The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is down to its final four teams, if you can believe it.
Tens of thousands of fans have likely descended on New Orleans by now, to watch this weekend’s matchups between UNC and Duke, and Villanova and Kansas. It’s an exciting culmination of yet another great season of college hoops.
As someone who’s attended the Final Four in years past, I thought I’d provide some insight as to why exactly this event is so much fun.
So if you ever get the chance to visit, or make a Final Four trip for yourself, here’s why you should absolutely do it.
1. The environment
If you’re a student and you can experience a game in the student section, this has got to be unparalleled. The atmosphere is simply electric. Your seats are going to be good. I sat in a student section in 2005 for the St. Louis Final Four, and when my team was up at the half, my friends and I were jumping around like maniacs with strangers, as if they were our new best friends.
And actually, everyone around us was in the same boat. We were all experiencing this magical thing together, and it was just the coolest.
We were celebrating every layup, going wild for rebounds, and there was just this camaraderie that I can’t even explain. It was SO much fun.
Plus, in a lot of cases, you’re getting two tickets for the weekend’s games -- I’m not sure if it’s ALWAYS like this, or the perks exist solely for the student section, but when I went to my first Final Four (again, as a student), we essentially got tickets to the first game, and also the national championship matchup, for in case our squad were to advance (which, my team didn’t, but it was kind of neat to be able to sell the final ticket and make back some of the money I’d spent on the trip).
2. All the other cool activities going on in the host city.
As mentioned, this year’s Final Four will be held in New Orleans, which sounds incredibly festive. The Big Easy is lively, fun, home to SO much vibrant nightlife already, and it’s truly a bustling city.
Now imagine all of that, plus musical acts (past performers have included Aerosmith, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Kendrick Lamar, Maroon 5 and more), a block party and packed bars and restaurants – many of which will be filled to the brim with alums from the competing schools, superfans and more.
It’s such a whirlwind to be there IRL for one of these.
Most recently, when my team was in a Final Four in 2019, my friend and I road-tripped to Minneapolis, went online to find out which bars and restaurants were deemed “Michigan State bars,” and it was like 2005 all over again: Everyone around us was decked out in green and white, they became instant friends, and we found ourselves within a crowd of people in no time.
But I’ll always remember that first trip too, pulling up on game day in St. Louis: It had been a LONG road trip to get over there, we finally parked, and then my friends and I were like, “Wait, this thing includes a free concert, too?” There was just so much going on downtown. I was taken aback; only thinking about the matchup that lied ahead, and completely spacing on everything else.
Realizing some of my favorite artists were performing just blocks away from the big game, kind of took my breath away.
The scene in downtown Detroit in 2009 after Michigan State somehow managed to upset UConn and advance to the title game -- equally wild!
These host cities pull out the stops and make for a really fun atmosphere.
3. There’s usually some kind of fan fest/expo where you might be able to catch your favorite player and/or coach.
Here are the details for this year’s fan fest -- looks awesome, right?
You can buy some merch, play interactive games, possibly check out celebrity and athlete appearances, autograph signings and more.
I’ve stopped by in the past, just to snag a T-shirt, but the 2019 fan fest looked really fun. (We didn’t make it in time, but if you’re thinking of going to a Final Four, schedule a few hours for this!)
Also: Celebrating a big win with all your fellow fans, is another thing that’s just so special, on the road after a big stressful game; especially one with all the marbles on the line!
Final thought -- it’s probably based on the matchups that year, the location of your seats, and some other variables, BUT I’m willing to guess that you can score a cheaper ticket (and with a lot less legwork) to the Final Four, compared to other championships, like the Super Bowl, the NCAA football game, and the MLB World Series.
In 2019, my friend and I spent something in the $350 range, apiece, for our tickets. We certainly weren’t courtside, but they were OK seats for U.S. Bank Stadium! And that might sound like a lot of money, if you don’t care much about sports, but for die-hard fans, the price felt worth it to us.
Have you ever been? What did I forget to tell you? Share your experience in the comments!