[This is my column in the March 20 issue of The Commercial Review.]
Some of the best times I’ve ever had have come out of spontaneity.
Like this past weekend when I went to Indianapolis to spend it watching my favorite team win the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament.
I tried to get media credentials to shoot photos for the tournament, but was quickly denied. However, after seeing how many photographers were there for each game — roughly 40 — I can see why I wasn’t granted the privilege.
But I wasn’t going to let it keep me from seeing the Michigan State Spartans run through the tournament.
For as many years as I lived in Michigan, I had never seen either the Michigan State or Michigan basketball team play. Part of the reason was because I wasn’t a big fan (then) of basketball. The other, I just didn’t have the time.
This weekend, I got to see them both. Twice.
I had no desire to attend the entire tournament. I really just wanted to watch the Spartans play.
As the quarterfinal games Friday came to a close and I finished covering the Jay County High School gymnastics team at the Huntington North regional, I jumped online to see the cost for tickets to the semifinal round Saturday.
Much to my surprise, tickets were relatively inexpensive.
And all it took was a text to my friend Eric, a Fishers resident, to get the ball rolling.
“Let’s go to the semis tomorrow.”
Eric, a Michigan fan, and his girlfriend are expecting a baby boy in May, and he didn’t want to spend any extra money at this time on tickets to the game. Jokingly, I told him I would buy the tickets, “for the baby.”
He jumped on the opportunity. However, he changed his mind when I told him I wasn’t actually going to buy his way in.
Following much deliberation, and realizing I may never get another opportunity to watch Michigan State, let alone the conference tournament, I decided to pony up and spend a day watching basketball with one of my old friends.
It was a well-placed preposition that did the trick.
“I’ll buy (the tickets). You drive from your place and pay for parking?” my text said.
Without hesitation, Eric responded, “I’m back in then.”
Michigan was set to play rival Ohio State at 1:40 p.m., and the Michigan State game against Wisconsin was scheduled for 4 p.m. With that in mind, we got to Indianapolis just after noon, since we figured the downtown area would be pretty hectic.
Our hypothesis was correct.
We wandered around downtown looking for a place to eat. We settled on a sub shop as our lunch location, and it took more than 30 minutes from the time we ordered until our food arrived because of how busy they were.
Despite the controlled chaos surrounding Banker’s Life, the action inside the arena was much more exciting than the fanfare outside.
Top-seeded Michigan led by double-digits for the majority of the game, thanks to 12 3-pointers, which was one shy of the conference tournament record. Four of the dozen threes were from conference player of the year Nik Stauskas, who after watching for two games has me convinced he’s one of the best shooters in the country.
The fifth-seeded Buckeyes didn’t back down, though, going on a 17-4 run in the second half to take a one-point lead, 61-60. Michigan ended up winning 72-69, setting the table for an all-Michigan championship game.
Michigan State dominated Wisconsin throughout, leading by as many as 21 points late in the first half.
Although the Badgers outscored the Spartans in the second, the deficit was too much as the Spartans won 83-75.
The win by the Spartans paved the way for the match-up every Spartan fan wanted — a chance at redemption over the cross-state rival for the conference tournament championship.
For Michigan State, which had lost both regular season games against Michigan, the third time was the charm.
The Wolverines led 9-4 nearly four minutes into the title game, but the Spartans went on a 12-0 run to take the lead, never looking back in a 69-55 win for its fourth conference tournament title.
Michigan State got sweet, sweet revenge.
The Spartans are finally completely healthy, and they have been playing their best basketball at the perfect time — most of the talking heads on the major sports network have all said the Spartans are favorites to win the NCAA tournament, which began today.
Thanks to a last-minute decision to make a trip to one of my new favorite cities, I had the opportunity to see them start the road to their first national championship since 2000.
I can only hope the experts are correct.