At 9:55 a.m. the morning of Oct. 1, Kentucky alum Sara Rode paused what she was doing at work, loaded Ticketmaster's website on multiple browsers on her computer and moved both mouse pointers over the refresh button.
A limited supply of Champions Classic tickets were scheduled to be released at 10 a.m. that morning, and Rode was not about to miss a rare chance to see her alma mater play in her hometown of Chicago.
"I was sitting there refreshing for at least 10 minutes, and it kept saying it couldn't help me because there was too high a demand for tickets," Rode said. "All the tickets sold in like five minutes. I probably knew at least 10 people who tried to get tickets, and I didn't know one person who got tickets through Ticketmaster."
Rode's story reflects the high demand for tickets to what some are calling the best regular season multi-team event in recent college basketball history. Tuesday night's doubleheader pitting Duke against Kansas and Kentucky against Michigan State features four of the nation's top-five teams and 11 projected first-round picks in DraftExpress.com's 2014 mock draft.
Champions Classic tickets are selling for an average of $366 apiece on the secondary market, a spokesman for the ticket search engine SeatGeek.com said Thursday evening. That's $80 to $220 more than the average resale price of tickets to any of the 2013 NCAA tournament's four Sweet 16 doubleheaders and more than twice the average resale price of either of the two previous Champions Classics.
Those who want to sit closer to the floor will have to dig even deeper into their wallets. Lower-level seats that cost $125 to $165 at face value are being sold for at least $750 per ticket on the secondary market and courtside seats have been purchased for as much as $3,500 apiece.
This year's Champions Classic is StubHub's highest-selling regular season college hoops event in four years in volume, but the sport has produced a few games that have topped it in price.
All three Final Four games and six highly anticipated regular season conference games exceeded the Champions Classic's $366 average resale value last season, according to SeatGeek.com. Four of those games were Duke home games, which are notoriously tough tickets as a result of Cameron Indoor Stadium's modest 9,100-seat capacity. The other two were Michigan's Feb. 2 visit to Indiana and Duke's March 9 game at North Carolina.
Still, the Champions Classic was a tough enough ticket that many fans got creative in their attempts to find one, from participating in radio station contests, to dialing alumni groups, to simply begging their friends. Tweeted one Kentucky student who will probably have to watch the games on TV from Lexington, "If anyone has tickets to the Champions Classic and needs a bro to go with....I am free on Tuesday from roughly 6:30 to Midnight."
Thankfully for Sara Rote, she didn't have to resort to begging. She and a handful of friends managed to nab some choice lower-level seats at face value via the Chicago chapter of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association.
This will be the second time Kentucky has visited Chicago since Rote has lived there, and she is even more excited for Tuesday night's doubleheader than she was for the Wildcats' 2007 first- and second-round NCAA tournament matchups.
"This is a Final Four-caliber event at the beginning of the regular season," she said. "The likelihood of all four of them being there is probably highly doubtful, but it's kind of the ideal Final Four. These are four of the programs you'd want to see be there because of their history and also because of how great they are this season. To have that opportunity to see it live at the beginning of the season in Chicago, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
- - - - - - -