Michigan takes on Villanova for the 2018 NCAA men's championship game. Let's see what the people around the stadium expect to happen. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — They lined up, dressed up in maize and blue and did their best to support their team Monday night at bars, restaurants and watch parties.
At the University of Michigan’s campus and elsewhere, fans eager to see the Wolverines take the national title walked away disappointed when Villanova won, 79-62, some throwing hats on the floor and shaking their heads.
“Final Four was the goal, beyond that was a good surprise but was never expected,” said student Grant Floco from Byron in Shiawassee County. “It was pretty expected that we’d lose, but it’s still sad.”
Sandra Caber said she felt the disappointment in the arena when it seemed clear the momentum was with the Wildcats.
“Before it was even over, I think, when it was 51-33, everyone kind of knew it was over but thought there could be some comeback,” said Caber, 26, of Ypsilanti. “It was a good ride.”
Inside Crisler Center, fans at a watch party stood up and stayed on their feet, often booing at the sight of Villanova on the screen or cheering when a player a made a shot. Chants of “Go! Blue!” rang out as fans waved maize pompoms and No. 1 foam fingers. The University of Michigan pep band played the fight song and chants rang out, the better to forget that the game wasn’t local but on the big screen.
The crowd “stayed on their feet because that’s how it was during this season ... just full of surprises,” said Olivia Berchem, 24. “I never watched (games) before March Madness. It definitely made people more excited and engaged.”
Alex Kretzschmer, 20, said he’s been a huge fan of Michigan since he was a child. He didn’t expect the Wolverines to make it even to the Final Four.
“It’s been unforgettable,” he said, even before tipoff.
David Nesbitt never thought he’d be sitting in Crisler watching Michigan fight for the title.
“It wasn’t a great early season but, of course, John Beilein got them into shape and it was an exciting ending to the season,” said Nesbitt, 28, an alum from Ann Arbor. “I had to start watching every game past post season because I couldn’t believe it.”
Savion Smith brought his daughter, Chiane, 5, and son, William, 11, to watch the championship game.
“I’m excited that we made it this far,” said Smith of Southfield. “We could have watched the game at home, but this is an exciting experience for them ... to feel the spirit.”
Anthony Ventura of Plymouth cited freshman guard Jordan Poole’s moving halftime speech on Saturday, when Michigan played Loyola. Poole played a key role in propelling Michigan during the semifinals Saturday into the national title game.
Not everyone was in Crisler or other Ann Arbor venues to watch the game. Places like like Scorekeepers, HopCat and Red Hawk on South State Street were jam-packed.
And the school’s Twitter page was buzzing with comments.
“THE KID HAS SAUCE,” one user tweeted early in reference to Jordan Poole.
The game also drew those from across the country and abroad.
UM officials tweeted that fans checked in from 48 states and 25 countries on Twitter for the semifinal game Saturday. For Monday’s final, fans tweeted that they were watching from New York to California and England and Bermuda.
“Great run…,” one user tweeted. “You did us all proud this year.”
Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed.