With three college basketball teams from Florida in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, a new wave of basketball fans are flooding local restaurants and sports bar -- particularly University of Miami fans.
For the first time since 2000, the Miami Hurricanes are among the remaining 16 teams competing in the men's college basketball tournament. Sixty-eight schools started in the competition. The Hurricanes made the standings along with the University of Florida and Fort Myers' Florida Gulf Coast University.
Canes basketball fans are an uncommon, but welcomed new sight at Duffy's Sports Grill locations across southeast Florida, said Jason Emmett, a senior vice president for the company.
"The Hurricane fans we typically get are football fans," Emmett said. "We see it as a great time to be a sports fan in South Florida, and we are happy to benefit from that."
The chain has at least 24 locations throughout southeast Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach and West Palm Beach.
Merchandise sales for the local college basketball teams have also soared this season, some retailers said.
"Sales have been fabulous for the last month and a half," said Harry Rothwell, general manager at allCanes, a sporting goods store near the University of Miami's Coral Gables campus. "It's been a dream come true, just like the season."
At allCanes, Hurricanes basketball gear has sold more in the past two months than in the past five years combined, Rothwell said. "It's our best March ever," he said.
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