Wolverines rooting for the Spartans?

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach discusses how the poor economy has Michigan fans rooting for their biggest intrastate rival.

Michigan State knows it will be representing more than its school when it plays North Carolina in the NCAA championship game Monday night at Ford Field in Detroit.

The Spartans will also be representing a state and region that have been battered by the country’s poor economy, climbing unemployment rates and crumbling auto industry.

“There are a lot of cities right now that have problems,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “But this is ours. This is our big city in the state. So that’s why I think it’s a little more meaningful for those of us that are from around here.”

Believe it or not, the Spartans’ surprising run to the NCAA championship game is even meaningful for the sports fans who seem to hate them most.

Even in Ann Arbor, where University of Michigan fans only seem to dislike Ohio State more than Michigan State, it seems most of the Wolverines are rooting for the Spartans to beat the Tar Heels on Monday night.

“The first four times Michigan State went to the Final Four, you usually had the crowd here rooting against the Spartans,” said Ron Dreslinski of Ann Arbor, who sat at the bar in The Blue Leprechaun on South University Avenue on Sunday. “This is really the first time you have Michigan people rooting for them. I think it’s because the game is being played in Detroit. They’re kind of the underdog, too, which makes it easier.”

The poor economy in Michigan is a big reason why Michigan fans are rooting for State, but it also helps that Michigan’s most hated rival is Ohio State, not Michigan State. Plus, outside of Duke, UConn and North Carolina are the most universally disliked basketball programs in the country. Add it all up and you have Wolverines rooting for Spartans.

What is this world coming to?

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