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Spartans will enjoy fans’ edge against Huskies

As the higher seed, the Connecticut Huskies will wear their white home uniforms against Michigan State in the national semifinals Saturday.

The rest of Ford Field will probably be awash in Spartans green.

This spring, there’s nothing neutral about the Final Four.

The Huskies’ third trip to the Final Four is a virtual road game: Michigan State’s East Lansing campus is 90 miles from Detroit, and many in the expected record crowd of 70,000-plus will be Spartans fans.

“We’ll have the white uniforms on. That’s as close we’ll get to being a home team, I think,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said on a Final Four coaches teleconference Monday. “I’m very aware . . . that there will be a little bit of noise for the guys in green. No question.”

Ford Field, the domed home of the Detroit Lions, is expected to set the record for the largest Final Four attendance in the 71-year history of the event. Last spring, the stadium drew 114,591 to the two sessions of the Midwest regional, another record.

The larger configuration opened up more seats to local fans, a goal of the tournament committee, and NCAA organizers say about one in seven spectators will be Michigan residents.

That can only work to Michigan State’s advantage, although playing in Ford Field didn’t help the Spartans much in a hideous 98-63 loss to North Carolina on Dec. 3.

And the Huskies (31-4) hardly shrink when they venture out of Connecticut.

UConn went 9-1 on the road this year, its only loss coming at then-No. 3 Pittsburgh on March 7. The Huskies are 8-1 in neutral-site games, losing only to Syracuse in six overtimes in the Big East tourney in Madison Square Garden.

Though they’re a No. 2 seed and finished first in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten, the Spartans (30-6) are being portrayed as gritty underdogs carrying the hopes of a depressed region.

“We’ve always stated our team’s a blue-collar team ever since I came here,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “And there’s no better blue-collar city than Detroit and all the things they go through.”



Detroit – Saturday (CBS)

Connecticut (31-4) vs. Michigan State (30-6), 3:07 p.m. North Carolina (32-4) vs. Villanova (30-7), 5:47 p.m.

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