The NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend is loaded with college basketball royalty and history. The four schools have combined to win nine national championships (Oregon-1, Louisville-2, Michigan State-2, Duke-4). All but Oregon won a title in Indianapolis (Louisville-1980, Michigan State-2000, Duke-1991, 2010). Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Louisville's Rick Pitino and Michigan State's Tom Izzo are three of the biggest names in coaching. All three have won national championships.
"I think our guys are excited to be here," said Izzo, who led the Spartans to the national championship at the RCA Dome in 2000. "I think we're pretty healthy, and we're in maybe one of the best cities to be in for a Regional or Final Four, and definitely with some of the best teams that are here. We're looking forward to the challenge."
The Spartans are 7-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament games in Indianapolis. The only loss was against Butler in the 2010 Final Four.
Duke is 6-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament games in Indianapolis. Krzyzewski led the Blue Devils to their first (1991 at the RCA Dome) and most recent (2010 at Lucas Oil Stadium) national titles in Indy.
Indianapolis hosted its first Final Four at Market Square Arena in 1980. That was also Louisville's first national championship.
Third year Oregon Coach Dana Altman is the only coach in Indy without a national championship on his resume.
"He's every bit as good as any coach that I'll coach against," said Pitino when asked about Altman. "I think that's one of the things I really love about being in this business a long time. I coached against Frank McGuire in his last game at home at South Carolina. I was able to coach against Coach Smith at North Carolina, was able to spend a lot of time with Coach Wooden. I coached against Bob Knight many times. So for me, it's been a tremendous treat. I have not coached against Dana. But always have watched his teams at Creighton."
Indiana fans hoped the Hoosiers road to the Final Four would come through Lucas Oil Stadium. Louisville earned the overall number one seed in the tourney and took that privilege away from IU. But players on other teams are coming home this weekend.
Big Ten freshman of the year Gary Harris, from Michigan State, played his high school basketball at Hamilton Southeastern. He caught a touchdown pass for the Royals during a high school football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. He hopes to play a pair of basketball games here this weekend.
"It feels good to be able to get this opportunity," said Harris. "You have to cherish it and be thankful. Not everybody can come back and play in their hometown. You can't take it for granted. You have to be focused and ready to play."
Harris says he gets six tickets for the games for family and friends. He needs many more and is negotiating with teammates to acquire more tickets.
Louisville senior Stephan Van Treese says he only gets four tickets. His mom, grandma, uncle and brother have claimed those four. Van Treese played at Lawrence North High School. The Cardinals had the most support at the open practices Thursday.
"As soon as IU lost (in the Big Ten Tourney), I was pumped," said Van Treese. "After they lost, I knew if we won the Big East championship we were going to have a chance to get the number one number one (seed) and I would be able to play at home. It's just a dream come true to be back home."
Indiana Pacers rookie Miles Plumlee has two brothers that play for Duke, Mason and Marshall. The family is from Warsaw, Indiana.
"The first time that I had the opportunity to see Miles in his environment with the Pacers was probably Christmas," said Marshall, a redshirt freshman. "We stayed with Miles at his apartment. I am just extremely proud of Miles and what he has done with the Pacers. It's an exciting feeling to be able play in front of family coming from all over the country and especially the friends we may have missed being down in North Carolina."
"It makes it easier for my parents," said Mason, a senior. "They get to drive down. This will be the first time a lot of my friends get to see to me play."
But big brother Miles will miss it all. The Pacers are out west on a four game road trip through Monday.
On Friday, #1 seed Louisville (31-5) plays 12 seed Oregon (28-8) at 7:15 p.m. That game is followed by #2 seed Duke (29-5) versus #3 seed Michigan State at about 9:45 p.m.