Too Many Cinderellas Cause Final Four Ticket Prices to Plummet

The Final Four will be held in Houston this year, but with no Texas teams remaining in the tournament, fewer locals want to go

Harlond Beverly #5 of the Miami Hurricanes celebrates after defeating the Texas Longhorns 88-81 in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at T-Mobile Center on March 26, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Not every fan wins when Cinderellas show up to the Final Four
Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

If there was ever a year in which no one seed would make either the Elite Eight or the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, it was probably going to be 2023. Many believed the bracket was “wide open” for triumph from the start, and with a four seed, two number fives and a nine seed playing Saturday for a trip to the Final, those experts have been proven right.

With this many Cinderellas crashing the party, the Final Four is sure to be mighty compelling to most of the sports world — just about everywhere except the second-largest state in the Union. According to a report from Front Office Sports, tickets to the Final Four games on the secondary market are averaging about $157. But before the matchups were finalized, they were selling for $286. The reason for such a steep drop off? No Texas teams remain in the Big Dance.

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The Final Four and the subsequent championship game will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston. Though the state once boasted a number two seed in the tournament — Texas University’s Longhorns, based in Austin, 160 miles from NRG Stadium — and a top-seeded team — the Cougars, who would’ve played the national semifinal game in front of hometown fans — both have been eliminated. The Elite Eight ate up Texas, while the Sweet 16 wasn’t very savory for Houston.

“With Houston still in the mix, tickets were selling for $229 on Ticketmaster and $250 on StubHub before taxes and fees,” Front Office Sports wrote. “With Houston eliminated but Texas remaining, tickets came down to $175 on Ticketmaster and $215 on StubHub.”

But with both schools ousted, the tickets were down as low as $100 on Ticketmaster and $122 on StubHub by Monday morning. The publication also noted, per The Houston Chronicle, that tickets to the championship game were selling for as low as $75 yesterday.

Ticket brokers and eliminated teams aren’t the only losers of this Final Four. According to Sports Media Watch, CBS has also suffered because the station’s Elite Eight matchups weren’t as enticing to viewers as those the broadcaster scored last year. Ratings are down about as much as those ticket prices. The network “averaged a 2.9 rating and 5.15 million [viewers] for Miami’s upset of Houston and a 2.7 and 4.81 million for the Texas-Xavier nightcap,” the publication wrote. Both numbers represent a decrease from last year of more than 40%, when CBS had the pleasure of airing Saint Peter’s upset of Purdue (5.35, 10.18M) and a matchup of legendary schools in North Carolina vs. UCLA (4.8, 8.82M).

But TBS big wigs might be cutting down nets of their own in victory. It seems they were gifted the better late-round matchups. “Friday’s NCAA men’s basketball regional semifinals on TBS — San Diego State’s upset of Alabama and 15 seed Princeton’s loss to Creighton — averaged 4.51 and 4.37 million viewers respectively,” Sports Media Watch said, “both up 71% from last year’s equivalent games (Providence-Kansas: 2.65M; Iowa State-Miami: 2.55M).”

The madness has been building up to this point since tipoff of the men’s NCAA College Basketball Tournament on March 14. Americans love a college basketball Cinderella story, and this year we have multiple ones. So most people are enjoying the tournament — just not CBS executives, Texans looking to sell their Final Four tickets or perhaps, given the unpredictable nature of this tournament, gamblers. But everyone else for sure, including car part thieves, who’ll be able to feast on out-of-towners’ catalytic converters. The area around NRG Stadium sees the highest number of such thefts in all of Houston.

As always, there will be winners and losers, both inside and outside a sporting arena.

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