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Treasure It

Many schools go decades without seeing a Final Four. MSU's been to 4 in the past decade, each one a treasure.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I remember the point where my MSU basketball interest blossomed into full-on fandom, and it was against Colorado in 2003. I was a freshman in 418 East Holmes Hall, for once living up to the Lyman Briggs stereotype of staying in on a Friday night. I wasn't expecting much (fun fact -- do you remember the Spartans losing to Toledo at home that season? Good job brain on repressing that memory), but the efficiency at which MSU dispatched the Buffaloes roped me in.

A week later, Paul Davis put Maryland away with less than five seconds as me and my fraternity brothers crowded around a 19 inch TV at a keg. I was hooked, despite the loss to Texas the next game.

Even though MSU tied Wisconsin for second in the Big Ten in 2004, the less said about Izzo's worst defensive team since 2002 according to Kenpom, the better. One game in the NCAAs, one loss to Nevada, and sayonara season.

2005, on the other hand, was magical. Not just the win against Duke (how that Ager over Redick dunk was never made into a poster was and still is mind-boggling), but double overtime against Kentucky meant it was fairly dark in East Lansing by game's end. I lived on Oakhill at the time, and my friends and I walked to MAC and Albert just in time to see:

  • 50ish people in a a huddle jumping up and down yelling "FINAL FOUR! FINAL FOUR!"
  • The police blocking off Albert between MAC and Charles only so that
  • One group of fans could yell to the other on the other side of the street "GO GREEN! GO WHITE!"
If that's not my favorite memory from my Michigan State days, it's definitely top 3.

2009 was a different beast. That Final Four in Detroit had been circled for years as one that would be special if Michigan State made it. One Goran Suton three-point barrage against Louisville later, it was a reality. My friends and I didn't have tickets, but we decided to go downtown anyway to take in the atmosphere.

The only time I've seen Detroit more alive was at Tiger Stadium's last game, where people were literally tearing anything they could off the walls as souvenirs, including my dad, who ripped a "2 beer limit" off of the wall for display in my room. Once we arrived in Detroit for the Final Four festivities, we saw North Carolina fans, UConn fans, and the rare Villanova fan, but Spartans were the evident plurality, if not the outright majority (think of it this way -- if MSU fans were Weedles that weekend, Villanova fans were Mewtwo).

For the game itself, we went to a bar where one of us knew the bartender. I don't recall buying anything all evening, as bottles of Miller Lite were distributed liberally. I do remember MSU having a shaky first half, then one of the best 13 minutes of basketball I can recall, punctuated by Durrell Summers dunking over Stanley Robinson. The ending was much too close for comfort, but the Spartans were through to the final.

Leaving the bar, the chants of "GO GREEN! GO WHITE!" reverberated in the crisp April air, and the block S shone through the windows on the Blue Cross Blue Shield building. I don't think I have a better Spartan memory than that.

Monday my friend and I got to Buffalo Wild Wings at 11 AM to make sure we had a table for the title game. As it was said in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, "It went...poorly."

Like this year, the 2010 team didn't seem like they would make the Final Four, especially since Kansas waited for MSU if MSU made it to the Sweet 16. Fate intervened against Maryland in Korie Lucious's three to win it, as well as Ali Farokhmanesh's that sealed Northern Iowa's win against Kansas. There was a heavy cost for this -- Kalin Lucas's ACL.

The next two games were rough, and it wasn't settled until Draymond found Raymar Morgan close to the basket with a prescient pass with threeish seconds left. Raymar made the first, and had no need to make the second. I hugged a random dude I had known for only three hours, with someone remarking "why are you hugging someone you just met?" Michigan State heterosexual man love -- it is real, and it is spectacular.

Now, let's review what led up to the 2015 postseason:
  • 2012: Boy, that Draymond guy was good! I attended the St. Louis game and thought MSU was in trouble. Sure enough, I was with my mom at a bar (Edmond's, I think?) close to the capitol when Rick Pitino strangled the MSU offense. #1 seed, out in the Sweet 16.
  • 2013: An absolutely brutal year in the B1G. MSU ranked ninth in Kenpom at the end of the season, and was only the fourth best team according to the same metric in the Big Ten. A 3 seed MSU played a 2 seed Duke. I don't need to tell you what happened next.
  • 2014: The Spartans get everyone healthy and take out Wisconsin, then Michigan to win the Big Ten tourney. They beat Virginia to get to the Elite 8, against Connecticut, a 7 seed! All MSU needs to do is not play an outright crappy game and aw hamburgers.
Now we're at 2015. Five years is the longest period the Spartans have missed the Final Four under Tom Izzo, and hopefully, it'll stay that way. I'll be watching it with the few of my friends that are staying in Chicago this weekend. As for any MSU students reading this, here's my advice: whether you be in Indianapolis or East Lansing or elsewhere, savor the excitement and nerves. Moments where this amount of electricity and excitement exist, even for MSU, are few and far between.