Editor's Note: Joe Nelson's college basketball selections can be purchased on VegasInsider.com throughout March Madness. Click to win!
While most of the NCAA tournament games will generally be played in unfamiliar venues and spacious arenas with mixed fan bases, it's worth taking a look at the travel required for teams and fan bases. Here is a brief look at some of the advantages and disadvantages presented by the selection committee this season.
The Wildcats play in their home state but their opponent is also a Bluegrass State foe as Western Kentucky won Tuesday’s opening game. The winner will enjoy a huge advantage in the next game as Iowa State and Connecticut are both far from home in this grouping. Ames may not look that far on a map but it is 600 miles away, though that is a closer than the roughly 900 miles Connecticut fans have to travel. While Kentucky was expected to get a big location advantage the team most benefiting from the Louisville draw is West 6 seed Murray State. Only the top four seed lines are supposed to get location consideration yet Murray State will not have to leave Kentucky for its first game with Colorado State or a potential ‘round of 32’ game with 3 seed Marquette. Louisville is still over 200 miles from Louisville but it is nearly twice as far from Milwaukee, although Marquette was placed in the closest possible location. The disadvantage for Marquette won’t be so much in the distance traveled but in that all the Kentucky fans will surely adopt Murray State as their rooting interest.
With the Pac-12 being pretty terrible this season the West region had a lot of trouble filling in teams that made sense. Portland was then left without a team seeded higher than a 4 seed and very few western teams. This might be an easy ticket as every team involved is facing a long trip. 4 seeds Indiana and Louisville will be at location disadvantages should they win their first games but it won’t be significant and 5 seeds Wichita State and New Mexico are also facing very significant travel. New Mexico and New Mexico State at least have the benefit of being closer to the Pacific time zone as 12 seed Long Beach State is the only team in that zone in this grouping. New Mexico has emerged as a trendy sleeper to knock off Louisville in the potential 4/5 match-up but don’t cite location advantage as a reason as being 1,300 miles away isn’t much better than being 2,300 miles away.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
There simply aren’t many short trips out west so while UNLV and Colorado both seem to be paired in a favorable venue it is a significant journey for both teams at nearly 500 miles for the Buffaloes and nearly 600 miles for the Rebels. 3 seed Baylor is playing nearly 700 miles from Waco so there is not much of an advantage for any team in that South region pod. The rest of the Albuquerque group seems to be leftover teams that didn’t do enough to earn preferential treatment as Wisconsin and Montana meet in a 4/13 game and Vanderbilt and Harvard meet in a 5/12 game. Badger fans are known to travel well but there may not be much of a draw for those games.
Greensboro, North Carolina
As usual Duke and North Carolina have earned favorable spots in Greensboro and it will be tough to envision too much support for any of the other teams in these pods. Notre Dame and Xavier meet in what would have been a full arena in game that would have played great for fans if it was in say Louisville but instead the victor will face a big location disadvantage in the next round if the Blue Devils get by Lehigh. North Carolina will draw the winner of what should be a great game between Creighton and Alabama in an 8/9 match-up. Tuscaloosa is over 500 miles away for Crimson Tide fans which is quite a bit closer than the 1,300 mile drive that some Creighton fans will make. Duke and North Carolina have certainly earned it with their great traditions but it is a bit unfair that almost every year they get to play NCAA tournament games an hour away from home. Selling tickets is more important than competitive balance so don’t expect it to change.
Michigan State ventures into enemy territory for its opening tournament games and it is a very reasonable four hour drive south for Spartans fans. Potential second game foes St. Louis and Memphis are considerably further away from Columbus but it is a manageable trip for both of those teams and their fans. The other group in Columbus is a mismatch of teams as San Diego State and NC State both will be far from home in a 6/11 game. In the 3/14 match-up Nashville is a bit closer to Columbus for the underdog Belmont but Georgetown is a reasonable 400 mile drive away. It shouldn’t be enough to sway the game but it is a rare location advantage for a 14 seed. In a grouping that should be dominated by Michigan State fans some of the other underdogs might have a slight advantage as those waiting for Michigan State’s late game Friday will certainly be pulling for Belmont and an upset.
While bitter rivals Missouri and Kansas may not meet on the court in the near future they can fight it out in the stands in Omaha as those will be the main drawing teams in this grouping. Columbia is just over 300 miles to Omaha for a nice edge for Missouri for any of the potential games they will face with Florida and Virginia meeting in the 7/10 game. Kansas enjoys one of the closest to home venues in the tournament playing just over 200 miles away and they will draw Detroit in the first game and the winner of the St. Mary’s/Purdue game so a significant advantage will be enjoyed in both games. While Missouri won the Big XII tournament Kansas was dealt a more favorable spot moving forward as the Sweet 16 in the Midwest is in St. Louis while Missouri will need to win in Phoenix if they hope to make the Final Four.
It is rare to see Pitt absent from the NCAA tournament but the city will be hosting opening games on Thursday and Saturday. 1 seed Syracuse draws a favorable pairing although it is still a hefty 360 mile trip. Kansas State and Southern Miss will certainly be making much further journeys in a compelling 8/9 game. Ohio State should be the dominant force in the crowd in Pittsburgh playing just 180 miles away from Columbus. The foes for the Buckeyes don’t have to travel too far however as Loyola-Maryland is less than 250 miles away in Baltimore and things could be interesting in the second game should the Buckeyes advance as 10 seed West Virginia has the most favorable venue in the tournament in terms of distance outside of Duke and North Carolina. Pittsburgh may be hostile territory for the Mountaineers but they are playing just over an hour’s drive away from Morgantown, a significant edge over Gonzaga in the first game and perhaps a boost that could give them a little better shot at an upset should they get a chance at the Buckeyes.
Cincinnati made a great run to the Big East final and they were rewarded with very favorable seeding in the Big Dance. The Bearcats not only got a 6 seed despite most projections for a worse placing, they also are in a very favorable venue in Nashville, just 270 miles away. Texas faces very long travel as does Florida State and St. Bonaventure so this may be an opportunity for Cincinnati to have success. In the other pod Michigan and Temple have long trips of similar distance for the potential 4/5 game. Temple will have a big location edge against its potential opponent but that could be softened a bit with California in South Florida playing Wednesday night in Dayton to cut the trip down. Athens is still a good 400 miles from Nashville but Ohio is technically facing a shorter trip to Nashville than favored Michigan, a game many have keyed in on as a possible upset.