Just how many ticket requests has University of Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett fielded for his team’s game Saturday against Syracuse?
“I let my wife handle all that, so zero,” Bennett said, smiling. “But I know it will be a hot ticket.”
Sizzling is more like it.
Ticket prices continue to soar for arguably the biggest basketball game to come to Charlottesville in more than three decades.
Two weeks ago, a longtime season ticketholder who asked not to be identified said he sold two tickets to the game for more than a $1,500 profit via online broker StubHub. On Thursday, another season ticketholder said he was offered $5,000 for his pair of lower-level seats that have a combined face value of $112.
According to the online ticket search engine Seatgeek.com, the average ticket price for the game has more than quadrupled in the past month, jumping from $79 a ticket Jan. 26 to $339.
Saturday's game is the most in-demand Virginia home basketball game ever and more than 3½ times as expensive as the previous high (vs. the University of North Carolina on Feb. 25, 2012, $92 average ticket price), according to Seatgeek. It's also the most expensive ticket the site has ever recorded in the state of Virginia, topping the May 24, 2012, One Direction concert at the Patriot Center at George Mason University. That drew an average ticket price of $271 on the secondary market.
Demand has exceeded supply.
“There’s more people upset about not getting a ticket than I think I’ve heard in all four years,” said Virginia senior forward Akil Mitchell. “There’s all kind of crazy numbers about ticket prices and how many people are asking for tickets. You can definitely feel the buzz around the town.”
UVa players get four tickets each. Mitchell scored two extras for his grandparents.
At last check, 113 tickets for the game were for sale on StubHub.
The most expensive seats, located in Section 113, were being offered for $1,136 a ticket. The least expensive seats, in Section 306, were going for $250 apiece.
Bennett revealed that on his way to Wednesday’s game with Miami even his son Eli, 11, had been looking ahead to the Syracuse showdown.
“He starts this little chant, ‘Cuse! Cuse!’” Bennett sad. “I was a little mad at first but then I said, ‘All right, he’s only 11, I guess I should give him a break.’”
Scheduled for a 4 p.m. tipoff at John Paul Jones Arena, the game was announced as a sellout in November. It will feature a pregame ceremony for Mitchell and fellow senior Joe Harris, both of whom were members of Bennett’s first recruiting class.
Syracuse’s rabid fan base — the Orange consistently rank second nationally in attendance behind Kentucky — is a factor in the soaring prices, as is the fact that the Virginia and Syracuse men’s lacrosse teams will be playing for the first time as Atlantic Coast Conference foes later that day. Fans making the trip from upstate New York get a double dip.
The Cavaliers and Orange have been on a collision course for some time.
After beating Miami, No. 12 Virginia is 24-5, 15-1 in the ACC. With a win over Maryland on Monday, No. 4 Syracuse improved to 26-2, 13-2 in the conference.
A win would give Virginia an outright regular-season championship for the first time since the 1980-81 season, when Terry Holland was coach, the Cavaliers advanced to the Final Four and sophomore Ralph Sampson won the first of three straight National Player of the Year awards.
UVa still could win the regular-season title this time even with a loss Saturday, though the Cavs would need to hope Syracuse stumbles in its remaining games against Georgia Tech and Florida State. The Cavaliers finish the regular season next Sunday at Maryland.
To a certain extent, Bennett said, he had no idea how excited the Charlottesville community was for the game.
“When you’re in this part of the season, you’re pretty much in your office, in the gym, at home in your office watching film,” he said. “You’re not out and about that much except when my son or daughter has a game.
“But people have been wonderful. I think they are really rallying around the group of guys because of how they’re playing and what they represent.”