Michigan State Provides Hometown Feel for Struggling Detroit

jonathan staubCorrespondent IApril 3, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 29:  (L-R) Goran Suton #14 and Marquise Gray #41 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrate their 64-52 win against the Louisville Cardinals  during the fourth round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Lucas Oil Stadium on March 29, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Time magazine recently described Detroit as “postapocalyptic.” The magazine portrayed a desolate abandoned wasteland, with decaying auto plants and various “dead zones”, which illustrated the bleak environment the city of Detroit has become.


Morale is low in Detroit. There is perhaps no city that has been hit harder by the recent economic woes than Detroit.


The Auto industry is declining, and the struggles of Detroit-based GMC have been well documented.


With thousands of unemployed residents, the once booming city of Detroit has begun to resemble a “Hooverville” more than a budding metropolis.


Quite the way to welcome thousands of basketball fans to the Final Four…isn’t it?


For at least a week, the grim reminder of this reality that is the economy will escape the millions of people who will converge on Detroit.


The excitement of the Final Four will only be amplified by the presence of the Michigan State Spartans.


Michigan State will be playing in what will essentially be considered a home game, only 90 miles from their campus.


Tom Izzo, a native Michigander, is the perfect man to lead the hometown Spartans into battle against UConn.


Izzo will be leading the Spartans into their fifth Final Four since 1999, the most of any team in the country.

UNC is second with four appearances, and UConn is tied for third with three.


Izzo will be looking to win his second National Title this decade. He won the title in 2000 when Michigan State defeated Florida 89-76.


Michigan State will be attempting to become the first team since the 1975 John Wooden-led UCLA Bruins, who won the NCAA Championship in San Diego, to win the title in their home state.


The only other examples, of teams playing the Final Four in their home state, that come to mind are Purdue playing in Indianapolis in 1980, and Duke playing in Charlotte in 1994. Although Charlotte isn’t exactly the friendliest territory for the Blue Devils.


Michigan State (30-6) had one of the toughest roads of any team to the Final Four.


After blitzing past Robert Morris in the first round (77-62), the Spartans survived a surging Pac-10 champion in USC (74-69), a dangerous young Kansas squad (67-62) and then surprised everyone by decimating the No. 1 overall seed Louisville (64-52).


MSU is perhaps the most unexpected team remaining, but they have used their defensive, half-court game to beat their opponents into submission.


Michigan State will look to control the tempo, much like they did against Louisville.


Goran Suton (14.3 ppg) and Kalin Lucas (12.8 ppg) will lead a very balanced Spartan attack.

Durrell Summers will also prove to be vital to the Spartans, as his ability to make threes could come into play. Summers had 12 points, including two three-pointers, against Louisville.


The Spartans used a similar balanced attack to win the Big Ten regular season title, an underappreciated accomplishment, while dealing with a variety of injuries.


Goran Suton, Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe all dealt with various ailments throughout the season.

It was clear the Spartans were not the same team then as they are now; bad losses to Maryland and North Carolina early in the season illustrated that.


A completely healthy, and very Michigan-based roster, will make the Spartans that much tougher to deal with as they look to use the hometown atmosphere to their advantage.


Unless UConn plans on buying all the tickets to Saturday’s game, they better prepare to deal with a very bias and hostile MSU crowd.


Every four-year player during Tom Izzo’s 13-year tenure at Michigan State has reached the Final Four.

Rest assured, Izzo used this to his recruiting strategy when Detroit was named the site of this year’s Final Four in July of 2003.


Kalin Lucas’ home of Sterling Heights, Michigan is located 10 minutes from Ford Field. By the way…Lucas was the Big Ten Player of the Year.


It should also be noted, the Spartans have the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in Travis Walton. Walton helped limit Louisville star guard Terrence Williams to one field goal. It will be Walton who will need to shut down A.J. Price.


Durrell Summers, the Spartans aforementioned three-point threat, is from Detroit as well.


Goran Suton, the 6’10” center who carried the offense and will most likely have to deal with Hasheem Thabeet, is another one of the Michigan boys…although he wasn’t born there.


A native of Sarajevo, Suton fled the violence-plagued city along with his family during the Bosnian War. He caught the last civilian flight to Serbiain 1992.

Eight years later, at 15 years of age, Suton and his family moved to Lansing to be closer to relatives. Suton then became a star at Everett high.


Another MSU alum was a star at Everett High as well. His name was Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and he will be honored this weekend along with Larry Bird. It was 30 years since  Michigan State won the National Title over Bird and Indiana State.


The Michigan State fans may not provide a spark to the economy, after all most of them live in the area, but the hometown atmosphere provided should certainly spark the city's morale.


Detroit will certainly need it.

If the Spartans win on Saturday, they will have won more games at Ford Field in one weekend than the Lions won all last season.