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Hours before Michigan State tips off the start of their NCAA Tournament, Spartans fans find themselves in a familiar position, even if the team is in a new spot.
MSU needed a late season run of near epic proportions to even reach the field. But it wasn’t enough to start in the Round of 64. On Selection Sunday, the Spartans were slated to play in a First Four game against UCLA, a first for the program.
Despite needing to play an extra game in the NCAA Tournament, fans have found a familiar emotion – confidence. According to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey, 94 percent of MSU fans are confident the team is headed in the right direction.
Before the Big Ten Tournament, confidence returned to the early season level of a full 100 percent. But the loss to Maryland knocked it down just a few pegs. It is, however, a long way up from the 27 percent reached in early February.
For obvious reasons, the Thursday night tip is the most important game for MSU fans. But that feeling is felt on a much wider scale. According to 26 percent of fans around the country, the Michigan State game against UCLA is the most exciting matchup of the first round. The game was the top picked matchup, followed by 25 percent who are most excited for fellow Big Ten team Wisconsin against North Carolina.
If MSU can get by UCLA, things don’t get any easier. The win would set up a game against BYU on Saturday in the Round of 64. Beyond that, the East region will be a difficult test for whichever team advances to the Final Four, even top-seeded Michigan.
According to the survey, Michigan has the hardest path to the Final Four among the four one seeds, receiving 43 percent of the vote. The other Big Ten team with a one seed also appears to have a difficult path, with Illinois earning 26 percent of the vote.
Fans clearly expect the East region to be a mess. On top of Michigan’s difficult path, there is a strong belief that one of the biggest upsets of the first round may come from the same region. When fans were asked which 12 seed has the best chances of beating a five seed, 45 percent picked Georgetown to beat Colorado in the East. Almost double the percentage received for Villanova, the next most likely upset pick.
There is no surprise who has earned the most confidence among college basketball fans. Gonzaga, the top seed in the tournament, was selected by 68 percent of fans as the one seed with the easiest path to the Final Four. They also were picked by 45 percent of fans as the team that will win the national championship. Illinois was the next highest choice with only 21 percent of the vote. Four percent of fans of fans think Michigan will survive their difficult march.
Only .36 percent of all fans surveyed said Michigan State will end up shocking the world and winning the program’s third national championship. Which is a new level of confidence in a team, even for a program with the history of Michigan State’s.
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