MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Of the teams in the Final Four, Texas Tech and Auburn are first-timers. Virginia has been to three Final Fours. That makes Michigan State the veterans of this year’s tournament.

They’ve been to 10 Final Fours in school history, and it shows by the way their fans travel.

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John Lauritsen caught up with Spartan fans who have been making the trip since Jimmy Carter was President.

By their own admission, Michigan State fans are spoiled. They haven’t missed an NCAA tournament in more than two decades, and they’ve followed Sparty all over the country.

“Tampa ’99, Indianapolis in 2000. 2001 was Minnesota,” said fan Jo Smith.

They lost in Minneapolis in 2001, but MSU fans have better memories. As they made the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis their headquarters this past week, they could fondly recall all 10 of Michigan State’s Final Four runs, and some of them have perfect attendance.

“Went to the regional in ’79. Watched Magic beat Notre Dame,” Smith said.

“When is the last time you’ve missed a Final Four?” Lauritsen asked.

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“I haven’t. Since Tom has been here, I haven’t,” said fan Jill Witzenburg.

The Spartans had a history before Coach Tom Izzo came to East Lansing, but his eight Final Four teams in 20 years have accelerated fan enthusiasm.

“We’ve been to the Final Four in Coach Izzo’s 24 years. And I think I’ve only missed one,” said fan Mark Blaufuss.

Blaufuss and his crew most recently followed Michigan State to Final Fours in New Orleans and San Antonio, where he got his picture taken with Bill Rafferty.

“Extremely well. We travel very well,” Blaufuss said. “There are Spartans all over the country.”

They’ve proven that this past week as fans donning green and white have taken in the sights and sounds of Minneapolis. Never mind that they knocked the Gophers out of the tournament.

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“Minneapolis has done a great job. There are a lot of cool things going on. The fans really have a lot to do, which is great,” Blaufuss said. “It’s an amazing event and if you love college basketball, there’s nothing like it.”

John Lauritsen