Joe Duhownik

GLENDALE, Ariz. (CN) — As the four best teams in men's college basketball prepare for the final stretch of March Madness, fans from across the country have swarmed the Phoenix metro.

The Final Four, the last two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship, will be played Saturday and Monday in Glendale, Arizona. The games, as well as related festivities throughout the week, are expected to bring an economic boom to Glendale, Phoenix and the rest of the Grand Canyon State.

The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority doesn’t yet have numbers for the economic impact of the event, and declined to share a projection. The last time Glendale hosted the Final Four in 2017, Arizona saw a revenue surge of $234.5 million, and the games themselves saw a total in-person attendance of 153,780 people. Superbowl LVII, also hosted in State Farm Stadium in Glendale in 2023, generated more than $1.3 billion for the state.

Andrew Bagnato, representing the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, said an economic impact study will be released a few months from now. Representatives from the cities of Glendale and Phoenix shared the same sentiments.

“The city has seen tremendous growth in the sports and entertainment district since last hosting the Men’s Final Four in 2017, so the city anticipates seeing growth in the economic impact to the area,” Glendale spokesperson Lesley Miller said in an email to Courthouse News.

Fans of all four teams enjoyed access to State Farm Stadium Friday morning to watch the players practice on the same court on which they’ll battle for a national title. By 10 a.m., more than a thousand fans poured into the stadium.

At noon, fans congregated outside the downtown Phoenix Convention Center for the Final Four Fan Fest, where fans played games, met with players, watched slam-dunk contests and enjoyed a pep rally. The Fan Fest will continue through the weekend, with more competitions, player appearances, appearances from NBA mascots and more.

Phoenix is also hosting free outdoor concerts at Margaret T. Hance Park in midtown. The shows, spanning Friday through Sunday, will feature artists like Remi Wolf, Mumford and Sons and the Jonas Brothers.

The two semifinal games of the Final Four will be played back-to-back in the State Farm Stadium at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific time. The winners of each of those games will meet in the national championship Monday at 6:20 p.m.

Purdue will play North Carolina State in the first semifinal game.

Purdue University is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest March Madness Bracket. The Boilermakers finished the regular season 33-4 and placed first in the Big Ten Conference.

“They’re gonna take it,” Betsy Basham said outside the stadium Friday morning. Her husband Rick agreed.

Basham graduated from Purdue in 1972, and has lived in Mesa, Arizona, for the last 50 years. She and her now-husband Rick went to junior high and high school together in Lafayette, Indiana, home of the Boilermakers, and remained friends until Rick moved to Mesa 10 years ago, eventually marrying Betsy.

They were excited to see the Boilermakers practice in person, but said they’ll be watching the games from the comfort of their home.

North Carolina State University is the No. 11 seed in the South bracket. The Wolfpack finished the regular season 26-14 and placed 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Jeb Cranford, a 2002 graduate, flew in from North Carolina with his whole family to see the Wolfpack play.

“We weren’t planning on coming to the Final Four this year,” Cranford said with a smile. “We didn’t think that was gonna happen.”

He said he was confident in the team once it got to the Elite Eight, but his wife Julia shook her head.

“I’ve been around this team too long,” she said.

The University of Connecticut will play the University of Alabama in the second semifinal game.

UConn is the No. 1 seed in the East Bracket. The Huskies finished the regular season 35-3 and placed first in the Big East Conference.

Eileen Adams and six friends flew from Connecticut to Phoenix to see their first ever men’s Final Four this weekend. But between the seven of them, they’ve seen “at least 10 to 15 [women’s] Final Fours,” since 2005.

The group calls themselves “the Shack Pack” because they met working at concession stands at their sons’ little league baseball games.

“We have stuck together for 25 years, and we are still traveling together,” said Anna Chamberlaind, a member of the Shack Pack.

Alabama is the No. 4 seed in the West bracket. The Crimson Tide finished the regular season 25-11 and placed fifth in the Southeastern Conference

Ed and Sue, who declined to give their last name, flew to Phoenix from Houston to support Ed’s home state. The two of them have been to six Final Fours since 2015. They were in Glendale in 2017 the last time it hosted the event.

Las Vegas betting odds give favor to UConn as the team most likely to take home the championship trophy. Purdue has the next best odds.