Arizona Women's Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Ready for Challenge of Increasing Attendance if Hosting NCAA Tournament

An analysis of last year’s 16 teams that hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA women’s tournament shows that a majority of schools experienced reduced attendance in March Madness compared to their season average, most likely because of an increase in ticket prices.

Another factor: the men’s teams of eight of the programs were in the NCAA tournament at the same time. The Arizona men’s and women’s teams are both expected to be in their respective NCAA tournaments next week.

The most drastic decrease last year was UConn’s season average at 8,870 fans a game compared to an average of only 5,274.5 in the first and second round games at Storrs, Conn. In the Huskies’ case, it could be a situation in which fans save their money for later rounds, knowing the program has a history of routinely advancing deep in the tournament.

McKale Center is a likely host site for the NCAA women’s tournament (Javier Morales/

The greatest increase over the season average last year was Iowa attracting an average of 11,548 for its first and second round games compared to 6,797 during the season.

Data for 15 of the host schools indicates that only four programs had increased attendance numbers in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. That means 73.3 percent or about three-fourths of the host schools experienced a reduction in attendance in the first weekend of March Madness.

One program, South Carolina — the nation’s best when it comes to attendance — was not factored because the Gamecocks were forced to “host” the first and second rounds at Charlotte, N.C., last year. The men’s tournament had first and second round games already scheduled at Columbia, S.C.

Adia Barnes (Troy Hutchison/

Arizona was listed as a No. 4 seed in last Monday’s top-16 seed reveal by the NCAA tournament selection committee. With that seed, the Wildcats (24-7) are expected to be one of the 16 host sites when the bracket is revealed next Monday (March 16). The first and second rounds run from March 20-23.

Arizona set a new attendance record this season drawing 95,098 fans in 16 games at McKale Center. That’s an average of 5,944 fans a game.

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Arizona coach Adia Barnes mentioned last week that she is confident McKale could be sold out for the NCAA tournament games.

“If you see our city and how we’re the second-best attendance in the Pac-12 and we will probably … I don’t want to be cocky, I don’t want to jinx myself, but we have a good chance of selling out McKale,” Barnes said at the Pac-12 tournament. “We’re one of the few venues in the country that can bring 15,000 people to a women’s basketball team. I think we have a strong chance of doing that.

“With a crowd like that, I think we have a lot of momentum when we play at home. We could be in a great situation.”

The Bang the Drum promotion is a big hit with fans (Arizona Athletics photo)

The question for Arizona’s administration is how fans will react to a slight increase in ticket prices from the $5 to $8 a game that is paid for games during the regular season at McKale Center.

The NCAA has control of the ticket prices for the host sites.

Last year at Iowa, all-session tickets were $30 for adults and $15 for seniors (50 & over) and youth (18 & younger). Single-session tickets were $16 for adults and $10 for seniors and youth.

At Louisville, all-session tickets were $37 for adult seating and $24 for youths, college students and seniors. The single-session prices were $21 for adults and $14 for youths, college students and seniors.

Family four-packs (end-zone seats only) for $40 are available for each session and group-ticket prices are also sold for end-zone only seats. A block of 10 tickets purchased for a session at Louisville last year cost $100 ($10 each).

Look for Arizona’s ticket prices to be in the range of what was sold at Iowa and Louisville last year given the program’s similar successful attendance rate.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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