Wolverine fan Matt Biske of Waterford and Sparty-proud Carol Holton of Kalamazoo found they were sitting next to each other before Michigan Stateís NCAA tournament game Thursday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. (Dale G. Young / The Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — The Palace developed a split personality Thursday — Spartan by day and Wolverine by night.
With Michigan and Michigan State playing their opening games in the NCAA basketball tournament, the arena roared with Michiganian pride early in the afternoon and early in the evening.
MSU alumnus Dennis Levin isn't a big fan of U-M but liked the fact both schools were playing so close to home.
"It's pretty cool," he said.
It also was historic. It's the first time the teams played in the same building on the same day during March Madness.
Michigan State fans went home happy, their team a 65-54 winner over Valparaiso; later, Michigan's followers enjoyed a 71-56 victory over South Dakota State University.
Both teams advance to the third round of the tournament Saturday at The Palace with MSU taking on Memphis and U-M squaring off against the Virginia Commonwealth.
The Palace changed colors, from green and white during the day to maize and blue at night. Since their games started seven hours apart, the paths of the two teams' fans didn't cross.
That might have been a good thing, given the dislike between the schools and hysteria that attends March Madness.
"They're jealous," U-M fan Lou Sanders said about the Spartan faithful. "They want to be Michigan."
Sanders, 36, of South Lyon was waiting for U-M to start.
Did he attend the MSU game, if for no other reason than to boo the green and white?
"I wouldn't waste my breath," he said.
So much for history.
Spartan fans were in a more charitable mood after the team won its opening game.
Jason Stephens of Romeo wished the Wolverines well. He said he would like both Michigan teams to win their respective tournament regions and play in the Final Four.
If they then played each other, Stephens would throw his state pride out the window and root only for the Spartans.
"There can only be one winner, and that's us," he said.
The state of Michigan may not have noticed but there were non-Michigan teams playing in the NCAA tournament at The Palace. Six other teams were involved in the four games Thursday.
Valparaiso fan John Talbot wasn't crazy about the idea of playing MSU in its home state.
He was even less enamored of two Michigan teams playing in the same arena on the same day.
"You have the whole state here," he said with a laugh before the game.
It wasn't known if he was still smiling after the game.