A Final Four-bound team arrives home to warm welcome
Minutes before coach Tom Izzo and the men’s basketball team landed back in Michigan, a lively crowd gathered at the Breslin Center late Sunday night.
The atmosphere leading up to this last-minute welcome back ceremony was electric. Thanks to a final three-point shot by Kenny Goins, the Spartans had secured a 68-67 victory over Duke, a top seed. People in the Breslin Center talked about how Michigan State would be in the Final Four for the first time since 2015.
And their shot at winning the national championship title?
“Under coach Tom Izzo, I believe they have a 100 percent chance,” said Joey Killman, a business-preference freshman at MSU.
The cheers from the crowd were deafening as Izzo and the team arrived at a packed Breslin Center a little before 1 a.m. on Monday. Fans lined up outside the building as early as 11 p.m. on Sunday for the chance to see them.
“I can’t believe you all came and waited this long,” Izzo said, addressing the crowd. “Anybody want to sleep here tonight? I’m all in,” he joked.
But the game his team had played just hours before was no joke — for Izzo, it means an eighth Final Four appearance in his time as MSU men’s basketball head coach. For the team itself, it means another round, another game, another possibility at the national championship title.
And Izzo knows how seriously his team takes that.
“It’s a dream come true (for them),” Izzo said. “You dream about this when you’re six years old if you’re a basketball player.”
The chance to keep moving forward in the NCAA Tournament wasn’t lost on point guard Cassius Winston, either.
“I really do appreciate all you guys, man,” Winston said, as people chanted “MVP” to him. “You all gave us something to play for, and here we are, man, with another chance, another weekend to make the big things happen.”
Basketball fans at the Breslin Center agreed. Communications sophomore Olivia Anderle — a student and Spartan fan from Louisville — knew the deal was sealed for the Spartans when Goins took that final shot.
“Now that they’ve made it past Duke, I think they have the chance to win the whole thing,” Anderle said. “I was nauseous the whole game, but once Kenny made that three at the end, it was sealed.”
She said MSU has an advantage when they take on Texas Tech on April 6 in Minneapolis.
“Every game, we have a different player that stands out,” Anderle said. “You never know who’s going to be the star of that game, and it makes it harder for Texas Tech.”
Political science freshman Madison Scanlon said she wasn’t surprised by the hordes of people who took to the Breslin Center to welcome back Izzo and the team.
“When I decided to come to Michigan State, I knew this type of thing would happen and I knew there would be a togetherness for the school,” Scanlon said.
Anderle said the brotherhood of the team is "insane."
“I grew up a huge State fan and I know we’ve struggled against Duke a lot, so I had a lot of faith in tonight because I think this team is different from any other team we’ve ever had," Anderle said.
Killman hasn’t been to a basketball game yet, but he watches each one on TV. He said he’s been a Spartan since he was born.
I’m a die-hard basketball fan and I’ve been watching these games ever since I was a kid,” Killman said. “I mean this is basically just going to be a big pep rally going into the Final Four.”
Like many Spartans, Killman had some competitive remarks for fans of Texas Tech.
“I think they’re going to crush them,” he said.