NCAA Tournament: Follow Your Team

Championship Week and Selection Sunday have come and gone, leaving some bubble teams celebrating a tournament bid. Now the dance begins.

It’s one thing to roll the dice and pick some heavy upsets in your bracket, but do you have the stones to purchase airfare and pack your foam fingers to follow your favorite team as the tournament progresses?

We will break down the best fares to get you there, plus the odds of your team making it to the regional round, held next weekend, March 22-25.

NCAA Tournament Flight Deals

Remember, last-minute flights are always priced much higher, so do not wait until after the first and second rounds to book tickets. Use the Low Fare Calendars below to find the best dates to travel. Traveling one day earlier or one day later can mean saving $100 or more, so be flexible. And do your homework, just like when filling out your bracket!

Tips for Students: Search on from your college campus to unlock special discounted pricing from our partner

South Regional – Flights to Atlanta, Georgia

  1. Kentucky: $425 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Cincinnati
  2. Duke: $258 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Raleigh
  3. Baylor: $218 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Dallas
  4. Indiana: $382 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Indianapolis
  5. Wichita Sate: $380 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Kansas City

Upset Pick:

12. VCU: $357 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Richmond

Just last year as a #11 seed, VCU shocked the sports world and advanced to the Final Four. VCU struggled early in non-conference play, but finished the season on a 17-1 tear. The Rams’ tournament experience last year coupled with the winning streak makes them my Cinderella pick in the South.

West Regional – Flights to Phoenix, Arizona

  1. Michigan State: $382 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Detroit
  2. Missouri: $382 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Kansas City
  3. Marquette: $218 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Milwaukee
  4. Louisville: $421 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Louisville
  5. New Mexico: $235 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Albuquerque

Upset Pick:

12. Long Beach State: $206 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Long Beach

The 49ers cruised through the Big West Conference tournament without conference Defensive Player of the Year, Larry Anderson. With the return of Anderson, I like Long Beach State’s chances in the tournament.

East Regional – Flights to Boston, Massachusetts

  1. Syracuse: $283 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Syracuse
  2. Ohio State: $407 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Columbus
  3. Florida State: $203 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Jacksonville
  4. Wisconsin: $357 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Milwaukee
  5. Vanderbilt: $457(Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Nashville

Upset Pick:

12. Harvard: No flight necessary

Jeremy Lin is all the craze in New York City right now, so how can I possibly pick against his alma mater, Harvard? The Ivy League champions boast the 4th-ranked scoring defense in the country making them a solid contender. Plus, another motivating factor for the Crimson is that they could be playing a virtual home game in Boston if they make it to the Sweet 16.

Midwest Regional – Flights to St. Louis, Missouri

  1. North Carolina: $312 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Raleigh
  2. Kansas: No flight necessary (it’s about a 5-hour drive from the university)
  3. Georgetown: $327 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Washington, D.C.
  4. Michigan: $357 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Detroit
  5. Temple: $274 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Philadelphia

Upset Pick:

14. Belmont: $313 (Roundtrip, incl. tax) from Nashville

If the Bruins can somehow get past Georgetown (which has not won a tournament game since 2008), then Belmont matches up well against either San Diego State or N.C. State in the second game. Belmont is a team that nearly beat Duke early in the season. Don’t be surprised to see them in St. Louis. Fare Expert Recommendations

Using historical data, I broke down the likelihood of how each seed fared in recent NCAA Tournaments. By doing so, we recommend the confidence with which you can book a fare to follow your favorite team.

No. 1 Seeds (Kentucky, Michigan State, Syracuse, North Carolina)

2011 Results

  • Sweet 16: 75%
  • Elite 8: 25%

Last 5 Years’ Results

  • Sweet 16: 90%
  • Elite 8: 75% Expert Opinion: Don’t let last year’s numbers fool you. 2011 was an anomaly when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. This is a no-brainer, book ASAP! There is a 90% chance you will catch at least one game from your favorite team.

No. 2 Seeds (Duke, Missouri, Ohio State, Kansas)

2011 Results

  • Sweet 16: 75%
  • Elite 8: 50%

Last 5 Years’ Results

  • Sweet 16: 80%
  • Elite 8: 50% Expert Opinion: Again, an 80% likelihood of making the Sweet 16 makes it worthwhile to book some flights for fans of No. 2 seeds. There is even a 50/50 chance of reaching the Elite 8.

No. 3 Seeds (Baylor, Marquette, Florida State, Georgetown)

2011 Results

  • Sweet 16: 50%
  • Elite 8: 25%

Last 5 Years’ Results

  • Sweet 16: 70%
  • Elite 8: 35% Expert Opinion: Even at No. 3, I’d take these odds. Last year only half the No. 3 seeds made it to the Sweet 16, but in years prior over two-thirds of No. 3 teams advanced to the Sweet 16. Making it to the Elite 8 is quite a bit tougher, though I would not recommend booking a ticket home prior to those games. You never know!

No. 4 Seeds (Indiana, Louisville, Wisconsin, Michigan)

2011 Results

  • Sweet 16: 50%
  • Elite 8: 25%

Last 5 Years’ Results

  • Sweet 16: 35%
  • Elite 8: 5% Expert Opinion: This is where the drop-off really begins. Last year, No. 4 seeds performed better than the historical data, but only 35% of No. 4 seeds advance to the Sweet 16. With those odds, it might not be wise to book tickets right away. However, just last year fourth-seeded Kentucky made it to the Final Four.

No. 5 Seeds (Wichita State, New Mexico, Vanderbilt, Temple)

2011 Results

  • Sweet 16: 25%
  • Elite 8: 25%

Last 5 Years’ Results

  • Sweet 16: 40%
  • Elite 8: 15% Expert Opinion: Historically, No. 5 seeds have a 5% better chance of making it to the Sweet 16 as No. 4 seeds. In 2010, fifth-seeded Butler defeated fifth-seeded Michigan State to advance to the National Championship game. Will we see a repeat performance for No. 5 seeds in 2012? Likely not, so book with caution!

Are we dancing?

For those of us less confident in our teams, keep in mind most airlines will allow you to cancel your reservation. In most cases, you will have to pay a change fee, plus the difference in fare. Since most of the above fares are pricey, it is likely the future flight will be less expensive meaning the airline will offer a flight credit in lieu of a cash refund.

Then there are those of us who are certain our team will make it to the Final Four, which means now is the best time to book airfare to the Big Easy. Flights to New Orleans start at just $118 (Roundtrip, including taxes).

Please note that my airfare deal-finding capabilities in no way help my ability to pick teams in the NCAA Tournament. Which makes me wonder, how are my upset picks?

Note: These fares were found Monday, March 12 and will likely change often. Airfare pricing is dynamic and fluctuates rapidly, especially for last minute travel.

Now get out there and enjoy the games!

Showing 1 Comment

  1. NnormanR 7:35 AM on March 13th, 2012 |

    Matt Ring is my grandson.. Very Very Proud!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!