Fans: MSU bid for Final Four had to go through basketball royalty

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Color the bars and eateries of Metro Detroit green. And happy. Oh so happy.

All the attention in those fine establishments Sunday was riveted on the nation's capital, and it had nothing to do with politics. It was on a basketball game.

But no mere game. This was Michigan State University trying to return to the Final Four for the first time in four years and the eighth time under Izzo.

They did so, vanquishing vaunted Duke University, 68-67, and moving on for a date with Texas Tech, which bounced the University of Michigan last week.

Duke guard Jordan Goldwire sits in the Duke locker room after losing to Michigan State University in the Elite Eight matchup.

"What an effort, just gutsy," said George Gomez of Detroit after watching the nail-biter from a bar stool at McShane's in Corktown.

Gomez and other MSU fans knew it wouldn't be easy. Their team would have to go through basketball royalty.

Duke has long reigned as the exemplar of the sport, and this year was no different.  They were led by the best player in college basketball, Zion Williamson, and the winningest coach, Mike Krzyzewski.

MSU and coach Tom Izzo also know something about success, but Duke has been their bête noire.

Izzo had only beat Krzyzewski just once in a dozen earlier meetings, and that was way back in the NCAA tournament in 2005.

But this one was different. After trading leads throughout the game, and in the final minutes, MSU made a clutch 3-pointer late in the game and held on for life.

"They beat Duke!" said MSU grad Dottie King of Dearborn, who also watched the game from McSorley's.

King, wearing a green MSU jacket, repeated the phrase several more times, apparently trying to convince herself it was true.

A Budweiser sign on McSorley's front door advertised "Detroit Baseball," apparently a prelude to the Tigers' looming first home game of the season.

But, once inside the bar, baseball was an afterthought. A wide TV screen in the corner of the bar showed a tearful Izzo surrounded by jubilant players.

"I'm happy for him," King said about Izzo. "He's such a great coach."

A few blocks away, other MSU fans gathered at the sports bar of MotorCity Casino.

A dozen mounted TVs showed various sporting contests in various sports. But the only one that seemed to be drawing attention was MSU-Duke.

If Sharon Nolan was a betting woman, and, given the location, she was, she wouldn't have wagered on MSU, she said.

"I love them but no way did I think they would win," she said.

Never was the Ferndale resident so happy to be wrong about something.

"They proved me wrong," she said. "I'm so happy for them."

Twitter: @francisXdonnell