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Fueled by demand from fans for three traditional basketball powers and one newcomer—all within a half-day's drive of Indianapolis—the first- and second-round NCAA men's basketball tournament games set for Friday and Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse are among the hottest tickets in the nation.
Of the eight early-round host sites, Indianapolis has the second-most expensive tickets on the secondary market, according to several national ticket brokers.
National and local ticket brokers reported a massive spike in demand after the NCAA selection committee announced the universities of Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan would play in Indianapolis. Further stoking demand is tournament newcomer Northern Kentucky University, which will square off against Kentucky on Friday night.
“Other than hosting a local school—an IU, Butler or Purdue—we couldn’t have asked for a better draw,” said Renny Harrison, owner of Carmel-based FanFare Tickets. “Demand has been really, really strong. Just as soon as the announcement was made, we started getting a lot of calls.”
That demand, local brokers said, carried into Monday and Tuesday.
Demand was so strong on speculation Sunday afternoon, Circle City Tickets raised its prices even before the draw was announced.
“All the projections were showing Kentucky was going to be playing here, and we found our tickets were actually underpriced for a while, so we raised them,” said Circle City Tickets President Mike Peduto.
Ticket brokers acquire tickets in a number of ways, including buying them at the box office, getting them through corporate sponsorship deals or event insiders, and buying them from people who bought—or otherwise acquired—tickets but can’t or don’t want to go to the event. Brokers in turn sell those tickets to people who do want them.
Two-thirds to three-fourths of all Circle City Tickets’ sales for this week’s NCAA basketball games in Indianapolis are coming from the state of Kentucky. About 20 percent or so are coming from Michigan, he added.
“Michigan fans got really excited late in the season,” Harrison said. “We could see demand picking up from them for every game they won in the Big Ten tournament.”
Michigan, which finished eighth in the Big Ten regular season, beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament championship game on Sunday in Washington D.C.
“By the time the [NCAA tournament] selection show came on, Michigan fans were ready to roll,” Harrison said. “They’re very optimistic.”
Harrison said his firm is also seeing solid sales from Dayton, Ohio. University of Dayton will play Wichita State at 7:10 p.m. Friday.
“I think people might be surprised that Dayton is going to be a good draw,” he said.
The median price for tickets to Session I on Friday afternoon s featuring Michigan vs. Oklahoma State and Louisville vs. Jackson State is $175, according to SeatGeek.
The median price for Session II featuring Kentucky vs. Northern Kentucky and Dayton vs. Wichita State is $242.
The median price for tickets to Sunday’s Session III is $264, and ticket brokers think that could climb higher with first round Kentucky and Louisville victories.
By comparison, Session I in Milwaukee featuring Butler vs. Winthrop and Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee has a median price of $94, and Session I in Orlando featuring Virginia vs. UNC Wilmington and Florida vs. Eastern Tennessee State has a median price of $86, according to SeatGeek.
The only early round host site that has higher priced tickets than Indianapolis, according to SeatGeek, is Greenville, South Carolina, where North Carolina, Duke and South Carolina are fueling a feeding frenzy.
Greenville’s Session I featuring Arkansas vs. Seton Hall and North Carolina vs. Texas Southern has a median price of $247 while Session II featuring Duke vs. Troy and South Carolina vs. Marquette has a sky-high median of $439, according to SeatGeek.
The second-round games in Greenville have a median ticket price of $431, according to SeatGeek.
In Indianapolis, ticket brokers said there are precious few seats selling for below $100 and fans can’t get into the club level for less than $200. Lower level tickets, brokers said, are starting for between $300 and $350 for Sessions I and II, according to ticket brokers.
Tickets in the first 10 rows for Friday night’s session featuring Kentucky are selling for more than $1,000 each, Peduto said.
And prices for Sunday’s games could be a lot higher.
“If Kentucky and Louisville both play Sunday, demand will pick up a ton,” Peduto said. “You could see ticket prices as high as $1,500, maybe even higher.”