AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Did all those fans really drive to Michigan from the “Mount Rushmore State?” Or did the South Dakota State University bookstore have an unusual run of late-winter apparel sales from out-of state customers? Namely, customers in Michigan?
Earlier this week, KELO News of Sioux Falls, S.D., reported that the South Dakota State bookstore had seen brisk sales of t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and other school attire in the days leading up to the No. 13 Jackrabbits’ NCAA tournament appearance Thursday against No. 4 Michigan in a second-round South regional game at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
But the Jackrabbits still had a sizeable crowd, taking up the bulk of one section at the Palace. Among the fans was Harry Mansheim, who made a 13-hour drive from Brookings, S.D., on Wednesday with his son to watch South Dakota State’s second NCAA tournament appearance.
“I’d heard about the run on South Dakota State merchandise,” said Mansheim, who sported a royal-blue-and-gold Jackrabbits sweatshirt and a matching cowboy hat. “If it’s true, it’s going to be good to have that support, no question about it.”
Earlier this week, a South Dakota State representative confirmed that the bookstore was sending shipments to Michigan.
"We've actually have had some people, Michigan State fans calling in," Stephen Brua, the school’s bookstore marketing coordinator, told KELO. "Michigan and Michigan State are playing in the same arena, so what the people are doing, buying some stuff so they can go to that game and cheer against Michigan."
ZIP SMART: Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart pointed out the obvious in regards to his team’s matchup with Akron and his connection with Zips coach Keith Dambrot.
“We certainly have some history with Akron, and Keith and I have a lot of history,” Smart said. “He’s come a long way from when people thought he was a one-star coach, I’m really happy for him and for his program and the progress that they’ve made and the position they’ve put themselves in.
“But now we play him, and we cannot both advance. It’s impossible.”
Smart was an assistant at Akron from 2003 to 2006, including two years under Dambrot, who has coached at Akron since 2004, after coaching at St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron — a school whose most notable graduate is Miami Heat forward LeBron James.
“The foundation of the two programs is exactly the same,” said Dambrot, who coached at Tiffin University from 1984 to 1986. “We’re kind of like the ugly big brother. I love Shaka like a brother, and they’ve done a lot of great things, but we have the same attributes that make us a great team too.”
INCENTIVE TO WIN: A Forbes.com report released Thursday put a price tag on a basketball program’s win in the NCAA tournament: at least $1.5 million, which goes back to a team’s respective conference.
Payouts come from the NCAA’s basketball fund, part of annual conference distribution, and rewards conferences for tournament success; Forbes.com reported that the Big East received more than $27 million from the fund following the 2012 NCAA tournament.
IN THE HOUSE: Thursday’s first session at the Palace drew 18,863 fans. The Palace, home of the Detroit Pistons, holds 22,076 for NBA games.