Spartans hold annual Madness
EDS: UPDATES with details. The race to Indianapolis is on, and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo sped onto the Breslin Center court in a Spartan-green Indy car, then donned a winner's wreath and took a swig of champion's milk. His goal for 2009-10 is simple - to take Michigan State back to Indy next April for the Final Four and enjoy a different kind of celebration. "Now that I know what it's like to drive an Indy car, I just hope I know what it's like to play again in Indianapolis, the city," Izzo said before a record crowd at Midnight Madness. The fans roared throughout a pyrotechnics-laced Nostalgia Night, as each player and coach introduced video of a favorite game in the Spartans' rich history, including national titles in 1979 and 2000, five Final Four appearances in the past 11 years and 12 straight NCAA tournament berths. "We are the only school, the ONLY school, that has gone to five Final Fours in the last 11 years," Izzo said as some in the crowd clapped and cried at the memories, capped by a "One Shining Moment" salute to last season's tournament run. Then, after unveiling new Final Four banners for 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005, those four were raised to the increasingly crowded Breslin rafters on both sides on the program's 2009 Detroit reminder. "I thought our arena didn't have enough color," Izzo said, still wearing his green racing suit, without the helmet. "If you ask me, this is a lot better." It would be hard for Michigan State to be much better than it was last season, when it went 31-7, won the Big Ten by the second-largest margin in history and went 5-1 in the NCAA tournament, including upsets of overall top seed Louisville and semifinal opponent Connecticut in Ford Field, 92 miles from campus. "When I recruited these guys, we talked about the chance to play for a championship in our own state," Izzo said. "We put 73,000 fans in Detroit, had 30,000 for a public practice and had 9,000 in a mall for a pep rally, all records. In fact, your program now has the number 1, 2 and 3 largest crowds ever to watch a basketball game." Izzo has always compared his program to the established powers and looked at crowd counts for Midnight Madness. When told that people were turned away Friday night and there was a sellout crowd of 14,759, he flashed a satisfied smile. "That's the most we've had here by a lot," he said. "... One of my personal dreams was to somehow fill this place for Midnight Madness. Now, we've done that." Michigan State expects to have a top team in women's basketball as well, as coach Suzy Merchant returns all but one player from a squad that reached the NCAA tournament's regional semifinals.