Michigan State's past and present at Final Four Print
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Wednesday, 01 April 2009 09:56
NCAAB Headline News


 DETROIT (AP) -Michigan State's 90-mile bus ride to its Final Four hotel puts the wheels in motion for the spotlight team heading into college basketball's signature event in the Motor City.
The story line might get even sweeter for the Spartans if they can upset top-seeded Connecticut because their famed mentor, Magic Johnson, is going to deliver the game ball for the title game with Larry Bird 30 years after they met in a transcendent event.
``It almost seems like a divine order that Michigan State is playing in Detroit,'' former Spartan star Greg Kelser said Wednesday. ``If Michigan State wins it all, my God, I don't know if it could get any more surreal than that.''
er the Bird-led Indiana State Sycamores .
``The TV rating of 24.1 hasn't been passed in college or pro basketball since and it'll always be No. 1 because there were four channels then and 804 now,'' said CBS TV analyst and Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis, whose book, ``When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball,'' was released last month. ``The 1979 game would've been a big deal 10 years later, but the lasting impact its had comes down to timing.
``It was played six months before the launch of ESPN. Magic and Bird went on to play for championships against each other in the NBA, which was at a low. The NCAA tournament expanded twice more over the next five years and hasn't expanded since.''
In part because Michigan State fans are expected to fill any seats that would've potentially been empty, the NCAA expects Monday's championship crowd to break the attendance record of 63,959 set in 1987 when Keith Smart's jumper lifted Indiana to a title over Syracuse at the Superdome in New Orleans.
``The reason there can be 70,000 people at Ford Field this weekend is because of what Magic and Bird did,'' Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said.
The current Spartans earned the right to play a starring role in their story line because they upset top-seeded Louisville on Sunday in the Midwest regional final.
``Full circle,'' Johnson told reporters after the game in Indianapolis.
Bird spoke to reporters in Indianapolis about the 30-year anniversary of the historic on March 26 of the 1979 game.
And, the Pacers president said he wasn't talking about the game - which he claims he's never watched from start to finish - again.
Bird said losing, with a 33-0 record, was the toughest loss of his career.
``It broke my heart that I wasn't able to bring back a championship to the city of Terre Haute and the Indiana State Sycamores because I put so much into that,'' he said, before adding. ``It hurts just as much today as it did back then.''
Michigan State began its march to the Motor City with a tribute to the 1979 team during its first practice in mid-October.
Izzo arrived in a green Volkswagen bus with his wife and children, all sporting hippie garb, and his players sported short shorts during a dunk contest and scrimmage.
``Another corny entrance and another corny midnight madness, but this one had significant value,'' Izzo said. ``That was our way of thanking and making them a part of our modern day.
``Now, it goes from an article or whatever to maybe a front-page deal just because of them and us. It will be pretty cool.''
 

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