DETROIT — The Michigan State Spartans have made an improbable run to Monday's national championship game but at this point even they know they're part of something a little bigger than basketball.
Like it or not one of the unique things about sports is that they can sometimes become attached to much larger societal issues.
Unique circumstances allow games to take on a new meaning and attract a following that might not have occurred under ordinary conditions.
And it's that setting that coach Tom Izzo's squad finds itself in during this Final Four weekend in Detroit. Playing in front of a city hit harder than most by the country's recent economic downturn the Spartans have captured the fancy of fans by continuing to knock off more talented and highly ranked teams on their way to the season's final game.
With a second consecutive victory against a No. 1 seed in UConn. on Saturday MSU — which sits just 92 miles away in East Lansing Mich. — has become the darling of the tournament" while waves of green-clad fans have urged them on in the vast confines of Ford Field.
""Definitely we're trying to win it for ourselves" along with the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit MSU sophomore guard Durrell Summers said.
I think just us winning it and seeing everybody so excited I think that can kind of show people what hard work can do" and just not giving up.""
The Spartans had some struggle to reach this point. An embarrassing 35-point loss to these same Tar Heels at Ford Field seemed to make a statement about both teams. A home loss to Northwestern and multiple injuries during the year didn't help"" but MSU has rebounded in a big way.
""Even though we had some ups and downs" we still believed we were a great team even though nobody else believed in us" senior guard Travis Walton said.
Along the way, Izzo has come up with game plans that stifled Big East powerhouses Louisville and UConn. The Spartans have picked their spots to run and controlled the tempo against opposing lineups with some serious athletes and talent.
Izzo pointed out that if UNC plays well, he thinks the Tar Heels will win. Then again, the same could have been true against the last two opponents.
But we found a way to have some teams not play as good against us"" the coach said.
Plus, after fans packed Ford Field on Saturday and made plenty of noise, MSU will certainly be pursuing the national title with the crowd weighing heavily in its favor.
Izzo said Sunday that he wasn't sure if the Spartans would have won Saturday without the atmosphere.
Definitely it gives you a boost. It may not affect the away team" but it definitely is a positive … for the natives of the state Summers said.
And that's just a big thing for us" just to see everybody smiling every time you look at them.
""They're patting us on the back" but we're not letting it really soak into us because we won the first game" but we're here to try and win the whole weekend.""
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