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Indy might be Spartans' second home

4/1/2010

Butler will be playing in its hometown during this weekend's Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, but the Bulldogs aren't the only team which has played well there.

Michigan State, which will face the Bulldogs in Saturday's national semifinals, has a perfect 7-0 record in NCAA tournament games played in Indianapolis. The Spartans won the 2000 national championship by defeating Florida 89-76 in the championship game at RCA Dome.

In 1979, Michigan State beat LSU 87-71 and Notre Dame 80-68 at the Mideast Regional at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. The Spartans, who, of course, were led by Earvin "Magic" Johnson, defeated Indiana State 75-64 in the championship game in Salt Lake City.

"Magic brought that up to me," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said earlier this week. "I don't know if it's good or bad, but I don't think we've lost in Indy in the NCAA tournament. That was his '79 team, and then of course 2009. You know, unfortunately, I don't think that's why you win."

During last season's Big Ten tournament in Indy, Izzo even took rocks from the former site of the RCA Dome, which had recently been razed.

"I like Indy," Izzo said. "It's Big Ten country. It's not too far. It's a good atmosphere for a Final Four since you have pretty good access downtown, the arena, the stadium is so close. I just think it's a great setting and it's been good to us."

Because the Spartans are playing sentimental favorite Butler, Indianapolis doesn't figure to be as hospitable this weekend. Last year, Michigan State was the hometown favorite before it lost to North Carolina 89-72 in the 2009 championship game at Ford Field in Detroit.

"Unfortunately, now we play a team that's the hometown team and maybe the darlings of the tournament in a way," Izzo said. "So we're just going to have to try to overcome that and see how we can play."

Izzo said he would even be rooting for the Bulldogs if they weren't his team's next opponent.

"There's no question that this is a special story for Butler and deservedly so," Izzo said. "It's not out the clouds because they were picked in the top 10 all year. If I wasn't playing 'em, I definitely would be a fan, I can promise you that."