Final Four fans reveling in Detroit Print
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Saturday, 04 April 2009 11:52
NCAAB Headline News


 DETROIT - The streets of the Motor City were buzzing on a sunsplashed 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.
``It'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.''
Michigan State junior Drew Lundgren was in the throng of Izzone student-section members 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.
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.
The crowd in the tent outside overflowed so much former Spartan basketball players were left on the outside looking in - just like hundreds of people waiting in a line that stretched around the block.
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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.''
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.
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.
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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 shared the CBS stage with former Georgetown coach John Thompson 24 years after they went head-to-head in the title game. The eighth-seeded 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.''
hanting ``Rollie! Rollie! Rollie!'' as he walked toward press row.
``I feel great, but I'm not the one coaching. Jay Wright is,'' he said.
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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.
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THE ROAD ENDS HERE: The Final Four marks the end of an impressive run of scheduled, marquee 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.
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.
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AP Sports Writers Dan Gelston and Andrew Bagnato contributed to this report.
 

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