The Best Time to Buy March Madness Tickets [Final Four Update]

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FinanceBuzz analyzed more than 10,000 historical ticket sales to determine the best time to buy NCAA tournament tickets
Updated Feb. 7, 2024
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With March Madness upon us, many fans will be glued to their TVs watching one of the most exciting sporting events of the year.

With that excitement comes compromise. Most games will be played during working hours, so fans will have to choose between paying attention to their jobs or the games. To find out some of the numbers behind this tradeoff, we surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults and asked how many of them watch the NCAA tournament while at work, as well as how many have taken time off to stay home and watch.

For anyone interested in taking time off and seeing the games in person, we also pulled ticket data to uncover the best times to buy March Madness tickets. Using secondary market sales (like Stubhub) data relating to the 2022 NCAA Tournament from seatdata.io, we were able to determine when demand for March Madness tickets is the highest and how long fans should hold out to get the best prices.

Key findings

  • 36% of employees admit to watching March Madness during the workday.
  • 25% of workers have taken time off work (including sick days) to watch tournament games.
  • For the majority of the tournament the best time to buy tickets is the day of the game.
  • When it comes to the Final Four, the ideal time to buy tickets is actually right before and during the previous weekend of games (Sweet 16 and Elite 8).
In this article

Who is watching March Madness on the job?

The NCAA Tournament takes three weeks to crown a champion, packing 67 games into that time span. One of the ways the NCAA is able to pack so much madness into the month of March is by playing games on Thursday and Friday during the tournament’s first two weeks. On those days, the first games tend to tip off shortly after noon and the last ones start just before 10 p.m. Eastern time.

So how many people are actually slacking off on the job in favor of tuning in to the madness?

Graphic of survey results

Turns out, over one-third of American employees are taking time out of their workdays to watch basketball. Thirty-six percent of people said they watch the NCAA Tournament while on the job, whether that is during break times (20%), while they are supposed to be working (11%), or both (5%).

The most diehard sports fans take things a step further, using time off to avoid coming into the office altogether. A total of 25% of workers have used sick time (11%), paid time off (10%), or both (4%) to stay home during tournament time.

The best time to buy tickets for a March Madness game

Some of the people taking time off during the tournament may be doing so because they are going to see the games in person. While tournament sites are set well in advance, the teams playing at each location are not known until just a few days before the tournament begins, meaning that fans will have to wait until the field is announced to buy tickets if they want to guarantee their ability to see certain teams or matchups.

To help those in that situation know when they should buy tickets to get the best deal, we analyzed over 50,000 secondary market ticket sales from last year’s tournament to find when prices are the highest and lowest for different rounds of the tournament.

Graphic of the costs of tickets

For the majority of the tournament, the longer you wait to buy tickets the better. Ticket prices tend to drop the closer you get to gameday, and the lowest average ticket prices for the first four rounds — covering the games in the round of 64 through the Elite Eight — can all be found on the day of the game.

Table of Round 1 and 2 ticket prices

For the first two rounds, the savings that can be had by waiting are significant. Fans willing to wait and buy their ticket on the day of the game were able to get tickets that cost 58% less on average compared to fans that bought their tickets seven days before tip-off.

Table of ticket prices for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight

While the savings lessen as the tournament goes on, and fans of advancing teams increase ticket demand, patience still pays off when it comes to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds. Fans who waited until the day of these games to buy tickets were able to spend over $50 less on average compared to those who purchased tickets a week before the game — a savings of 19%.

Table of Final Four and Championship Game prices

The very end of the tournament is when things change a bit. On every one of the six days before the Final Four and National Championship games, ticket prices were higher than they were on day seven.

There is one big caveat to this: Teams in these rounds are not always finalized seven days prior to the next game. When teams win their previous-round games and are slated to move ahead, prices initially spike, then drop off considerably as you get closer to the game.

This means that it either pays to take a leap of faith that your team will advance by buying prior to the previous round’s game or wait until prices subside once you know your team is in.

This data was especially pronounced with Final Four tickets. The best deals on Final Four tickets were on the days just before and during the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds. While that trend is not as pronounced when it comes to the Championship game, it is still present.

Tips for saving while watching March Madness

Whether you’re watching at work or at the game, there are plenty of ways to save during this March Madness season.

  • Cut the cord. Find the cheapest way to stream your team with our sports streaming tool. Just put in your must-see team, and the tool will tell you the cheapest combination of streaming services to catch every game.
  • Shop online for your team gear. Using the Capital One Shopping extension, you can compare prices for team gear when you’re looking for your next jersey.1
  • Earn perks and rewards with ticket purchases. There are some credit cards that offer bonuses on entertainment purchases, such as basketball game tickets. Find out how you can use your Chase card to earn experiences.

Methodology

FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 people to see how many of them have watched March Madness at work or have taken off work to watch the tournament.

FinanceBuzz used data from seatdata.io to analyze NCAA March Madness ticket sales for last year's tournament. Analyzed ticket data covered the time from 2022’s Selection Sunday through the National Championship Game (March 13-April 4).

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Author Details

Josh Koebert Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how personal finance overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.

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