Spartan fans come from near, far to witness basketball team’s playoff bid

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COLUMBUS, OHIO – At times during the first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, it seemed as though Nationwide Arena could have been louder than the Breslin Center during a Michigan State home basketball game—something that is very hard to achieve.

Spartan fans from all over the country flocked to Columbus to see their team gain its first Sweet Sixteen berth in four years. For some Spartans, it was a family affair. Others flew solo or went with friends. No matter who they were or how they got there, they showed up – and they were loud.

For Tristan Van Natta and Derek Reetz, the tournament was just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Reetz, who said he’s originally from Michigan, moved to Columbus for work and met Van Natta. When they heard the Spartans would be playing a tournament game nearby, there was no question whether they would be attending. And then the Spartans won.

“We came on Friday, and after they won we were like ‘Well, might as well get the tickets for Sunday, too. Let’s do it,” Van Natta said.

That “let’s do it” attitude seemed to be a common thread among many Spartan fans in attendance. In March Madness, where tomorrow is never promised and people often fly by the seats of their pants, fans have to be a little bit mad themselves to truly enjoy the madness that March brings.

Brett Langolf, another Michigan transplant living in Columbus, pulled his kids out of school early for Friday’s game. A Spartan grad who runs his own content creation company, he remains ever loyal to the Spartan family.

Tom Izzo talking to media
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo speaks to media following his team’s win on March 19 which sent them to the Sweet Sixteen.

“I don’t think I’ve missed a game in 25 years,” Langolf said.

With head coach Tom Izzo at the helm, it was anybody’s guess when the team might have a run in them. Those at Sunday’s game saw Izzo make his way toward his 15th appearance into the third round of the tournament – part of his record 25th-straight March Madness tournament. Suffice it to say, Spartan fans have seen a lot of success over the years, and many have taken advantage.

Larry Becker, who made the three-and-a-half-hour trek Sunday morning to Columbus from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, is one. Donning an “NCAA Champions 2000” hat, Becker explained that he has been to five Spartan Final Four games, and hoped that this year he might just have the opportunity to attend another. 

The number of Spartan fans in Columbus almost made it feel like Michigan State had an unfair advantage. USC and Marquette essentially walked in on a Spartan home game – complete with “go green, go white” chants, the band playing “Everybody’s Everything”, and Sparty taking first place in a mascot dance-off. Before Sunday’s tipoff, the team store at Nationwide Arena was sold out of Spartan gear.

If anyone in the arena were to have closed their eyes when Joey Hauser hit a trademark three or Tyson Walker recorded his first-ever collegiate dunk, they’d think that there was an airplane taking off in front of them. 

It was just that loud.

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