Basketball NCAA

NCAA Basketball Championship!

The Valley of the Sun sure has had it’s run of hosting major sporting events – and I have to tell you, they’ve delivered on every one of them!  This year’s NCAA Final Four tournament finishes an unprecedented run of three major sports championships in the last two years – joining the College Football Championship and the Super Bowl.

In years past, the greater Phoenix area played host to several major sporting events including College Football’s first ever “National Championship” Game (Penn State vs Miami), the World Series (who can forget the Post-911 Series against the Yankees?) and the event of all events, the Super Bowl, when they hosted Super Bowl XXX with the Cowboys vs the Steelers.

Each one of those events was successful in their own right, but things took a dramatic turn for the better when the local government supported the construction of the new University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. This new venue has opened the door to allow the area to compete for the best of the best events – on a regular basis.

Just since its opening in 2006, the stadium has hosted several college bowl games, three College Football National Championship games, two Super Bowls, a couple of key international soccer matches and now, an NCAA Final Four and Championship.

When the Final Four was announced, I knew I’d be going. Who can pass up a “bucket list” item that happens to take place in your back yard?  OK, so maybe I can when ticket prices to the Super Bowl spike as high as they do. But the Championship game had ticket prices as low as $120.

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We pulled together the group and decided to make a day of it – starting to tailgate early so we can take in the full once-in-a-lifetime experience. Now, we just needed tickets.

After watching online prices fluctuate wildly during the week leading up to the event, we decided to roll the dice and scalp tickets at the event.

There was surprising little tailgating happening in the parking lot, but what we did see, it was obvious that the Gonzaga faithful were represented.  We set up shop right next to the Great Lawn, which had been fenced off for the Tip-Off Tailgate.

Greg and Brendan set out to scalp tickets while Keith and I fired up the grill. After a couple of hours at the tailgate, we decided to check out the Tailgate next door.

I will say that the Fiesta Bowl and the College Football Playoffs should take a queue from this setup.  The free-to-enter event had all types of games, food and beverage available, along with a main stage that featured Third Eye Blind on Saturday and Collective Soul on Monday.  We happened to get lucky entered as Collective Soul starting banging out some of their hits including Shine, Heavy and Cumbersome.

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Before long, it was time to enter. Surprisingly, the lines to enter were not that bad.

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We made our up to our upper level seats and were again surprised.  While they were very far away, it wasn’t horrible.  And for $180 for a Championship game, we were pretty happy. The picture makes it seem worse than it was.

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One unique change they made to the stadium was how they modified the seating so they could add more seats that would be closer to the court. You can see the changes below.

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The game itself was pretty uneventful.  It was a slow moving first half with Gonzaga taking a 3-point lead into the locker room – up 35-32.

We walked around and traded seats with Keith and Brendan – ending up along the sidelines, but higher up.  Both seat locations were actually pretty good for the price.
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The penalty-ridden second half really stole the energy from the teams and the fans. Carolina missed four free-throws in a row to keep Gonzaga in the game and in the end, the National Championship came down to a one-possession game with less than a minute to go.  What more could you ask for?
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Gonzaga played scrappy the entire game against one of the games most respected program, but it didn’t have enough to finish.

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Carolina pulled off the win and racked up Coach Roy Williams’ third National Championship – all with the Tar Heels.

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Another Bucket List item down!

NCAA Bucket List

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