The Long Road to the 2018 Final Four: How Far Will Each NCAA Tournament Team Have to Travel?


We’ve heard it before: The Road to the Final Four is long and painful.  But exactly how long is it?  For some of the teams, it seems like they always get opening round games right down the road1.  For the rest of us, it seems like our team has to cross nine time zones to even get to the Sweet 16. Well, I did the work so you didn’t have to. Using some base assumptions, I plugged in the numbers to see who, exactly, has the longest way still to go.  The answer may surprise you.

 

Assumptions:

  1. During the NCAA tournament, the NCAA itself charters aircraft to bring teams to games. I assume that they generally use the closest reasonable airport. In major metro areas I tend to use the “major” airport, but I realize that Cincinnati might fly out of Lunken Field instead of Cincinnati2 International Airport, the numbers do not materially change.  I promise, I tested.  When I did this for the upcoming Major League Baseball season, people got really mad about this. I re-ran the numbers and they changed by less than .01%, so settle down.
  2. Given that for under 350 miles teams are bused, this assumes the point to point distance (as the crow flies) rather than road distance on shorter journeys. This is done to maintain apples-to-apples comparisons.
  3. Teams will NOT go home after Dayton, but proceed to the next stop on their journey.  For the rest of the venues, once they advance through their region, they will go home on Saturday or Sunday and fly on to the next region the following Wednesday or whatever.  So in this example, Purdue goes home after Detroit and after Boston.
  4. Since this is mileage TO the Final Four, I don’t consider a trip home. That would be some different article that’s less interesting.

 

Okay, enough assumptions!

Results:

In total, all 68 teams would travel 336,412 miles should they all decide to meet in San Antonio and watch each other, and it would look like this:

 

Unfortunately for 64 of them, that’s not how it will work. Here are some individual statistics. The average First a look at the average distance traveled by seed:

Seed Mileage
1 2988
2 3796
3 4142
14 4200
6 4247
10 4458
8 4475
16 4543
9 4667
12 5162
15 5314
4 5412
11 5583
7 5861
5 6709
13 7495

Longest overall journey to the Final Four: UCLA, with the help of the play-in game, has to travel 10,454 miles. From Dayton they potentially head to Dallas, before headed all the way back home, then back across the country to Boston and back before finally heading to San Antonio, should they be so lucky.  Here’s the map:

Shortest overall journey to the Final Four: For the second straight year, it’s Kansas, who has only 1,382 miles to travel3. This journey looks a lot less challenging:

Longest journey to the Final Four for a 1 seed: Xavier, who at 5,284 miles, will travel almost twice as far as the next closest 1 seed (UVA).

Shortest journey to the Final Four for a 16 seed: LIU-Brooklyn, 3,069 miles. Don’t worry, it didn’t happen.

Average journey by region: South (4,220), Midwest (4,771), East (4,972), West (5,782)

Seed with shortest average journey: One seed, with an average of 2,988 miles.  Seems fair.

Seed with longest average journey: 13, averaging 7,495 miles. Thanks, UNC-Greensboro!

 

Here’s the raw data so you can see how your team stacks up…

Full results by team:

TeamSeedRegionHome1st Four64/3216/8Final FourMileage
Georgia State15SouthATLBNAATLSAT1302
Kansas1MidwestMCIICTOMASAT1382
Cincinnati2SouthCVGBNAATLSAT2231
Michigan State3MidwestLANDTWOMASAT2524
Villanova1EastPHLPITBOSSAT2591
Virginia1SouthCHOCLTATLSAT2695
Tennessee3SouthTYSDFWATLSAT2793
Virginia Tech8EastROAPITBOSSAT2810
LIU-Brooklyn16EastJFKDAYPITBOSSAT3069
Butler10EastINDDTWBOSSAT3084
Radford16EastROADAYPITBOSSAT3097
Purdue2EastLAFDTWBOSSAT3117
Texas10SouthAUSBNAATLSAT3205
Oklahoma10MidwestOKCPITOMASAT3263
UMBC16SouthBWICLTATLSAT3283
TCU6MidwestDFWDTWOMASAT3386
NM State12MidwestELPSANOMASAT3519
Stephen F. Austin14EastOCHDFWBOSSAT3593
Wright State14SouthDAYDFWATLSAT3665
San Diego State11WestSANICTLAXSAT3680
Loyola-Chicago11SouthORDDFWATLSAT3857
Duke2MidwestRDUPITOMASAT3874
Kansas State9SouthMHKCLTATLSAT4046
Gonzaga4WestGEGBOILAXSAT4074
Houston6WestHOUICTLAXSAT4103
Bucknell14MidwestIPTDTWOMASAT4104
Alabama9EastTCLPITBOSSAT4189
Creighton8SouthOMACLTATLSAT4294
Missouri8WestCOUBNALAXSAT4432
Texas Tech3EastLBBDFWBOSSAT4458
St. Bonaventure11EastBFDDAYDFWBOSSAT4545
Miami6SouthMIADFWATLSAT4574
Arkansas7EastXNADTWBOSSAT4579
Iona15MidwestHPNPITOMASAT4598
Syracuse11MidwestSYRDAYDTWOMASAT4608
Texas A&M7WestCLLCLTLAXSAT4663
Texas Southern16WestHOUDAYBNALAXSAT4880
Florida6EastGNVDFWBOSSAT4926
Kentucky5SouthLEXBOIATLSAT4976
Lipscomb15WestBNACLTLAXSAT5074
Florida State9WestPNSBNALAXSAT5136
Rhode Island7MidwestPVDPITOMASAT5193
Xavier1WestCVGBNALAXSAT5284
NC State9MidwestRDUICTOMASAT5298
Montana14WestMSOICTLAXSAT5437
Davidson12SouthCLTBOIATLSAT5463
Arizona4SouthTUSBOIATLSAT5525
South Dakota State12WestFSDBOILAXSAT5605
Wichita St4EastICTSANBOSSAT5761
North Carolina2WestRDUCLTLAXSAT5962
Murray State12EastPAHSANBOSSAT6059
Penn16MidwestPHLICTOMASAT6083
Auburn4MidwestCSGSANOMASAT6287
Arizona State11MidwestPHXDAYDTWOMASAT6354
Seton Hall8MidwestEWRICTOMASAT6363
Marshall13EastHTSSANBOSSAT6387
West Virginia5EastMGWSANBOSSAT6509
Buffalo13SouthBUFBOIATLSAT6609
Clemson5MidwestGSPSANOMASAT6764
Michigan3WestDTWICTLAXSAT6793
NC Central16WestRDUDAYBNALAXSAT6843
College of Charleston13MidwestCHSSANOMASAT7510
Providence10WestPVDCLTLAXSAT8280
Ohio State5WestCMHBOILAXSAT8585
Nevada7SouthRNOBNAATLSAT9008
UNC Greensboro13WestGSOBOILAXSAT9472
CSU Fullerton15EastSNADTWBOSSAT10281
UCLA11EastLAXDAYDFWBOSSAT10454
  1. Duke has to go ALL THE WAY TO PITTSBURGH THIS YEAR, THE HORROR
  2. Covington*
  3. Except for Georgia State, who is playing in the Atlanta region, oops