'This is fantastic': NCAA basketball fans descend on downtown Detroit for Sweet 16

Sweet 16 in Detroit fans
Posted at 10:13 PM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 23:26:00-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Downtown Detroit was filled Friday night with basketball fans in town for the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lifelong metro Detroiter Roger Goolsby came down to see the excitement, proud to see his city in the spotlight.

“Detroit does not get the notoriety it deserves,” Goolsby said. "This is amazing. The rebuild downtown, and to see a lot of young people and parents coming down to watch a NCAA tournament, this is fantastic.”

Fans came from all over, but with Purdue having the closest campus, black and gold was seen everywhere.

“Who wouldn't want to come to Detroit?" said Purdue alum and West Bloomfield resident Sharon Basel. "It's super close for everyone to come and be at!”

Basel is president of the Purdue Alumni Club of Southeast Michigan. She and more than 3,000 Boilermakers call metro Detroit home, hosting their fellow fans at Hockeytown Cafe.

“Our dream came true that everyone would come here in Michigan and play in our backyard,” Basel said.

Nearby, Tin Roof was decked out in orange. Tons of Tennessee fans made the trip including the school’s chancellor.

“We are so excited, excited to be in Detroit, playing here,” said Donde Plowman, chancellor of the University of Tennessee.

People booked flights, made long drives and walked.

“I live in Brush Park," UT alum Benji Ballin said. "I live basically across the street from Little Caesars Arena.”

Ballin, a 2018 graduate of Tennessee, is originally from Memphis but made Detroit his home three years ago. He's excited his team and fellow Tennessee alumni are enjoying the city.

“Detroit is seriously a paradise for me, especially this weekend," Ballin said. "Go Vols!”

Gonzaga fans had the farthest to travel, some like the Norlin family flew in from Seattle.

"Really excited. I've never been to Detroit before,” young Gonzaga fan Brent Norlin said.

For Brent and his parents, the Sweet 16 was a bucket list trip. They’re proud to be here in Detroit, and Detroiters are proud to see the city alive.

“It took a while to get it that way, and I think we’ve all been contributors to it," Goolsby said. "Point of pride."