For some fans, showing school spirit doesn’t stop at the home court. Some make the effort to go the distance, literally.
A select few of SDSU basketball’s most hardcore Jacks fans are set to make the trip to New Mexico on March 15.
It won’t be a brief drive down the road, either. One thousand, one hundred and eight miles. That’s how far some students are willing to travel to see the Jackrabbits make their first appearance in the NCAA tournament and to make sure the Jacks see some blue and yellow among the cheering crowd.
“At first I was worried about missing three days of class, but I don’t want to look back and regret not going,” said SDSU student Spencer Hanson, who is traveling to Albuquerque in a van with five of his friends.
This is not just any game to Hanson and other diehard fans. This is the first time a men’s basketball team from South Dakota has made it to the Big Dance. Hanson has been following the team closely since last year when he arrived as a freshman. Like other students at SDSU, Hanson said having the chance to witness the big moment is too much to pass up.
“We knew that ever since we have been in Division I, there has been a chance we could get to the NCAA tournament. That opportunity really got us excited,” he said.
Much of the men’s team is expected back next year, but that is not stopping fans like Hanson from treating this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“We saw at the Summit League Tournament how easy it is for a number one seed to be knocked out,” said Hanson.
Oral Roberts had the top seed entering the league tournament in Sioux Falls but was knocked out by Western Illinois in the semifinals. SDSU will face off against Baylor, the number three seed.
“I think we have a really, really good chance. We beat Washington, who was a bubble team and we were competitive with all the big schools we played,” said Ermias Lamesgin, another sophomore heading to the desert.
The only thing these super fans might not be able to agree on is their favorite player. Hanson’s favorite is Summit Tournament MVP Nate Wolters, while Lamesgin simply could not pick just one.
“All the players are good in their own way, everyone adds something,” said Lamesgin. “I’m a fan of how well we take care of the ball.”
SDSU freshman, Bri Matthies, remembers the tension at the end of the Summit League Championship game and hopes for a similar result during the NCAA tournament.
“I had so much respect for Griffin Callahan when he hit those two free-throws at the end of the game,” she said. “I think I held my breath the whole time.”
Matthies is also traveling to Albuquerque to witness the big game in person and hopes this is not the end of an exciting run.
“I have yet to see us lose (in person),” she said, “and I don’t want to start now.”