I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t foresee MSU going far when I made my bracket. So I was incredibly excited when we beat Kentucky to get to the most coveted place in college basketball: the Final Four. When I found out Izzone members could get tickets to the games in St. Louis, two of my roommates and I decided to try for the opportunity to see the action in person. “It’s the chance of a lifetime,” Kim, one of my roommates, said. After stocking up on snacks and buying new MSU T-shirts for the occasion, we were on our way to Missouri.
[wball1] 10:42 a.m.: We pull out of our Cedar Street driveway, blasting Nelly’s “St. Louie,” which will quickly become the theme song of the trip. Only 42 minutes later than our planned departure time, we’re not doing too bad.
11:36 a.m.: While driving west on I-496, Emily decides we should have painted the car to show our Spartan pride. Since we’re already on the road, she makes a sign to flash at fellow drivers: “Honk for MSU Spartans Final 4!”
3:22 p.m.: Gas stop in Illinois; we’re not in Spartan Country anymore and our green-and-white apparel is starting to draw attention. “Going to the Final Four?” the gas station attendant asks me. “Oh yeah,” I say. “You guys will beat UNC,” he says, “But the Illini are another story.”
5:55 p.m. (Central Time): We arrive at the Motel 6, with Nelly in the background for the fiftieth time. The rooms are a little sketchy, but at $60 a night, we can’t be too picky.
6:45 p.m.: Time to pick up our tickets at the players’ hotel. I’ve never seen so much green and white outside of East Lansing. I can’t believe I’m actually going to the Final Four, until the laminated tickets are in my hand. “Be careful,” the ticket distributor warns us. “Scalpers are everywhere, don’t let anybody know you have tickets.”
11:15 p.m.: After a quick survey of the town, we head back to our motel. MSU students are yelling from the balconies. “Friends till Monday,” one guy yells at the Illinois fan walking into his room. It quickly becomes the optimistic motto of the Big Ten supporters. The place seems to be crawling with Spartans, but maybe we’re just the only ones being rowdy.
[wball2b] 12:04 p.m.: We head into the city to see some sights before the game. First stop: the famous Gateway Arch. Kim gets teary-eyed when she sees it; she’s never been west of the Mississippi River. It doesn’t get much better than sitting underneath the Arch, overlooking the Mississippi on a beautiful Missouri day, especially when I really should be in East Lansing doing my homework.
2:33 p.m.: “Got tickets?” is the question of the day. Everywhere we go people are offering to buy our tickets, even though scalping is supposedly illegal in Missouri. We ran into some fellow MSU students who told us they were offered $10,000 for their three tickets for the Saturday and Monday games, but they wouldn’t sell.
3:11 p.m.: The city is filled with Final Four fans. Everyone is wearing shirts to support their respective schools: the red Louisville Cardinals, orange and blue for the Illinois fans, the North Carolina Tarheels baby blue and of course the Spartan green and white. I’m surprised how many Spartan fans made the eight-hour journey. It’s like we’re long-lost friends anytime we run into someone from MSU. We end up in an area of bars and restaurants called the Landing. Fans are milling around drinking beer on the cobblestone streets; evidently open intox isn’t an issue on Final Four weekend. It reminds me of spring break for adults — a chance to get wasted with your closest friends in a socially accepting environment.
5:10 p.m.: We’re in the Edward Jones Dome for the tip-off of the Illinois-Louisville game. The air is electric with excitement. We cheer for Illinois, but are anxious for the MSU game to begin.
[wball4] 8:22 p.m.: The first half of MSU-UNC is the best game of my life. The MSU fans are energized and dominate the UNC crowd. The Illinois section joins in our “Go green, go white” cheer that fills the dome. But after halftime, the Spartans come out flat and UNC builds a quick lead. It all goes downhill from there, and I can see the hope fading from the eyes of the MSU crowd. North Carolina chants grow louder as their team comes closer to a national championship berth. An enterprising man from Illinois offers to buy our lower bowl tickets before the game is even over. The game finally ends and we file out of the arena with the other dejected Spartan fans.
12:07 a.m.: I decide I hate UNC fans and refuse to sell my ticket to any of them. We had concluded that Monday’s national championship game won’t be as cool since State isn’t in it, so we’re fielding ticket offers. We’re still proudly wearing our Spartan gear, and practically every person asks if we’re selling. Kim bargains with some die-hard Illinois fans, and we sell all three of our seats for $400 a piece, which pays for our trip down here and more (we paid $180 each for the tickets). We head back to the Landing amid the celebratory Illinois and Carolina fans. “You guys played good, I was cheering for you,” one drunk Illinois guy yells as we walk by. “Don’t look so sad,” another says, “It was a good run!”
1:18 p.m.: We decide to stick around St. Louis for the day, since we were planning on staying until Monday anyway, and now we have an extra $400 in our pockets. It’s a great city, very clean (at least the area we were in) and with plenty to do, especially this weekend.
3:05 p.m.: We’re still sporting our green-and-white T-shirts and are still getting ticket offers — one guy told us he would have paid $500. We go back toward the dome to buy my mom a magnet at one of the many Final Four merchandise stands and catch a free Gavin DeGraw performance at the Dasani Fest. Even though it’s sunny and 70 degrees, we decide not to stick around for Kelly Clarkson and instead hit the road.
[wball3c] 8:22 p.m.: In an attempt to bypass Chicago traffic, we head back to East Lansing via Indianapolis. We stop in Indy, the site of the women’s Final Four, to eat and watch the MSU women play on TV. “Are you girls here for the game?” the parking attendant asks as we get out of the car. “No, we’re on our way back from the men’s game in St. Louis and are stopping for food,” Emily explains. “The MSU game just started, you should try to get tickets,” he says. “They’re still selling them on the street for real cheap because the first game’s already over. But make sure you haggle with ‘em over the price.” Emily and I convince Kim, who’s ready to go home, that two Final Fours would be a great story. I offer to buy her a piece of pizza, so we buy women’s tickets for $30 off a guy on the street.
9:41 p.m.: We’re in the nosebleed section, surrounded by Tennessee fans. The Spartan women are losing at halftime, but then make a comeback from a 16-point deficit. Emily and I are going crazy, and try to lead the neutral fans behind us in the Spartan fight song. Kim pretends she doesn’t know who we are. The women pull out a 68-64 victory over the favored Lady Vols. It was a great game. “I’m glad the girls won,” Emily says, “I don’t think I could have taken two losses.”
4:15 a.m.: After some slight navigational errors in Indiana, we finally pull back into our driveway. I don’t think I’m going to make it to my 10:20 tomorrow morning.
The men’s game might not have ended up like I hoped, but the experience was well worth it. A free trip to two Final Fours? I’ll take it every time… Gotta love the Madness.

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