With the early departures of No. 1 Arizona, No. 5 West Virginia and No. 7 Wisconsin, the last remaining highest seed in the 2005 Final Four is No. 20 Michigan State. Granted, the rankings in question are courtesy of Playboy’s 2004 top party school roundup, but you get the idea. The Spartans, the Cinderella squad guided by Coach “I Am Hova” Izzo, possess both the pizzazz and the audacity to crash this year’s big dance in a blinding fireball of colossal proportions.
Forget basketball for the moment. Focus on this image: “Any given Thursday through Sunday, you will find naked drunken people running down fraternity row, partygoers hanging out of apartment windows and thousands of students groping one another in various states of intoxication and undress.” This is Michigan State. This is the grandeur, the tradition, the years of sincere, blacked-out efforts to make this university the veritable Mt. Olympus of unadulterated, collegiate revelry. How could anyone — let alone the study-hall proctors of UNC, Illinois and Louisville — hope to compete?
Michigan State has the bad boys, the Hell’s Angels, the guys who took your lunch money in grade school, your girlfriend in high school and your car only a few weeks ago. Senior guard Alan Anderson boasts the versatility and cunning of a Mediterranean pirate, enticing opponents to foul him (he ranks eighth on Michigan State’s all-time career free throw shooting percentage list with a .813 mark) before taking a step outside the arc and draining a 3-pointer. Floor general Chris Hill exemplifies the Spartans take-no-prisoners style of play, commanding his troops with Patton-esque efficiency while bombing jump shots with the grin of a ruthless killer. Six-eleven behemoth Paul Davis is derided for his lackadaisical interior presence, but just ask schoolyard brat J.J. Redick (13 points) or the illiterate Daniel Ewing (18 points) for the definition of “pussy whip” after Davis wiped the court with Blue blood in last week’s upset (20 points, 12 rebounds). Looking for a dose of cocky, youthful arrogance? Last Sunday, slashing sophomore Shannon Brown mocked the juggernaut Kentucky offense by going 5-for-6 from the arc and collecting 24 points in the double-overtime win.
Of course, for the Spartans, it doesn’t matter who picks up the foul, hits the buzzer beater or vacuums up a rebound the way Rick Majerus vacuums up a dozen fresh donuts. A finely tuned upset-machine, Izzo and his corps arrive in St. Louis leaving the scorched remains of college basketball’s most storied programs in their wake. Like David Wells pitching a perfect game after ten shots of tequila, the lascivious Spartans crushed overwhelming favorite Duke last week with a case of beer and a smile. Then, with a confidence akin to NFL defensive back John Matuszak slurping Wheaties and vodka on game day, Izzo’s posse swaggered through two overtimes en route to a victory over the heavily favored Kentucky Wildcats. Michigan State doesn’t play with the na