For MSU fans, it’s now March Sadness

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News


For Michigan State University men’s basketball fans on Sunday, March Madness descended into March Denial, with flashes of anger and tinges of sadness — and this was all within moments of losing to No. 11 Syracuse.

It was supposed to have been different this year because MSU was playing to thousands of local fans in Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

It wasn’t different this year.

For the third straight season, Michigan State failed to get out of the first weekend of the tournament as No. 11 Syracuse knocked off the third-seeded Spartans, 55-53. The Orange advance to take on Duke on Friday in the Midwest Regional semifinal in Omaha, Nebraska.

The cold ending is probably why hundreds of MSU fans had left their seats and decided to watch the agonizing final seconds on the TV monitors in the arena hallway, the better to get a jump on traffic.

The crowd was eerily quiet as they left the arena, punctuated occasionally by people swearing at the Spartan’s lackluster performance. Shannon Njegomir covered the ears of his 8-year-old son, Connor, as they left, to shield him from the loud vulgarities.

“Don’t listen to sore losers,” Njegomir told his son. “Everybody has an off day.”

Robert and Alecia Stenheiser of Grand Rapids came with group of 10 other ’97 MSU grads. “It was nice to see the new place and all the things happening in Detroit,” Alecia said, referring to Little Caesars Arena, which opened last year.

“That’s really as upbeat I can be right now, actually, it’s kind of sucky,” she said.

Probably, too, in the back of MSU fans’ heads is University of Michigan’s exhilarating victory on Saturday night. Freshman guard Jordan Poole drilled a deep 3-pointer as time expired to lift the third-seeded Wolverines to a 64-63 win over No. 6 seed Houston.

Michigan advances to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in six years. The Wolverines will play No. 7 Texas A&M in a West Region semifinal on Thursday in Los Angeles. The tip-off time has not been announced.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN