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:

Team
Seed
Region
Home
1st Four
64/32
16/8
Final Four
Mileage
Georgia State
15
South
ATL
BNA
ATL
SAT
1302
Kansas
1
Midwest
MCI
ICT
OMA
SAT
1382
Cincinnati
2
South
CVG
BNA
ATL
SAT
2231
Michigan State
3
Midwest
LAN
DTW
OMA
SAT
2524
Villanova
1
East
PHL
PIT
BOS
SAT
2591
Virginia
1
South
CHO
CLT
ATL
SAT
2695
Tennessee
3
South
TYS
DFW
ATL
SAT
2793
Virginia Tech
8
East
ROA
PIT
BOS
SAT
2810
LIU-Brooklyn
16
East
JFK
DAY
PIT
BOS
SAT
3069
Butler
10
East
IND
DTW
BOS
SAT
3084
Radford
16
East
ROA
DAY
PIT
BOS
SAT
3097
Purdue
2
East
LAF
DTW
BOS
SAT
3117
Texas
10
South
AUS
BNA
ATL
SAT
3205
Oklahoma
10
Midwest
OKC
PIT
OMA
SAT
3263
UMBC
16
South
BWI
CLT
ATL
SAT
3283
TCU
6
Midwest
DFW
DTW
OMA
SAT
3386
NM State
12
Midwest
ELP
SAN
OMA
SAT
3519
Stephen F. Austin
14
East
OCH
DFW
BOS
SAT
3593
Wright State
14
South
DAY
DFW
ATL
SAT
3665
San Diego State
11
West
SAN
ICT
LAX
SAT
3680
Loyola-Chicago
11
South
ORD
DFW
ATL
SAT
3857
Duke
2
Midwest
RDU
PIT
OMA
SAT
3874
Kansas State
9
South
MHK
CLT
ATL
SAT
4046
Gonzaga
4
West
GEG
BOI
LAX
SAT
4074
Houston
6
West
HOU
ICT
LAX
SAT
4103
Bucknell
14
Midwest
IPT
DTW
OMA
SAT
4104
Alabama
9
East
TCL
PIT
BOS
SAT
4189
Creighton
8
South
OMA
CLT
ATL
SAT
4294
Missouri
8
West
COU
BNA
LAX
SAT
4432
Texas Tech
3
East
LBB
DFW
BOS
SAT
4458
St. Bonaventure
11
East
BFD
DAY
DFW
BOS
SAT
4545
Miami
6
South
MIA
DFW
ATL
SAT
4574
Arkansas
7
East
XNA
DTW
BOS
SAT
4579
Iona
15
Midwest
HPN
PIT
OMA
SAT
4598
Syracuse
11
Midwest
SYR
DAY
DTW
OMA
SAT
4608
Texas A&M
7
West
CLL
CLT
LAX
SAT
4663
Texas Southern
16
West
HOU
DAY
BNA
LAX
SAT
4880
Florida
6
East
GNV
DFW
BOS
SAT
4926
Kentucky
5
South
LEX
BOI
ATL
SAT
4976
Lipscomb
15
West
BNA
CLT
LAX
SAT
5074
Florida State
9
West
PNS
BNA
LAX
SAT
5136
Rhode Island
7
Midwest
PVD
PIT
OMA
SAT
5193
Xavier
1
West
CVG
BNA
LAX
SAT
5284
NC State
9
Midwest
RDU
ICT
OMA
SAT
5298
Montana
14
West
MSO
ICT
LAX
SAT
5437
Davidson
12
South
CLT
BOI
ATL
SAT
5463
Arizona
4
South
TUS
BOI
ATL
SAT
5525
South Dakota State
12
West
FSD
BOI
LAX
SAT
5605
Wichita St
4
East
ICT
SAN
BOS
SAT
5761
North Carolina
2
West
RDU
CLT
LAX
SAT
5962
Murray State
12
East
PAH
SAN
BOS
SAT
6059
Penn
16
Midwest
PHL
ICT
OMA
SAT
6083
Auburn
4
Midwest
CSG
SAN
OMA
SAT
6287
Arizona State
11
Midwest
PHX
DAY
DTW
OMA
SAT
6354
Seton Hall
8
Midwest
EWR
ICT
OMA
SAT
6363
Marshall
13
East
HTS
SAN
BOS
SAT
6387
West Virginia
5
East
MGW
SAN
BOS
SAT
6509
Buffalo
13
South
BUF
BOI
ATL
SAT
6609
Clemson
5
Midwest
GSP
SAN
OMA
SAT
6764
Michigan
3
West
DTW
ICT
LAX
SAT
6793
NC Central
16
West
RDU
DAY
BNA
LAX
SAT
6843
College of Charleston
13
Midwest
CHS
SAN
OMA
SAT
7510
Providence
10
West
PVD
CLT
LAX
SAT
8280
Ohio State
5
West
CMH
BOI
LAX
SAT
8585
Nevada
7
South
RNO
BNA
ATL
SAT
9008
UNC Greensboro
13
West
GSO
BOI
LAX
SAT
9472
CSU Fullerton
15
East
SNA
DTW
BOS
SAT
10281
UCLA
11
East
LAX
DAY
DFW
BOS
SAT
10454
  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