Yes, today is a HUGE day for Sparty fans. In about five hours, the Michigan State men’s basketball team will take on the Butler Bulldogs in the Final Four in Lucas Oil Stadium, in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is familiar territory for Sparty and its fans, as this is their sixth appearance in the Final Four in the last twelve years. Despite the Final Four appearances, Sparty only has one championship (2000) to show for it. MSU might not be an elite basketball program, but everyone knows their a consistent threat, come tournament time.
I was a second-year student at Michigan State in 2005, when the Spartans made their fourth Final Four appearance over a 8-year span. No one on campus or in the Izzone really expected much from Sparty, mainly because they were the fifth seed in their regional. I predicted they wouldn’t get past the Sweet Sixteen, where I figured they’d get eliminated by Duke, who they actually beat by double digits. Didn’t think they’d beat Kentucky in the Elite Eight, and that game turned out to be an instant classic, with Sparty eventually winning in overtime. Unfortunately, their run ended in the Final Four, where they were beaten by eventual champion North Carolina. UNC just simply blew them out of the water in the second half, but the phrase going around on campus was “In Izzo We Trust”.
Yes, we, Sparty Nation, have the utmost faith in Tom Izzo, the head coach of the Spartans. When it looks like Sparty will barely get by, he finds a way to get them to the next level. Last year was was a prime example, with the added pressure of the state of Michigan in economic turmoil, and the Final Four in Detroit. It was a spirited run, but Sparty was again overmatched by UNC in the title game.
This year is different, in my opinion. This has been one of the most inconsistent, nerve-racking Spartan teams in recent memory. Injuries, insubordination, and idiocy are three words I’d use to describe Sparty’s regular season and conference tournament. After starting the season ranked as the #2 team in the nation, they more resembled a mediocre team than an elite team many picked to be a legitimate title contender.
Still, Izzo and the crew found a way. Again, the five seed, and again, a trip to the Final Four. A controversial win over New Mexico State in the opening round. A buzzer-beater to beat Maryland in the second round, that only happened because Delvin Roe ducked just in the nick of time. Shutting down a “favored” Northern Iowa team in the Sweet 16. In the Elite Eight, they beat a Tennessee team that a good number of “analysts” predicted would end their tournament run.
Now, it’s time to dispose of Butler. I don’t care about Cinderella, honestly. I couldn’t care less that they’re a mid-major, and playing in their home state. I don’t recall many people jumping on Sparty’s bandwagon last year, and frankly, I’m glad. I want Sparty to embarrass Butler. I want to see Butler fans in tears of pain after this game. I want this game over by halftime. I want Brad Stevens to look like he’s 33 going on 64 in the post-game press conference.
SPARTY ALL THE WAY.
P.S. I miss Karen!!!
P.P.S. On the banks of the Red Cedar/There’s a school that’s known to all…