March is closing in fast and with it resides a kind of madness we all invite with open arms. Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, the excitement of March Madness reaches out and demands our attention unlike any sporting event in the world. From the First Four to the Final Four, our eyes remain drawn to the court as the NCAA’s top 68 teams are dwindled down to 2 in the final game of the year. My job in all of this madness; make sure you’ve got the best seat in the house.
First thing’s first: First Four
The madness ensues on March 18 with the first four — a team’s last shot at obtaining a bid to the most prestigious tournament of its kind. Four at-large teams and the last four teams with automatic bids will rally around each other in either their last game of the season or their first win of the tournament. Touted as underdogs from the get go, the First Four is where Cinderella teams are born. VCU in 2011, South Florida in 2012, and who can forget LaSalle’s run last year, all of which started at the Dayton Arena. The University of Dayton Arena was built with one thing in mind, basketball. As such, you really can’t go wrong in any section of the arena. Tickets to the First Four are already at the lower cost end of the tournament as a whole so getting up close and personal with the games may not be as out of reach as you think. Either route you take, basketball at Dayton Arena is a priceless experience.
2ND & 3RD ROUNDS
Now that our Cinderella teams are in the making, the true madness begins in 8 cities across the country. On March 20 the 2nd & 3rd rounds of the tournament will eliminate half of the field twice in just four days. Ask anyone who has attended this portion of the tournament about it and you’re likely to get a one word response; madness. But not the type of madness that leaves you defeated never to return, it’s a more manageable madness that leaves you crawling back for more. Tickets to the 2nd & 3rd Rounds are broken up into 3 sessions. The first two sessions will be to the 2nd round, session 1 to the afternoon games and session 2 to the evening games. Session 3 tickets will get you to the 3rd round which is the final game of the 2nd & 3rd Rounds.
Spokane Arena is in Spokane, Washington, near the Idaho border. We get underway in Eastern Washington on March 20 and will finish up on March 22. Though one of the smaller venues of the tournament with a capacity just over 12,000, the Spokane Arenas size is what makes it such a great venue for basketball. With just one level change, your typical “nose-bleed” seats are actually great seats at half the price. The remaining venues on the 2nd & 3rd Rounds docket for March 20 & 22 are a bit larger and offer a wider range of seating options.
The Amway Center resides in Orlando, Florida and houses the Orlando Magic. So while a much bigger venue, capacity of 20,000, the Amway Center is still outfitted for basketball. From Presidents Suites to Courtside if you’re looking to spend the big bucks the Amway Center has the view to match it. If frugality is your main concern the promenade and terrace levels are great options for under $100.
Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Bradley Center is slightly smaller with a capacity of 2,000 less than the Amway Center, but once again outfitted for basketball (home of the Bucks). There is less glamour at the BMO Harris Bradley Center as far as club level presidential VIP private boxed seats… (See what I did there), but they do have some great courtside sections that will be well worth the $300+. More seats means more options and the Bradley Center breaks down their upper and lower levels into sidelines, baselines, and corners. For the most part your sideline sections will be the most expensive, then the baselines with your cheapest seats in the corners.
Western New York will house another portion of the 2nd & 3rd Rounds at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. While the first on our list not outfitted for basketball, there’s not much change in seating views from hockey to basketball. The First Niagara Center keeps it simple with 3 levels (100, 200, and 300) and a ring of suites between the 200 and 300. $100 or less will get you some descent seats in the 300 level with a sky-view of the court. Anything closer to the court will be anywhere from $100-$300+.
With two days in the books the madness continues to blanket the country bombarding four more cities with another 24 games. March 21 & 23 will take the 2nd & 3rd Rounds to North Carolina, Texas, California, and Missouri to finish out the round of 62.
PNC Arena is yet another great venue on the NCAA Tournament route. Purpose built for hockey and basketball, the arena mastered sectioning to cater to both sports. The layout is very similar to the First Niagara Center, actually it’s pretty identical. The PNC Arena does have something different though, a 300 seat restaurant with a variety of food options. The pricing at PNC Arena varies some as you can find some 200 & 100 level seats for just under $100, but for the most part will be limited to the 300 level. Baseline 100 & 200 level sections are your best deal at the PNC Arena as you can usually get really close for a lot less.
Move over Spurs fans and make way because the 2nd & 3rd Rounds are headed straight to San Antonio’s AT&T Center. This is one of my favorite venues to watch basketball at and rightfully so as it was built for one of the NBA’s top dynasty’s. With room for 18,000+ the AT&T Center contains 2,018 club seats, 50 luxury seats, and 32 bathrooms, which you will see comes in handy when you’re talking about an entire day of basketball. While the balcony level seats are high the, AT&T Center utilizes its vertical space well keeping all the seats as close to the court as possible, but when the tickets are as low as $40, does it really matter? Some of your best seats for the price are going to come from the plaza level baseline and corner sections, if the tickets are not under $100 they’re not too much over. You can also get some great deals on the plaza level sidelines if you don’t mind sitting on the end sections (119, 124, and 105).
If the Rose Bowl were a basketball stadium it might look similar to the Viejas Arena in San Diego, California. With one level of sections to hold the 12,000+ fans that fill up the arena, the Viejas Arena is an away team’s worst nightmare. The good news for you, every seat in the house is the best seat in the house. Most everything is under $200 and gets you right in front of all the action.
Gaining the pun-full nickname of “Arch Madness”, St. Louis, Missouri will be our final stop of the 2nd & 3rd Rounds. The Scottrade Center is most often used as a hockey rink for the St. Louis Blues but as we have seen in previous venues not too much changes when you replace the ice with wood. With a capacity of 22,000 for basketball, the Scottrade Center is on the larger end of the scale but remains quite simple. The venue has 8 floor baseline sections and 6 floor sideline sections all of which are phenomenal seats if you can afford them. The 100 level shares sections with the club and can cost anywhere from $100 to $400+. While getting into the Scottrade Center for the 2nd & 3rd Rounds under $100 is a bit trickier, especially in the later sessions, the 300 level is going to be your best opportunity to do so.