wisconsin, is 327 miles away; and Durham, North Carolina, Duke’s home, is 600 miles away.

“When you look at the Duke and Kentucky, they’re similar to the Steelers and Cowboys in football, where they have fan bases that go beyond their region,” Matcovich said.

Of tickets sold so far, 31 percent have come from the state of Kentucky; followed by 24 percent in Indiana; 14 percent from Michigan; and 13 percent from Wisconsin. Just 5 percent of ticket sales have come from North Carolina.

The cheapest full-session ticket is $643, almost double the $342 cost of entry a year ago at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, according to TiqIQ.

The face-value price for the least expensive lower-level full-session strips is $270, while the upper level begins at $190, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. At least 700 students for each team will have $40 floor seats for their school’s semifinal game.

Semifinal Schedule

Michigan State, a No. 7 seed out of the East Region, and South No. 1 seed Duke will square off in the first national semifinal. Midwest top seed Kentucky and West No. 1 seed Wisconsin will follow.

Ticket prices spiked over the weekend after Kentucky squeaked by Notre Dame 68-66 on Saturday, as the average price paid rose 31 percent to $1,625 from $1,239, according to aggregator SeatGeek.

“It’s the UK fan base that is driving the record demand we’re seeing thus far, and they seem fairly confident they’ll see the Wildcats play two games in Indy,” said Connor Gregoire, an analyst for New York-based SeatGeek.

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