Ticket sales have slowed to a trickle for this week’s NCAA tournament games in Austin, and the reasons are simple: No teams of regional interest are coming, and the big-name schools that are coming don’t travel well.
The NCAA selection committee shipped champions of three power conferences here — fifth-ranked Miami (ACC), No. 14 Florida (SEC) and No. 24 UCLA (Pac-12) — but those schools’ fan bases are not known for hitting the road.
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There are eight NCAA tournament hosts this weekend, and all but Austin were assigned teams that are either within easy driving distance or have regional significance.
Philadelphia: Big East tri-champ Georgetown, 142 miles away in the nation’s capital, provides a great anchor team. And Duke is a terrific draw on the East Coast.
Dayton, Ohio: Big Ten tournament champ Ohio State (71 miles away) and Big Ten regular-season champ Indiana (166 miles) make this an impossible ticket. Notre Dame, 250 miles away, is a strong pull, as well.
Auburn Hills, Mich.: More Big Ten hoop hysteria. Michigan and Michigan State are each within 80 miles of this Detroit suburb and will fill the place up. Akron and Valparaiso are only 4-hour drives away.
Lexington, Ky.: Louisville, the overall No. 1 seed, is a mere 77 miles west of Rupp Arena. Butler is within easy striking distance (180 miles). Missouri gives this site an SEC presence, to boot.
Kansas City, Mo.: The shortest ride of anyone in the 68-team field belongs to Kansas, whose campus is 40 miles from the Sprint Center. Kansas State is just a 2-hour jaunt away. Wisconsin fans can drive to K.C., if they choose.
Salt Lake City: Utah was given three teams that travel well and have enormous Western appeal. Top-ranked Gonzaga, Mountain West champ New Mexico and Arizona each will fill up plenty of seats.
San Jose, Calif.: Hard to justify, but 12th seeded California only has a 45-mile hop, skip and jump. The Bay Area site also got a second Pac-12 team - tourney champ Oregon - plus Mountain West runner-up UNLV.
A LONG RIDE HERE
Distances between Austin and the eight universities assigned to NCAA tournament games at the Erwin Center:
Northwestern State (Natchitoches, La.): 330 miles
Colorado (Boulder): 955 miles
Florida (Gainesville): 1,025 miles
Illinois (Champaign): 1,030 miles
Minnesota (Minneapolis): 1,173 miles
Miami (Coral Gables, Fla.): 1,355
UCLA (Los Angeles): 1,379 miles
Pacific (Stockton, Calif.): 1,713 miles