The Summit League basketball tournament tips off at noon today inside the Arena, the fifth year in a row bids to the NCAA Division I championships have been handed out in this city.
But this one will be unlike the first four in at least one way: There will be two South Dakota schools participating. South Dakota State has been eligible for the affair since 2009 and now the University of South Dakota joins the fray.
It’s long been assumed that adding the Coyotes will help take tournament attendance to another level. That’s already been proven true to some extent as tickets to the Saturday evening session - featuring the men from SDSU and USD - were all gone by Monday, the first advance sell-out since the tournament moved to Sioux Falls. It’s also created an interesting off-court angle: What will the crowd breakdown be by school and how will they react to one another?
Any session involving the Jackrabbits will draw well - that’s a given based on recent history and home attendance this season. They lead the Summit at the gate on the men’s and women’s side in addition to holding the No. 1 seeds.
But will there be fewer SDSU fans this year because USD supporters snapped up tickets?
What sort of crowd will the Coyotes bring? They have a plenty capable crowd, as proved in home dates against the Jacks, but didn’t do overwhelmingly well at the gate from a season-long standpoint.
Might NDSU be a factor given the strength of its men’s team - a trendy pick to win this thing - and the fact that its fanbase is large and mobile?
And what do fans of the Dakota teams do when their favorite squads aren’t playing? Will they support one another? Cheer against one another? Favor the underdog? Just sort of sit and watch, impartially?
I don’t have a great sense on what to expect, but am glad that we’re all going to find out. It’s going to help this event continue to grow and evolve.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.