The Road To The Championship: How Far Each 2017 NCAA Basketball Tournament Team Has To Travel


It’s NCAA Tournament time, and while many of us are focused on the bracket, there’s a hidden behind-the-scenes major logistics operation going on as the NCAA charters basketball teams all around the country to partake in the big dance.

 

Before we get into the winners and losers, let me explain my methodology, because every year I have people ask about it even when I explain it in the article. Maybe putting it higher up will get people to read. I take the nearest commercial (or charter-sized, as is the case for Michigan and YIP) airport and use it as the starting point. As often as possible, I used the airport on the university’s website listed as “closest” to avoid the nitpicking that always seems to happen. I then assumed that each team would return to their own campus from Saturday or Sunday to Wednesday, but I did not count the return home from Glendale, since that presumably happens after the Championship game and thus is not part of the road to the championship. In the case of play-in games, I assume that they fly from Dayton to their next venue, but then return home directly to their campus after the third round. So the calculation is: (Round 1 + Round 2 + Return + (Sweet 16 * 2 [both directions]) + Final 4). Got it? Cool, let’s move on.

 

This year’s big winner is KU, with only 1590 miles between them and University of Phoenix Stadium. This is their second straight year winning this title, so KU haters everywhere be sure to point out this blatant NCAA favoritism1 This year, they’re helped out immensely by having the Sweet 16 only 40 miles from Lawrence, and a relatively short trip to Tulsa before that. Their geography certainly doesn’t hurt either.  Here’s a look at their journey: 

 

On the other end of the spectrum? VCU is the only team that will have to travel more than 10,000 miles to get to the Championship game. Being put in the West really extended the Rams’ travel, with their first round in Salt Lake being their shortest journey at 1863 miles. Their map is a little more complicated:

 

For the 1 seeds besides KU, Villanova goes only 2823 miles while UNC and Gonzaga have virtually the same distance traveled around 3575 miles apiece. The rest of the seeds? Well it’s no surprise, the lower you are seeded, the longer your travel will be:

Seed Average mileage
1 2894
2 2804
3 4950
4 3998
5 3860
6 5744
7 2792
8 5354
9 5268
10 5118
11 7510
12 5237
13 5278
14 7301
15 3974
16 6365

 

And conferences? Well with plenty of conferences only being represented by their tournament champions, it makes it hard to show if there is any bias, take a look:

Conference Average mileage
Horizon League 2573
West Coast 2738
Conference USA 2799
Missouri Valley 3070
Ohio Valley 3493
SWAC 3619
Colonial Athletic 3853
Southern 3901
Sun Belt 3904
Big 12 3913
Big South 4097
SEC 4123
Big East 4494
Big Ten 4818
ACC 4843
The American 5222
Pac 12 5259
Western Athletic 5501
Summit League 5513
MEAC 5747
Southland 5881
Big Sky 5924
America East 6021
Mountain West 6609
Atlantic Sun 7042
Patriot League 7091
MAC 7234
Big West 7625
Ivy League 7686
Atlantic 10 7762
MAAC 9426
Northeast 9805

 

And finally: the list for all 68 teams. Enjoy!

Round 1 Round 2 Return Sweet 16 Final Four Total mileage
Kansas 0 233 233 40 1044 1590
Saint Mary’s 0 588 588 29 646 1880
Iowa State 0 208 208 238 1252 2144
N Kentucky 0 99 99 403 1569 2573
Kentucky 0 147 147 363 1567 2587
Oklahoma State 0 638 638 252 868 2648
Purdue 0 182 182 420 1463 2667
Louisville 0 111 111 491 1506 2710
Butler 0 238 238 381 1488 2726
Dayton 0 111 111 461 1600 2744
Arizona 0 601 601 722 110 2756
Mid Tennessee 0 475 475 200 1449 2799
Villanova 0 279 279 95 2075 2823
Arkansas 0 687 687 258 1023 2913
Wichita State 0 647 647 453 870 3070
Duke 0 205 205 431 1891 3163
South Carolina 0 91 91 617 1773 3189
Minnesota 0 297 297 700 1276 3270
Michigan 0 226 226 620 1662 3354
Virginia Tech 0 393 393 405 1820 3416
Jacksonville St 0 425 425 594 1455 3493
UNC 0 205 205 633 1891 3567
Gonzaga 0 546 546 742 1020 3596
Texas Southern 0 837 837 468 1009 3619
Florida 0 105 105 899 1767 3775
UNC Wilmington 0 450 450 500 1953 3853
UVA 0 689 689 305 1902 3890
ETSU 0 558 558 549 1687 3901
Troy 0 300 300 908 1488 3904
Creighton 0 1370 1370 152 1037 4081
Wisconsin 0 537 537 812 1396 4094
Winthrop 0 651 651 511 1773 4097
SMU 0 237 237 1381 879 4115
Marquette 0 634 634 738 1460 4204
Michigan State 0 755 755 581 1618 4290
UCLA 0 373 373 1619 370 4354
Baylor 0 325 325 1444 871 4409
Oregon 0 384 384 1503 952 4726
Seton Hall 0 594 594 946 2133 5213
Providence 682 685 1366 143 2277 5296
New Mexico St 0 673 673 1904 347 5501
South Dakota St 0 809 809 1394 1107 5513
NC Central 406 685 957 904 1891 5747
Kansas State 667 1990 1339 465 941 5867
New Orleans 764 354 1097 1183 1300 5881
North Dakota 0 882 882 1448 1264 5924
Vermont 0 745 745 1164 2203 6021
Notre Dame 0 398 398 1912 1514 6134
FSU 0 381 381 2040 1469 6311
Cincinnati 0 1977 1977 403 1569 6329
Nevada 0 1667 1667 1337 601 6609
Miami 0 1168 1168 1251 1972 6810
West Virginia 0 236 236 2262 1826 6822
FGCU 0 133 133 2454 1868 7042
Bucknell 0 150 150 2400 1991 7091
Xavier 0 757 757 2017 1569 7117
Kent State 0 2123 2123 617 1754 7234
Wake Forest 351 1990 2279 570 1825 7585
Northwestern 0 1250 1250 1829 1440 7598
UC Davis 1990 685 1419 1442 647 7625
Princeton 0 274 274 2520 2098 7686
Vanderbilt 0 1404 1404 1947 1449 8151
Maryland 0 787 787 2439 1999 8451
USC 1925 685 1283 2469 370 9201
Iona 0 2518 2518 1116 2158 9426
Mt St Mary’s 1925 354 2218 2469 370 9805
URI 0 2624 2624 1234 2277 9993
VCU 0 1863 1863 2429 1965 10549
  1. Even though you’d totally look the other way if it were your team being helped