|Curse of the Lions locker room strikes again|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 04 April 2009 18:37|
Connecticut lost to Michigan State on Saturday night in the Final Four, dropping basketball teams to 0-5 at Ford Field after using the locker room for the lowly NFL team that became the first with an 0-16 record last season.
``We know all about it,'' Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. ``We won't be in it.''
North Carolina would have dibs on the Lions' digs, as the top-seeded team in the matchup, but star center Tyler Hansbrough hopes the Tar Heels stay in the locker room they were in before and after beating Villanova.
``I am superstitious,'' Hansbrough said. ``If that's the case, I don't know what will happen.''
Well, it is the case.
Michigan State used the Lions' locker room in the first basketball game in the football venue, losing to Kentucky in 2003 before a basketball world-record crowd of 78,129 fans.
year when Wisconsin lost to Davidson, in the final as Kansas beat Davidson en route to the national title, and on Dec. 3, 2008 when Michigan State lost to the Tar Heels by 35 points.
MASSIMINO'S CATS: Rollie Massimino wants some national championship company.
The coach who led the Villanova Wildcats to their only national championship in 1985 was in Detroit rooting on his former program and his protege, coach Jay Wright. Massimino said he didn't offer Wright any advice when they spoke hours before the Wildcats played North Carolina in the Final Four on Saturday night.
``He asked, 'What do you think today should be? I said it's up to you,'' Massimino said. ``Just have some fun. You're the man. You're going to make it happen.''
Massimino had his usual tournament seat behind the Villanova bench and he wasn't alone. Ed Pinckney, the most outstanding player of the 1985 Final Four, Dwayne McClain, Veltra Dawson and Brian Harrington watched from the first few rows behind the bench. Miami Heat president Pat Riley sat two seats down from Massimino and Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, who starred at Villanova, were also in the crowd.
``I've been waiting the last 24 years,'' McClain said. ``It's about time we have some company.''
ed Wildcats stunned the Hoyas 66-64 in one of the great upsets in sports history. Villanova was making its first trip back to the Final Four since that historic night. Massimino, a fixture behind Villanova's bench during the tournament run, believed this year's Wildcats can go all the way.
``It would be a wonderful thing,'' he said. ``I spent a third of my life at Villanova, and I love the institution and the people around there.''
The Wildcats fans still haven't forgotten Massimino, chanting ``Rollie! Rollie! Rollie!'' as he walked toward press row.
``I feel great, but I'm not the one coaching. Jay Wright is,'' he said.
The Tar Heels led by 17 in the first half, only to have Villanova whittle the lead to nine at the break.
``We weathered the storm,'' Massimino said.
KA-CHING: UConn coach Jim Calhoun caused a stir this season when he had a heated exchange with a political activist over the coach's $1.6 million salary in tough economic times.
Calhoun raised finances again on Saturday night when he praised the job done by Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, a friend of his, who makes $2.8 million a year.
``I think Tommy Izzo, the Michigan State kids, this is where coaches really - I shouldn't even say this - earn their money,'' Calhoun said. ``Bad thing for me to say, I guess. Although recently, thank God for the John Caliparis of the world.''
mphis for Kentucky, which gave him an eight-year, $31.65 million deal.
MAGIC TOUCH: Magic Johnson's jaw dropped and his head swiveled when he saw how Ford Field was set up for basketball.
No, you're not in Utah anymore.
``Wow,'' he said.
When Johnson led Michigan State to the 1979 title over Larry Bird and Indiana State, the game was played in Salt Lake City.
``THAT,'' he said, ``was nothing like this.''
Before the Spartans upset UConn 82-73, Johnson walked around the court, looking for his seats, with his father and other members of his family.
He stopped to sign autographs and take pictures with fans, including with Connecticut students, who put their rooting interests on hold to capture the moment with the Hall of Famer and former Los Angeles Lakers star.
The native of Lansing, Mich., said he's thrilled his sagging home state got an emotional lift from the Spartans' presence in the Final Four.
``Oh baby, you know we need this,'' he said before locating his seat behind Michigan State's bench.
WELCOME TO MICHIGAN: The Michigan State pep band chanted ``Cheater! Cheater!'' when UConn coach Jim Calhoun walked onto the court 30 minutes before tipoff.
The chant was a reference to reports alleging that the Huskies violated NCAA recruiting rules.
arquee sporting events in the Motor City.
Since the fall of 2004, the Ryder Cup, baseball's All-Star game, Super Bowl and PGA championship have been played on Michigan soil. And in a surprise, the Detroit Tigers brought the 2006 World Series to town.
Basketball Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, Pistons president of basketball operations, said he attended the Super Bowl, All-Star game, Ryder Cup and NCAA regional during the Motor City's recent run.
``I thought there were all great and only confirmed what a great sports town and state that this truly is,'' Dumars said. ``They were all well-attended, the venues were great and there was a buzz at each of them.''
After Monday's championship game, no one knows when the spotlight will be back.
Dumars said he hopes he doesn't have a long wait to make a short trip to another signature attraction as a fan.
``People have to know, if they didn't already, that people are going to support a major sporting event here,'' he said.
GO GREEN! GO WHITE!: The streets of the Motor City were buzzing on a sun-splashed day as thousands of Michigan State fans soaked up the Final Four experience.
``Go green! Go white!'' was heard early and often, especially when the student sections for each of the four schools were corralled on a sidewalk between Ford Field and Comerica Park.
North Carolina student Kevin Coletta chuckled at the scene.
's pretty funny,'' the 22-year-old native of Cary, N.C., said. ``They're very enthusiastic, and they should be. I just feel bad for them because if they win, they'll have to play the Tar Heels, and we already beat them by 35 here.''
The Spartans upheld their part, beating Connecticut 82-73 in the first semifinal. North Carolina played Villanova in the second game.
Michigan State junior Drew Lundgren was in the throng of Izzone student-section members - for coach Tom Izzo - waiting four hours before tipoff to get in the venue.
``I'm one of the lucky 400 who was able to get online Monday to get a ticket,'' said the 21-year-old native of West Bloomfield, sporting a foam Spartan-shaped hat.
Another 79 were made available for Michigan State students, and a lottery was held to distribute those tickets.
When two fans sporting Michigan football jerseys walked by, they were booed by the rival Spartans.
``I just hope you win so North Carolina can beat you even worse this time!'' Dave Danielson, a 27-year-old Michigan fan from Algonac, shouted back at the taunts from the green-and-white clad fans.
A couple blocks away, Michigan State's fight song, played by a saxophone player on the sidewalk filled the air.
Restaurant was packed like a house party with Michigan State donors.
asketball players were left on the outside looking in - just like hundreds of people waiting in a line that stretched around the block.
AP Sports Writers Dan Gelston and Andrew Bagnato contributed to this report.