March Madness: A Game Plan with XOJET
March Madness resonates with American sports fans because it’s authentic. Just picture the faces of college basketball players if their “bubble team” is selected for the NCAA Tournament – a captivating mix of wonder, exhilaration, and sheer joy.
Then the games begin, and so does the theater.
This year’s journey culminates April 1 and 3 with the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona. But the road to the desert begins in nine scattered cities March 16-19 and advances through four more venues March 23-26.
Along the way, the customary drama will unfold, from epic upsets to improbable, last-second shots. Every tournament matchup carries a distinctive brand of urgency—akin to Game 7 of an NBA playoff series—and XOJET follows suit to offer seamless private charters to every single game from 1 to 67 (see below for a full list of host cities, including recommended airports).
So which teams are poised to race to Arizona?
Let’s start with Villanova, the reigning national champs. The Wildcats feature a dynamic trio in Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, and Kris Jenkins, last year’s title-game hero. Also do not dismiss the impact of Jay Wright, maybe the most unassuming big-time coach in college basketball.
Villanova vanquished North Carolina in 2016, and the Tar Heels are back for more. They won the regular-season title in the rugged ACC, ahead of Florida State, Louisville, and Notre Dame (among others). And there remains an unmistakable aura surrounding those timeless powder-blue uniforms, dating to Michael Jordan’s days in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina and Villanova snagged No. 1 seeds in the South and East Regionals, respectively, but also keep an eye on Arizona, the No. 2 seed in the West. The Wildcats emerged from a top-heavy Pacific-12 Conference, behind 7-foot Finnish freshman Lauri Markkanen and uber-athletic sophomore Allonzo Trier.
In the Midwest, we like No. 4 seed Purdue and power forward Caleb Swanigan. Remember the name: He’s a 6-foot-9, 250-pound man-child who averaged 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds for the Boilermakers. He’s the biggest reason Purdue won the Big Ten regular-season title, and its best hope for making noise in the tournament.
Photo: Edward Blake
Even so, March Madness depends on dark horses rising from the pack. Michigan hardly counts as unheralded, but it would be supremely cool if the Wolverines (seeded No. 7 in the Midwest) make a deep run. Their players and coaches endured a scary, real-life incident last week, when their airplane skidded off the runway after an aborted takeoff. They eventually made it to Washington, D.C. – and then won the Big Ten tournament.
Saint Mary’s qualifies as unheralded in some ways, a small football-less school located in the rolling hills of Moraga, California, east of San Francisco. But the Gaels, seeded No. 7 in the West, can flat-out play: They lost only four games all season, and three of those defeats came against Gonzaga. Head coach Randy Bennett leans on point guard Joe Rahon and center Jock Landale.
One of the best stories heading into the tournament is Northwestern, which somehow failed to qualify for the Big Dance until now. How can you not root for the Wildcats? They even offered a classic tourney-type moment late in the regular season, using a length-of-the-court Hail Mary pass to beat Michigan in the final 1.7 seconds.
As for individual players to watch, UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball is a hoops revelation – and not just because his proud papa says so. Ball’s court vision and unselfishness fuel the Bruins’ turbo-charged offense, though their lack of defense could prevent a title run.
Malik Monk is the latest Kentucky freshman to burst onto the scene and past overmatched defenders. Monk averaged 20.4 points in his debut season in Lexington and threatens to take the Wildcats back to the throne.
And, finally and fittingly, there’s Dillon Brooks of Oregon. The Ducks absorbed a stinging blow when Chris Boucher went down with a season-ending knee injury, but they still have Brooks. He hit clutch, last-second, game-winning shots against Tennessee, UCLA, and Cal—so it’s fair to wonder who’s next.
To seal your ticket to the Big Dance and see all the action up close, call your dedicated XOJET advisor at 1-877-599-6538 or visit www.xojet.com.
Orlando, FL | 1st and 2nd Rounds | March 16 and 18
Orlando Executive Airport; 15 minutes from Amway Center
Orlando International Airport; 25 minutes from Amway Center
Orlando Sanford International Airport; 30 minutes from Amway Center
Milwaukee, WI | 1st and 2nd Rounds | March 16 and 18
General Mitchell International Airport; 15 minutes from BMO Harris Bradley Center
Waukesha County Airport; 30 minutes from BMO Harris Bradley Center
John H Batten Airport; 40 minutes from BMO Harris Bradley Center
Salt Lake City, UT | 1st and 2nd Rounds | March 16 and 18
Salt Lake City International Airport; 12 minutes from Vivint Smart Home Arena
South Valley Regional Airport; 25 minutes from Vivint Smart Home Arena
Buffalo, NY | 1st and 2nd Rounds | March 16 and 18
Buffalo Niagara International Airport; 16 minutes from KeyBank Center
Niagara Falls International Airport; 30 minutes from KeyBank Center
Tulsa, OK | 1st and 2nd Rounds | March 17 and 19
Tulsa International Airport; 13 minutes from BOK Center
Richard L. Jones, Jr Airport; 17 minutes from BOK Center
William R Pogue Municipal Airport; 15 minutes from BOK Center
Greensboro, NC | 1st and 2nd Rounds | March 17 and 19
Piedmont Triad International Airport; 17 minutes from Greensboro Coliseum
Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport; 25 minutes from Greensboro Coliseum
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis. Photo: Diego Delso
Indianapolis, IN | 1st and 2nd Rounds | March 17 and 19
Indianapolis International Airport; 18 minutes from Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Greenwood Municipal Airport; 18 minutes from Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Indianapolis Regional Airport; 24 minutes from Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Sacramento, CA | 1st and 2nd Rounds | March 17 and 19
Sacramento Executive Airport; 12 minutes from Golden 1 Center
McClellan Airfield Airport; 17 minutes from Golden 1 Center
Sacramento Mather Airport; 22 minutes from Golden 1 Center
Kansas City, MO | Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight | March 23 and 25
Charles B Wheeler Downtown Airport; 8 minutes from Sprint Center
Kansas City International Airport; 25 minutes from Sprint Center
Midwest National Air Center; 30 minutes from Sprint Center
San Jose, CA | Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight | March 23 and 25
Mineta San Jose International Airport; 9 minutes from SAP Center
Moffett Federal Airfield Airport; 25 minutes from SAP Center
Memphis, TN | Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight | March 24 and 26
Memphis International Airport; 17 minutes from FedEx Forum
West Memphis Municipal Airport; 23 minutes from FedEx Forum
Madison Square Garden, New York. Photo: Anthony Quintano
New York, NY | Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight | March 24 and 26
Laguardia Airport; 25 minutes from Madison Square Garden
Teterboro Airport; 30 minutes from Madison Square Garden
JFK International Airport; 35 minutes from Madison Square Garden
Phoenix, AZ | Final Four | April 1 and 3
Glendale Municipal Airport; 6 minutes from University of Phoenix Stadium
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport; 20 minutes from University of Phoenix Stadium
Phoenix Deer Valley Airport; 20 minutes from University of Phoenix Stadium
Phoenix Goodyear Airport; 14 minutes from University of Phoenix Stadium
*Featured Photo Courtesy of: Phil Roeder
About the Contributor
Ron Kroichick has worked at the San Francisco Chronicle since 1995, when he came from the Sacramento Bee. He is the paper’s golf writer/columnist, writing a weekly column and covering the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and other Northern California events. He also writes features on the Golden State Warriors during the NBA season, and on various other topics – ranging from major-league baseball and the NFL to college football and basketball – the rest of the year.
Kroichick is a five-time honoree in the Golf Writers Association of America writing contest, placing first in daily news and third in daily features in 2010; earning honorable mention in daily news and daily features in 2011; and again earning honorable mention in daily features in 2013.
He also has been recognized five times by the Associated Press Sports Editors, including second place in best game story and best news story, third place in best feature, fifth place in best investigative reporting, and honorable mention in explanatory reporting (all in the over-250,000-circulation category).