Things stayed largely chalk in the first week of the NCAA Basketball Tournament East Regional. An old Big East favorite is indeed creating March Madness in the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden, for the upcoming Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games preceding the Final Four in Arlington. It’s not second-seeded Villanova, however, commanding a fan base ready to strike fear into the third seed Iowa State Cyclones this weekend; instead, the UConn Huskies, no longer in the Big East conference, upset the Wildcats last week and punched their own ticket to a memorable return to MSG.

It was in this very building where the 2011 Huskies began their perfect post-season, sweeping the Big East tourney before riding their No. 3 seed in the NCAAs to a title win over Butler. The Huskies’ presence in this region is creating a wild secondary market, and you can bet that the once heavily-favored Virginia Cavaliers (ACC Champs, No. 1 seed) and Michigan State Spartans (Big Ten Tournament Champs, No. 4 seed) are at least a bit distracted by the possibility of meeting UConn and their fan base in a possible Elite 8 game with Final Four at stake.

NCAA East Regional – Madison Square Garden Tickets

It’s pretty remarkable to see what the combination of a long wait for a regional final and a hot local team can do to ticket demand. It’s been over 50 years since Madison Square Garden hosted NCAA Basketball Tournament games, and getting the local underdog in the bracket has only furthered the frenzy. Friday’s doubleheader is the most expensive single-admission college basketball event MSG has ever hosted.

Tickets for UVa-Michigan State and UConn-Iowa State are going for $355 each on average, coming in ahead of last year’s Big East conference tournament semifinal doubleheader ($266 average ticket price), which featured the final Big East meeting between Syracuse and Georgetown as well as Notre Dame-Louisville. To put Friday’s games in a wider MSG context, ticket prices are on par with those for the Knicks-Heat game on the eve of this year’s Super Bowl ($373 average ticket price) and the Rangers’ Eastern Conference Semifinal games against the Bruins last season ($381 average ticket price).

Average Prices for NCAA Tournament Tickets by Region

With the first NCAA Basketball tournament games in over 50 years already stirring demand, UConn's underdgo story has made East Region tickets the most expensive ever.

Tickets to the East Regional at Madison Square Garden are the most expensive regional tickets we’ve ever recorded since we began monitoring the secondary market in 2009. The average ticket price for a full strip (including a ticket to both the Sweet 16 doubleheader on Friday and the Elite Eight game Sunday) is $570, topping the average cost of a full strip to the West Regional in Anaheim ($464), this year’s second-most expensive regional. Based on early returns, it looks like the Huskies will benefit from a heavily UConn-friendly crowd this weekend. Since UConn defeated Villanova on Saturday, more than 40% of traffic to SeatGeek’s event pages for the East Regional has come from Connecticut. New York and New Jersey have accounted for another 30% of ticket shoppers, with the remainder split up among several states. As it stands now, there are just under 3,000 full strips for the East Regional available on the resale market, and the cheapest strip is a $440 seat in Section 318. Sweet 16 tickets on Friday night start at $316, and tickets for the regional final on Sunday can be had starting at $172 apiece.

NCAA East Region – Sweet 16 Teams

Virginia – Michigan State Defensive Battle

UConn Upsets Nova, Waits for Cyclones