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A 10-hour road trip is a small price to pay this weekend to be part of Spartan history.

That’s the feeling for Joshua Gonzalez and dozens of other student fans as they prepare to hit the road for Michigan State University’s Final Four men's basketball semifinal game Saturday night against Texas Tech in Minneapolis.

Michigan State’s Sunday win against top-seeded Duke means the team will be competing in the Final Four for the first time since 2015, and the team’s student fan base doesn’t plan to miss out.

Members of MSU’s Izzone, the university’s basketball student fan section, and some students affiliated with athletics had first dibs on the roughly 600 student tickets available for the Final Four.

Requests for the $40 student tickets quickly eclipsed the 600 made available Monday, forcing the university to give preference to those with the most Izzone points, which are earned by game attendance.

The ticket comes with free, automatic admission to Monday’s championship game should the Spartans beat Texas Tech on Saturday, compliments of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, according to the university.

The opportunity was too good to pass up for Gonzalez, a junior engineering student from Trenton who will pack into his friend’s minivan with five others Saturday morning for the trip to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

“When I’m older, I can say ‘Hey, I was there,'” said Gonzalez, who attended high school alongside Michigan State guard Cassius Winston at the University of Detroit-Jesuit. “It’s really indescribable.”

MSU students are finding ways to economize travel and lodging even as prices for both have skyrocketed in advance of the weekend tournament.

Tickets for the games Saturday started at around $300 on StubHub and VividSeats as of Wednesday evening. Friday and Saturday plane tickets from Detroit to Minneapolis started at around $600 on Google Flights. 

And Airbnb hosts in Minneapolis have increased prices by hundreds of dollars during the championship games, according to AirbnbWATCH, a self-described consumer watchdog group with links to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

One rental in downtown Minneapolis went from $88 a night to $815 a night during the Final Four tournament.

On Monday, the Comfort Inn near the Minneapolis airport that is about nine miles outside of the city increased the price of a Saturday stay to $279 for one room for two people. The room couldn't be canceled if it were booked.

Other students ended up booking a hotel almost an hour's drive from downtown Minneapolis.

MSU sophomore Ryan Schiffman and his dad, Todd, have been reserving hotel rooms at Final Four destinations for the past four years, just waiting for MSU to make it to the championship games.

So when the university sent an email at 11 a.m. Monday to Izzone members asking them to respond by 3 p.m. for tickets, the Maryland native didn’t waste any time. “It was a steal,” he said.

Schiffman’s father is flying into Michigan Thursday, and the pair will drive to Minneapolis the next day, finally able to use their hotel reservation.

“My dad was a senior at Michigan State in '79, so this is his 40th anniversary,” Schiffman said. “So it would be really cool if we won.”

Madison Lewis, an MSU junior studying criminal justice and psychology, was still trying to absorb her Willy Wonka-esque luck in securing tickets to the big game.

“The email we got kind of blew my mind, I didn’t think it was going to be possible at all,” Lewis said.

Better yet, the Davison native will drive out with fellow Izzone members Friday and stay for free with a friend interning in the city.

“This was the top No. 1 on my bucket list,” Lewis said. “It’s just incredible knowing that this is the top school I wanted to go to and while I’m here I get to experience this.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3661

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