Posted on: February 21, 2010 3:12 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2010 3:14 pm
 

This...Is...SPARTA!

By C.M. Tomlin

3:11 PM

Back on the road from the Land of Lincoln to the Great Lakes State. After stopping in Stevensville, Michigan to catch UK/Vandy at an massive, ski-lodge-esque sports bar with everything from air hockey and darts to a life-sized tableau featuring a stormtrooper in a Saints jersey fighting Yoda in a Colts jersey, it was north to East Lansing for Big Ten basketball at its finest.

A chilly evening and icier reception in the E.L. last night (or “the 517,” if you prefer referring to your town by its area code) – anyone want to go in with me on funding a bar here that comfortably holds more than a hundred people and doesn’t play dance music? The city initially got off on the wrong foot with us, as the first four or five folks we asked directions of advice from gave us a glib blow-off line or just walked off. And here we were, showered and everything.

We eventually settled in to a decent enough bar for the evening and roused this morning to head to the Breslin Center bright and early for Ohio State at Michigan State. Some notes from Spartan Country: 

People who live in East Lansing sure do wait in line a lot. Last night while exploring the town, it seemed that any place open after eleven had a line fifteen deep stretching out its door. When we arrived to the game this morning, fans were already lined up a good 100 yards outside Breslin to get into the Izzone. Everyone seems completely fine with that. I guess it takes a lot of patience since living in East Lansing, since you’re constantly waiting for the day you get to leave East Lansing.

It’s no mystery why no one can can lure Izzo away from here. I’ll give it to the students; the Izzone is one of the most fun and well organized student sections I’ve ever seen, and it’s a lot of fun. Everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing at all times. There’s no “You’re doing the wave? I was chanting deee-fense.” It doesn’t feel forced and it feels like the students truly belong there surrounding their team. It’s really loud, it’s got a very organic feel to it and during the amazingly raucous player introductions, I got a chill or two. For the first time on this trip, I felt a weird twinge of jealousy because I wanted to be a student at Michigan State. They’re clearly having a blast.

The Michigan State band tears the roof off the mother. Easily one of the best, cleanest-sounding pep bands I’ve ever heard at a basketball game. Bonus points for a seamless transition from “Hava Nagila” to Journey’s “Separate Ways.” I haven’t seen someone pull off that death-defying maneuver since Tony Orlando at the Stardust in 1987.

Kid Rock is here. I think I saw him signing Bill Raftery’s boob.

When things get quiet, Michigan State sophomore forward Draymond Green appears over the jumbotron and yells at you. It’s all a little unsettling, but he seems very adamant about my making some noise. And he’s a lot bigger than me.

It’s clear that the Izzone usually works, since the Spartans 206-25 at home with Izzo at the helm, but today it wasn’t to be as the Buckeyes outgunned the Spartans 74-67. The last two weeks has seen two Breslin losses: today’s to OSU and a Purdue on February 9.

“Disappointed wouldn’t be the word, I think it’s a little more than that,” Izzo said afterward. “This just didn’t seem like the team that practiced this week.”

Izzo took a lot of the blame upon himself and expressed a sympathy that junior guard Kalin Lucas had such a tough day handling Buckeye phenom Evan Turner, who turned up 20 points on a day he was rumored to be too sick to play.

“I’ll just say that I didn’t do a good enough job getting us ready – the coach is responsible for the game plan,” said Izzo. “But this team is still 21-7 and capable of playing anyone in this country.”

That’s absolutely true. And now the Izzone goes quiet as the Spartans hit the road to face Purdue again in next Saturday in West Lafayette. But they’ll be back and this crowd will be ready and fiercer than ever. For now, they’ll just have to wait. But they’re completely fine with that.
Posted on: February 21, 2010 1:48 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2010 1:57 pm
 

Who else could show up at a Michigan State game?

By: Drew Franklin

1:45 PM

Kid Rock is in attendance at the Breslin Center today and was the recipient of a loud ovation from the crowd as "Cowboy" played over the sound system.  This got me thinking, what other Michigan celebrities could we see at a Spartans game?

Eminem - Marshall Mathers is the obvious choice.  He would be nervous, but on the surface he would look calm and ready.

Stevie Wonder - Stevie Wonder would make a great guest.  You wouldn't even have to waste a front row seat on him.  Just turn up the volume on the television in the men's room and put him in the last stall with a box of popcorn and he'll be just fine.

Steven Seagal - Casey Ryback from Under Seige could not only be a special guest fan but he could also serve as Breslin Center security.  "Hey kid, put that noise maker up or take this roundhouse kick to the face."

James Earl Jones - If Jones could find time in his busy schedule on The Sandlot or in The Field of Dreams, the Spartan cheers could use some extra bass.

Ed McMahon - Is he still alive?  He's gotta be like 124 years old.  Someone look into that for me.

Aretha Franklin - Aretha Franklin would be perfect for singing the national anthem or eating the leftover Johnsonville bratwursts before the concession stand throws them out, but I don't know about putting her in the crowd.  Have you seen her hats? How would you like to sit behind that monstrosity?

Scott Skiles - A Michigan State grad and the smallest player on the NBA Jam roster.

Casey Kasem - A dedication to Casey Kasem at the half would make Greg in California and Karen in Connecticut feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  As long as it's a Top 40 love ballad.  Preferably, Enrique Iglesias.

Shaggy 2 Dope & Violent J - The Insane Clown Posse is a rap duo from Detroit with a giant cult following of "Juggalos" and horror-core sound.  On second thought, ICP would male terrible guests.

Bob Eubanks - Drop the Kiss Cam for the Makin' Whoopee Cam and play The Newlywed Game during timeouts.

Steve Phillips - For those overweight MSU co-eds looking for some Baseball Tonight lovin'

That's all I got.  Can you think of any other good Michigan celebrities?
Posted on: February 21, 2010 12:52 pm
 

Michigan State - Ohio State Halfway Notes

MATT JONES

1:00 PM



Some Reflections on Ohio State - Michigan State at the halfway point:

---  People around the country, especially in the "Worldwide Leader" media camp like to crow on and on about what a great student section Duke and Cameron Indoor Stadium have, and it is quite impressive.  However its glory days are generally past and that leaves out how many great student sections exist elsewhere.  The version here in East Lansing may be towards the top of my list.  They arrive two hours early, surround the court and have continuous noise and chants, without the feeling of artificialness that sometimes exists at Duke.  Plus, the students that attend are clearly true basketball fans.  I love it.

--- Evan Turner is for real.  At the time of this writing, he has only two points, but like John Wall at Kentucky, he dominates the game even while not showing it in the stat sheet.  Star power is obvious when you see it in person, and Turner has it.

---  Thad Matta is almost like a windup doll with constant, frenzied movement that at some point simply collapses in his chair.  He is without question the most underrated recruiter in America, but he also may be the most underrated wildman on the sidelines at the same time.

---  I thought that the biggest celebrity we were going to meet on the trip was Ian Eagle, but then Kid Rock showed up at this game...well wait, maybe it is still Ian Eagle.

---  I believe that there is a facility somewhere deep in the pockets of the Michigan State campus in which they produce big, pale white centers on an assembly line, for use with each addition of the MSU basketball team.  This year's version is some kid named Garrick Sherman, but it could just as easily be Paul Davis or that one Polish kid a few years back.  So long as they have cropped hair and are described as "gritty", they will be part of the tradition.

Its getting close to halftime but you will have to excuse me as I must go and get my "American Badass" DVD signed by Kid Rock....

Posted on: February 21, 2010 11:56 am
Edited on: February 21, 2010 12:01 pm
 

Day 4: ...to the Izzo

By: Drew Franklin

11:30 AM




Top 'o the morning to ya! 

We're here at the Breslin Center in the Eastern part of Lansing, Michigan for a big time Big Ten showdown.  Tom Izzo and his fundamentally sound Spartans are playing host to P.O.Y. candidate Evan Turner and four other guys in what is sure to be a barn burner.  The players are warming up now and the fans are filling the stands like XXX billboards on I-94. 

Our arrival at the arena was surprisingly early today after an action-packed night in the mean streets of East Lansing.  To protect the innocent, I'll just say I can see why Michigan State was voted #1 university by the "Freezing Outside In Line For The Bar" Magazine.  It was a crazy night on the sidewalks looking inside at everyone having fun. 

The game is about to get underway.  I'm going to make a quick, fifth trip to the breakfast buffet in the media room.  Tune into CBS to watch the game and, if you're lucky, you might catch C.M. dancing with the Spartan Dance Team.

Talk to you soon.
Posted on: February 21, 2010 12:53 am
Edited on: March 9, 2010 8:44 pm
 

Destination Scouting Report: East Lansing, Mich.

Each morning, the CBS College Basketball Road Trip team will stop spooning each other in their Motel Six beds at the crack of noon, grab a couple of NCAA approved bagels and hit the road in pursuit of their next college basketball destination.  Though their dossier and agenda are to supposed to remain top secret, I went to high school with one of the writers from "Viva Laughlin" and CBS forgot to take back his keys.  Here is what he found…

By:  Thomas Beisner

12:30 AM



Location:
The story of how East Lansing came to be has the sexiness of Susan Boyle and the entertainment value of Riding the Bus with My Sister. So, for the purposes of this, let’s just pretend that many believe that East Lansing just appeared one day, while others argue the city evolved from monkeys. Both sides, however, agree that it’s in Michigan.  (I hope my vague reference to the Big Bang Theory makes up for the Viva Laughlin jokes...have I mentioned how much I love CBS?).

Traveling Distance: Unshaken by the Iowa blizzard and the audible that landed them at DePaul, our road warriors have just over 200 miles between themselves and the center of Big 10 basketball. In real time, that’s about three hours. In “this is the fourth destination of this road trip” time, that’s miserable. On the positive side, they’ll at least have time to discuss if Louisville fans tucked Black and Milds in their ears for fashion or for function.

Historical Relevance: Michigan State students pack an area of the Breslin Center called the Izzone and the Spartan program can boast of Magic Johnson and The Flintstones. Ohio State, meanwhile, gave the world 1960 National Champion Bobby Knight and the “O-H, I-O” chant, a duo more hateable than Spencer and RoboHeidi.

Boarding School: The Spartans have never been afraid to unleash a football player on your power forward or throw an awkwardly physical white guy on the floor in an effort to grab a rebound (Duke point guard and Michigan State center have to be the whitest position of the last decade, right?). This team is no different - and it could spell doom for the Buckeyes, especially on the offensive end. Michigan State has over 100 more offensive rebounds this season than the Buckeyes and will look to beat them up inside. Can we tag those last seven words under “Rick Pitino jokes”?

Grudge Factor: I’m sure these teams hate each other, but not as much as I hate them. It all stems from the 1999 Final Four. I was there and my beloved Kentucky Wildcats were not, thanks to Michigan State. Ohio State was apparently not there at all thanks to Jim O’Brien. What we were left with was Khalid El-Amin’s beer gut winning a national title and Jake Voskuhl’s hair permanently placed in the record books. These schools must accept at least a little blame for this.

Famous Alumni: For Ohio State, Greg Oden’s genitalia probably has the highest Google ranking, but I don’t think it graduated. But, as far as true alumni go, Ohio State can be proud of Tomlin and Drew’s favorite writers (Bruce Vilanch and R.L. Stine) and Matt’s favorite basket-weaver (Tami Longaberger). Michigan State, meanwhile, earns bragging rights over James Caan, professional junkie Tom Sizemore and lover of the Charles Manson joke, Jemele Hill.

Agenda: While the goal is likely to see how good Evan Turner is and if he has anything up his sleeve the day after John Wall improved his National Player of the Year stock, that’s probably not what will happen. I foresee trouble in reigning in Matt while in the same building as his man crush, Tom Izzo, and Drew disappearing once he finds out Michigan State has the largest “study abroad” program in the United States (abroad is one word, Drew).

East Lansing, let‘s do this.
Posted on: February 20, 2010 8:06 pm
 

Having a Time at DePaul

By C.M. Tomlin

9:00 PM


Wait, didn’t we just drive through here two days ago? We’re back again, as our jonesing for college basketball couldn’t be dampened even by the snowstorm which threw us off the Butler/Siena scent. Since we wouldn’t be able to traverse snowy roads to Indy, we decided rather to pop over and catch the Big East matchup of Louisville at DePaul. 

This means we’re once again in Chi-Town, where Mike Ditka lives on in the hearts and ridiculous moustaches of the Chicago Police Department. Deep dish pizza. Wrigleyville. Gonna be great time. 

Not so fast. While Depaul’s hip Linoln Park campus would be a great locale for a court, don’t forget that the Blue Demons play in Rosemont, Illinois’ Allstate Arena, which is also the home of IHL hockey team the Chicago Wolves and which you may also recall as hosting Wreslemanias 13 and 22 as well as hosting a leg of the Fleetwood Mac “Tusk” tour. 

If you’ve ever been to a facility that normally hosts an IHL hockey team, you know that arenas like this aren’t the prettiest girl in school anymore, and Allstate Arena is no exception. It’s rather cold and concrete, and a quick look at its Wikipedia page notes that it’s only reference in popular media is a shout-out from a 2004 History Channel program called Engineering Disasters

Now hear me out, DePaul students. I know that your arena looks like a set from Batman, and I know that it’s not exactly an exciting idea to leave your nirvana of coffee shops and upcscale boutiques and trudge up to hang out next to the airport all afternoon. But you have to support your team. We’ve been to two other schools – one of them Northern Iowa, for crying out loud, during a snowstorm – and both have involved student sections that nearly deafened us. And these weren’t your North Carolinas and your UCLAs. 

But when I have to wait for the introduction of your student section just to find out where it is, you’ve got problems. When a woman on a six-foot unicycle tossing bowls onto the top of her head at halftime gets a louder outpouring of emotion than your team does, it’s time to sound the alarm. You’re Big East basketball; you can do better than this. This ain’t the Atlantic Sun Conference (though, for the record, I can’t vouch for Lipscomb). I’m not exaggerating when I say I believe Louisville fans outnumber DePaul fans four to one at this game. You can do better than this. 

Because I’d rather light a candle than curse your darkness, DePaul, I’m going to get the ball rolling on some brainstorming here. Some ideas for your student section. 

-Wigs/Sunglasses/Headbands. Even a small fan base can look “crazier” with wigs. Sunglasses, headbands – all added bonuses. Use your imagination. Facepaint? Sure, go nuts. You know how, at major-league matchups, there’s always that group of guys in wigs pointing number one into the camera? Look, seriously, even if you could convince four guys to do that at every game into the camera, you’re already up a notch from where you are now. I’d scour the list of DePaul’s “Management Information Systems” program. Most of those guys have to be great BS artists already anyway.  

-Find someone to do something crazy (preferably not a student). This could be a middle aged car salesman from Joliet who loves breaking it down to “Brick House,” a guy who wears a giant foam cowboy hat and/or Richard Nixon mask, even an old couple who gets too overzealous on the first-half timeout kiss cam. It can’t be that hard to convince someone who lives 500 yards from the airport to throw on a lady wig and rock it out to the Black-Eyed Peas for five bucks, can it? 

-Would it kill you to put up one sign? I’ll buy the posterboard. And a sharpie. I’ll even throw out a topic: your starting guard’s is name Michael Bizoukas. Does that remind you of anything explosive that might make for a good sign or nickname? Discuss. That one’s free. I’m just trying to help. 

I want you to be happy, DePaul fans. I want you to have it all. But you gotta want it. I’m looking at the student section right now, and one guy in a suit isn’t going to cut it. “Suit Guy” isn’t ever going to catch on. But at least Suit Guy appears to be trying.

You can turn this around, DePaul. I believe in you. Look forward to a giant crate of blue wigs and Zubaz pants next week. I’m just going to send it to the admissions office. You’re on your own from there. 
 

Posted on: February 20, 2010 3:59 pm
 

Louisville-Depaul Notes and Musings

MATT JONES

4:15 PM



Five Thoughts on Louisville- Depaul, a game I would have never imagined I would attend:

1.  Mark Aguirre is Not Walking Through that Door

I am not certain how it is that Depaul isnt a basketball power.  They play in a city that produces top high school talent like Rick Pitino produces Boos and hisses at a NOW convention.  Yet it has essentially been irrelevant on the national basketball scene for 20 years and has watched as fellow Big East schools in talent black holes like West Virginia and Syracuse have become Top Ten programs.  Four NCAA Tournament appearances in 20 years in a city in which basketball is THE local sports of passion.  There is simply no excuse.

2.  The Louisville Staff is Bizarre Looking in Person

Listen we could make Rick Pitino jokes all day (and we will).  And yes, he has somehow transformed from the most handsome and dapper coach in college basketball in the 90s into a slightly less creepy version of The Cryptkeeper .  But he isnt the only one that would turn heads.  Assistant Coach Ralph Willard is channeling Christopher Lloyd in "Back to the Future" and Ron Mercer/Steve Masiello both look like they ate the college versions of themselves that played at Kentucky.  If ever there were a staff that needed an Extreme Makeover, Louisville would fit the bill.

3.  Empty Arenas Make Your Eyes Explore

Our first two stops on this trip were in arenas with loud student sections and crowds doing some version of a "White-out" in order to get ready for a big game.  This arena is only about 65% full and half of the crowd may be Louisville fans.  Thus I am able to look around and seek diversions in other parts of the building.  My favorite part of the Depaul arena is the 50 year old woman holding up a sign behind me that says "Even Tiger Would be a Better Husband than you would Rick."  Success is indeed a choice.

4.  Louisville Travels Amazingly Well

I have been to a lot of big arenas and watched the largest fan bases do their thing.  No one is more passionate and travels better than the Big Blue Nation of Kentucky.  But in terms of sheer numbers relative to their size, Louisville might be #2 in America.  Yes teams like Kansas, North Carolina and Duke may have more fans, but when the game is somewhere else and presence needs to be found, the Card faithful represent their team better than any of those groups per capita. 

5.  Bob Valvano is Not Scared to Look at Your Funny

Lets say that you happened to be in Cedar Falls, Iowa last night for a Northern Iowa game.  And then lets say that you drove all night and ended up at a Depaul game on Saturday afternoon.  And then pretend that for both games, ESPN analyst Bob Valvano was doing tv work and he saw you and your fellow roadtrippers in both places, wearing the same clothes because you hadnt had time to take a shower.  In such a situation, he will look at you funny and stay at least five feet away...just so you know in case you are ever in the same situation. 

Posted on: February 20, 2010 3:23 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2010 11:12 pm
 

Best. Halftime. Show. Ever.

By: Drew Franklin

2:20 PM

As you can see, it is a packed house at Allstate Arena for the DePaul-Louisville game and the roof is rocking!  The first half was a back and forth battle of unbelievable basketball.  There is certainly a March Madness vibe in the air!  I'm sitting next to a scout for the Maine Red Claws (one of the many NBA D-League scouts in attendance) and he says Samardo Samuels could be the next great big man overseas.  I can't believe we're surrounded by all of this talent in such an electric atmosphere!

And just when I thought this game couldn't get anymore exciting, the Red Panda acrobat performed at halftime!  This is what college basketball is all about!

I haven't seen dishes knocked around like that since Rick Pitino... nevermind.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com